New Hwy. 544 fire station bids come in $400k over budget

New Hwy. 544 fire station bids come in $400k over budget

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Construction on the new Horry County Fire Rescue station on Highway 544, near Singleton Ridge Road between BB&T and Carolina Marketplace Antique Mall, was supposed to start this month, but budgeting changes are delaying the project for right now.

"I hate that the delay's happening because it's costing people money on their fire insurance, but it's going to happen," said Johnny Vaught, Horry County Councilman for District 8. "Those things happen, especially the way our economy has moved around so much lately."

The new university fire station, Station 23, was first budgeted five years ago as part of the capital improvement plan to replace the station near Horry Georgetown Technical College. It was projected to cost $1.1 million at that time. Now, the lowest acceptable bid is $1.534 million, Horry County Spokesperson Lisa Bourcier said.

The bids were competitive and came in close to each other, Vaught said.

"We feel like we got a very bare-bones price," he said.

The $400,000 difference is due to an increase in construction costs since the project was first planned.

"Things have changed a lot in the past five years," Vaught said. "Construction costs have gone up, plus the fact that finding somebody to build it is tougher because there's a lot more business for them out there right now. Think about what the economy was and the building industry five years ago from what it is now."

Bourcier said there's no question whether or not the new fire station will go forward because the need and desire is still there.

It's just a matter of figuring out where the extra $400,000 will come from, she said.

The finance department is working on coming up with options for funding the difference, she said.

Horry County Council will have to approve it because it's more than $100,000 over the budget.

"This is part of our whole capital improvement thing that we've been planning for lots of years and the money will be there," Vaught said. "We'll be able to handle that. There won't be any problem. We're not sure exactly where we're going to shift money from yet, but we'll get that information at our next council meeting."

Vaught said the budget amendment will need three readings at council, which will take about a month and a half, but then he expects the bid to be awarded and the project to move forward.

He said it will improve public safety for people living near Highway 544 because firefighters will be able to get to them faster.

"It's going to be a great thing for the community because Singleton Ridge is so busy, especially with hospital traffic and all," Vaught said. "They're going to be able to jump on 544 and go."

Also, he said it will decrease insurance costs for those who faced increases when the ISO changed their rating standard from a five mile radius from the fire station to five miles driving distance.

"We're not causing anybody's rates to go up by doing this," he said. "All we're doing is causing people's rates to go down."

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