011118 Pawleys Island: New round of bids aims to cut Town Hall cost
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The council returned to the old Town Hall for this week’s meeting.

Pawleys Island: New round of bids aims to cut Town Hall cost

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A list of architectural details that town officials couldn’t do without in October will now be on the block as Pawleys Island starts a new round of bidding for its new Town Hall. Town Council this week rejected the four bids received last month. The lowest was about $150,000 above the $650,000 project estimate.

“When I read that first one, my jaw dropped,” Mayor Jimmy Braswell said. “We need to look to try to get that down.”

“That would be my goal,” Council Member Sarah Zimmerman said. “I have a hard time spending $800,000 on what is a 1,700 square foot building.”

The town agreed last year to replace the current Town Hall, which was flooded by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. It had 450 square feet and was converted to the town’s use in 1988 from a vacant beach rental office. The town has set up a temporary office in the Nature Park as it plans the new facility. The raised one-storey, wood-frame design by architect David Graham has about 2,000 square feet, including porches. The council originally agreed to spend $450,000 on the building. Then it agreed to raise $600,000 from private donations for the project.

Graham told council this week he will prepare a new set of bid documents that list alternative materials. The principal cost savings will come from the foundation, brick work, roof and windows, he said.

One item that’s already off the list is a generator. That was an important feature in the wake of three hurricanes in the last three years. But at $10,000, the town will look for funding for the generator through a federal hazard mitigation grant. “We don’t have anything that would require a generator,” Administrator Ryan Fabbri said.

The foundation may prove more difficult. The plans call for a 4-foot thick continuous footing. That was due to concerns about the high water table, Braswell said, and the possibility that the site for the Town Hall at the southwest corner of Myrtle Avenue and the North Causeway may contain fill. “Can we do pilings?” Braswell asked.

“In our mind, the pilings were more expensive,” Graham said. That’s because the building requires an elevator and the elevator shaft requires a 4-foot pit that would have to integrate with the pilings.

Graham will meet with the four firms that bid on the project out of the 10 that received invitations and develop a list of alternative deductibles. Pinnacle Construction was the low bidder at $800,400. BEC Construction bid $829,169. Coastal Structures bid $832,390. Harrington Construction bid $890,000.

The process also attracted the interest of a Murrells Inlet developer, Tom Davis, who said he wanted to work with a contractor on a bid. He filed suit against the town last month after he was rebuffed. Although the town has not been served in the suit, Braswell said it needs to be aware that the litigation is still outstanding. “The process needs to be transparent,” he said.

Peter Jackson, a partner in Pinnacle Construction, said he understood the council’s concerns, but objected to the rebidding. “The town is very near and dear to my heart,” Jackson said. “This strips away a lot of the strategic advantage that we worked to put in there.”

Under the circumstances, the one-on-one meetings with Graham are a good way to help retain some of that advantage, Jackson added.

Fabbri said the town can’t just negotiate with the low bidder the way a private owner would. “It’s unfair. You’re not comparing apples to apples,” he said. “You’re bringing the price down 25 percent. That’s a huge chunk.”

The town had hoped that work would start on the project this month and be completed by Labor Day. It has raised $360,000 in donations and has another $266,000 in pledges, Fabbri said.

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