From WMBF News partner MyHorryNews:
Horry County officials will likely be forced to raze one of their busiest fire stations to make room for a major road project.
County officials discovered last week that Station No. 4 sits so close to Forestbrook Road that the alignment of the $89.1 million widening project probably won't spare the building.
"It's not even set back very far off the road as it is today," said Steve Gosnell, the county's assistant administrator over infrastructure and regulation. "My guess is it will be a total loss."
The Forestbrook widening ranks No. 10 on the list of 20 projects in RIDE III, the nearly $600 million road-building program voters approved in 2016. But county officials are simultaneously working on the designing, permitting and other early phases of multiple RIDE III projects, meaning they will need to soon decide the fate of the Forestbrook station.
Officials said they are waiting on the final alignment plans for the road, but they suspect it will have to be destroyed. If the station is razed, the county will have to buy another property for the station and pay for a new building, said county administrator Chris Eldridge. There isn't enough room on the site for a new station.
"We're going to have to move quick," he said. "We're pushing all these road projects to get them done. It will take a year to build the station. … It's going to be a tight window."
Eldridge pointed out that money from RIDE III, which is funded by a 1 percent sales tax, will pay for the value of the old building, but the cost of constructing a new station will likely be more than what the existing facility is worth.
"You do an appraised value," he said. "It will not appraise for $2 million."
University Station, which the county opened on S.C. 544 last year, cost $1.6 million, about $600,000 more than county officials initially projected.
Council members discussed the need for more fire stations during Monday's public safety committee meeting, but they said they hope to have more information at their spring budget retreat next month.
Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Joey Tanner said the county needs to develop a plan for replacing and renovating fire stations.
"We have fire stations that need to be replaced. I think we have fire stations that probably we need to add in some areas. And I think we also have a lot of repairs that need to be done to fire stations and renovations," he said. "The best thing for us to do, instead of jumping out every time something pops up to go do that, we need to come back and say, 'This is our priority list.'"