SURFSIDE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – The courts are now getting involved in the saga surrounding the rebuilding of the Surfside Beach pier.
A lawsuit was filed on Monday surrounding the legality of how the pier bid was awarded on July 1 to Orion Marine Construction, Inc. and FBi Construction, Inc., which is a joint venture.
Mayor Bob Hellyer and councilmembers Cynthia Keating and Michael Drake are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit while councilmembers David Pellegrino, Debbie Scoles and Paul Holder are listed as the defendants.
Back on July 1, Surfside Beach town councilmembers awarded the bid to Orion/FBi in a 3-2 vote. Orion/FBi was the lowest bidder out of the three finalists for the project.
The town of Surfside Beach is looking to reconstruct the pier which was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. It’s expected to be roughly $14 million to reconstruct it, but the town has received a majority of the funding from FEMA.
The lawsuit alleges that the vote was not supposed to happen on July 1 which violated the Freedom of Information Act.
It claims that during a special meeting on June 30, Scoles made a motion to hold a meeting on July 3 to discuss and vote on the pier bid contract and the vote was carried.
Another special meeting took place on July 1 where the agenda reflected that the specific purpose for the meeting was “to discuss the pier bids with Engineer and Architect.” It did not state that a vote would be taken during that meeting.
But during the meeting, Scoles made a motion to vote to award the pier bid to Orion/FBi Construction. The vote was taken without making any amendments to the agenda that would reflect that a vote would be taken during the July 1 meeting.
“No motion, written or oral was made by Defendants Scoles, Pellegrino and Holder to amend the July 1st special meeting agenda to add for discussions the following unnoticed action items: ‘to award the bid to Orion/FBi’; to ‘authorize the Town Administrator to execute any agreement’; ‘to negotiate value engineerin’; and ‘to proceed with bonding for funding the Surfside Pier Project’; prior to them making a motion to enter into for discussion before going into executive session,” the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs are asking for a court order invalidating the vote that awards the pier reconstruction contract to Orion/FBi.
The lawsuit was the elephant in the room during Tuesday night’s town council meeting.
While some view the lawsuit as another hold up on the construction, others believe it is necessary.
“We’re talking about a $15 to $17 million pier. We can’t just have a public discussion on that?” resident Judy Henion asked.
“Now we have a lawsuit against the council people? People get over yourself,” said resident Chris Stamey.
Councilman Bruce Dietrich wasn’t named in the lawsuit because he has been absent from council for nearly a month due to a health-related reason. But he voiced his frustrations with council and the pier project.
“I don’t want to hear it no more neither. I truly don’t. I’m tired of it and it’s just dumb. We’ve got to get it built, let’s get it done,” Dietrich said.
But right now, it’s not clear if this lawsuit will push the pier project back even further.
“We want the pier to prosper. We want to build it. We want to get it going. But we also want to do it right because you the residents are the ones who are going to be paying for it,” Hellyer said.