CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD)– Charleston County Council voted to consider demolishing and constructing a new building at the Old Naval Hospital site after being presented 12 new options Thursday.
Thursday, Charleston County Council approved a motion 7 to 1 to have “staff coordinate with consultants on options for demolition and construction subject to the IFB.”
The vote followed a two hour executive session where construction experts and engineers are said to have advised council on possible paths forward.
The building has been passed around by many, starting with the city of North Charleston. Originally, what many know as the Old Naval Hospital was bought by a contractor, Chicora Life Center LLC, from the city of North Charleston in 2014 for one million dollars.
Eventually, the city and the county entered into an agreement to lease and spruce up the building.
The county says during renovations, they backed out of the lease because they say contractors missed their completion deadline. County chairman Vic Rawl says that’s when Chicora sued the county
“We found ourselves in a posture of not being able to seriously participate and defend ourselves,” Rawl said.
Chicora has a different story.
“They flat out attempted to terminate the lease. they say they did it because Chicora missed a deadline,” Chicora attorney, Doug Durbano said.
Chicora says the county suggested to get rid of the original deadline, contrary to what the county says.
“Early in the transaction as a suggestion of Charleston county, that the date originally planned for when it was to be completed was eliminated, completely stricken, absolutely removed,” Durbano said.
The legal battle was taken to bankruptcy court, but instead of fighting it in court, Charleston County decided to settle.
“Bottom line is we made the decision to purchase the building for 33 million dollars, was it a good idea? bad idea? Only time will tell,” Rawl said.
33 million dollars of taxpayer is gone.
“Gone, we can’t recover it” Rawl said.
According to the county, tax payers have also spent roughly two to two-and-a-half million on research for the new project.
As a result of the settlement, the county is the landlord of the building. They have to decide what’s next for the building. Since obtaining it, the county has had it’s eyes set on turning the building into a one stop shop for all things social services- a social services hub.
In May, the county learned it would cost 66 million dollars ro renovate the building as a social services hub. They deferred voting on the matter. Read more here.
“The hub makes sense because of its location, access to public transportation, and quite frankly the need,” Rawl said.
Except, the price has council questioning the potential hub. Thursday, council was presented with 12 new options for the building including; renovating it, tearing it down, selling it, or building something new.
Council voted on considering demolition and new construction. The question now is, how much will that cost taxpayers?
“Numbers i can’t really talk about because it would be speculation,” Rawl said.
Rawl says they discussed some possible numbers in Executive Session, which is a closed meeting. Ultimately the county says they will pick the option that best suits the people of Charleston county
“No, we can’t do a thing about what we have paid for the property, but we can sure do something about what we do moving forward,” said Rawl.
Rawl says the council will be presented with options for people interested in buying the building September 7. Council is expected to vote on one of the 12 options in the next finance committee meeting, which will be sometime after September 20.
As for the completion of the project, whether that may be the encouraged social services hub, or a new building, council expects the project to take anywhere between 27 and 45 months.