State Rep. Wendell Gilliard files bill calling for enhanced structural safety measures for large-scale buildings

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A Lowcountry State Representative wants new legislation to address the safety of structures and their integrity across the State of South Carolina and Lowcountry region. The pre-filed bill comes months after a condo collapse in Miami left nearly 100 people dead. State Representative Wendell Gilliard says he’s particularly concerned over buildings built on or near marshy areas.

Representative Gilliard says the Miami condo collapse this past summer should serve as notice to the Lowcountry and State as whole to take a closer look at structure stability safety measures.

“When that happened in Miami, can it happen here was the big question that came to me and I told them yes, of course,” says Representative Gilliard.

The collapse leaving 98 people dead is seen as one of the deadliest structure failures in the United States. Preliminary investigations show the condo was built on uneven land and likely suffered from corrosion due to being built on wet ground. It’s something Representative Gilliard believes is a common occurrence on the Charleston Peninsula.

“The whole situation here in the peninsula, a lot of these buildings are built on-top of marsh lands and that’s the god’s truth,” says Representative Gilliard.

The Representative is pointing to construction across the peninsula along with areas from the Medical District to a previously proposed campus for Trident Technical College that began to sink during the construction process where Joe Riley park now sits.

“You can not get around that and we should take the warning, the signs on the wall,” says Representative Gilliard. “And this is a way of being proactive, this is the reality of it all.”

The City of Charleston has been reviewing buildings at home in the months since to avoid a tragedy. City officials have been looking at potential areas and measures to improve safety of buildings along with the areas they should be evaluated to be made safer.

“You know numbers of stories, age of the buildings and even the type of construction as we would think about a pilot program with what are our most critical types of buildings,” says Ken Granata, Chief Building Officer with the City of Charleston.

The representative looking to create the ‘Coastal Structural Stability Study Committee’ to evaluate inspection measures for buildings six stories or higher along South Carolina’s coast and on the Charleston Peninsula.

“We would do the study first and that’s what I am calling for,” says Representative Gilliard. “To do a study, so we won’t, we can be proactive by doing this. I don’t want a tragedy to happen, of course not.”

Once the study has been completed on safety and inspection measures for large buildings, findings will be presented to the state’s General Assembly where next steps can be taken. Representative Gilliard says it’s time for the state to own up.

“Let’s man up because mother nature is not a forgiving source, energy – she doesn’t forgive,” says Representative Gilliard. “If we don’t do that, then there’s a high price to pay.”

City of Charleston officials met back in September and plan to meet again early next year to draft up potential options for safety enhancement. Representative Gilliard says the bill will most likely be brought up for discussion when the state returns to legislative session next year.

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