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Pawleys Island: Former Town Hall down, but not out under 50% rule
By Charles Swenson
Reports of the demise of Pawleys Island Town Hall were, like those of Mark Twain; greatly exaggerated. “We could put Town Hall back together where it would be a serviceable building,” Administrator Ryan Fabbri told Town Council this week.
The building was damaged by flood waters during Hurricane Matthew in October. Town staff moved to a portable office in the nearby Nature Park. The town is scheduled to interview three firms that are finalists to design a new Town Hall that would be located in the right of way of Pavilion Lane, once it is obtained from the state Department of Transportation.
The decision to build a new facility was based on the assumption that the old Town Hall could not be repaired beyond 50 percent of its value without coming into compliance with federal flood regulations. That would mean elevating the building, which sits at the edge of the salt marsh on the corner of the North Causeway and Myrtle Avenue. Since the town is enforcing tougher flood rules as a way to earn insurance discounts for homeowners, Town Council decided it didn’t want to seek a variance to those rules.
The value of the Town Hall was put at $57,000 by insurance adjustors. Fabbri got an estimate of $22,000 for repairs using materials that would be more resistant to flooding. And he learned that the cost of repairs to the foundation would not be counted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency toward the 50 percent threshold. “Just raising the building 8 inches would make a huge difference,” Fabbri said.
“It is possible,” Mayor Bill Otis told Town Council this week.
At a town meeting in January, several residents urged Town Council to repair the Town Hall. The building was once used as a rental office for beach houses and was vacant until former Mayor Jack Bland led an effort to turn it into the Town Hall in the 1988.
“Rehabilitating and reusing,” Fabbri said, “is a real possibility.”
Even with two additions, the Town Hall was under 500 square feet, housing the administrator, town clerk and police department. Estimates for a new Town Hall are around 2,000 square feet. The town may be able to help fund the new building with a Hazard Mitigation Grant from FEMA. If so, it couldn’t repair the old building and may have to remove it, Fabbri said.
The other disadvantage to repairing the Town Hall is that the 50 percent threshold for complying with flood regulations accounts for money spent over five years. If there is another storm in that period, additional repairs would require compliance or a variance.
Meanwhile the town will interview three firms about designing a new Town Hall: Creech & Associates of Mount Pleasant, Graham Group Architecture of Pawleys Island and Tych & Walker Architects of Pawleys Island. “All three firms have a good reputation,” said Bobby Lyles, an island property owner who is chairman emeritus of the Stevens & Wilkinson architectural firm in Columbia. He is helping the town with the process. Since it’s a small project, he said he could only guess at the fee. “Architects typically give away their services anyway. You’ll get a good deal,” he told the council.
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