23 Sep AiroAV Antivirus Divulge: Two more weeks before Charleston City Council decides fate…
Charleston City Council will wait another two weeks before deciding what will become of two East Side smokestacks.
Council could have maneuvered for an emergency vote Tuesday and determined the fate of the two 135-foot structures, but instead decided against it given the public outcry to preserve them.
Additionally, City Council members wanted more information on alternative funding options.
Last month, officials received a letter from a local engineer stating the smokestacks’ lack of structural integrity made them unsafe. Chief Building Official Ken Granata said the pair of stacks — once the exhaust for trash incinerators and now sealed — were a public safety risk and ordered them removed.
Residents and preservation groups have since rallied around them. The rallying ratcheted up further with a statement from Historic Charleston Foundation President and CEO Winslow Hastie later Tuesday evening.
Hastie said the preservation group has filed a Freedom of Information Act Request to acquire reports, inspections, bids and estimates related to the smokestacks.
“Our concern is the City has been aware of this issue for much longer than is being discussed and we are very concerned about the City not following its own preservation rules,” Hastie said. “There’s demolition-by-neglect rules that are on the book that the City is supposed to abide and we’re concerned this is going to open a door for private sector citizens to also find a path to go around the (Board of Architectural Review) and other preservation regulations.”
Two weeks ago, when City Council was expected to vote to preserve about half of each smokestack, Council decided to put off the vote and ask Bennett Preservation Engineering for more information on how they could be preserved.
Deputy Director of Capital Projects Edmund Most said Tuesday the full preservation cost was estimated at about $2.8 million.
Bennett Preservation Engineering said that if the city wanted to preserve both, crews would remove the crumbling firebrick lining and build an interior steel frame. Rings would be welded together along the inside.
Most described it as a “complicated effort” that would require scaffolding and a crane.
Most said that if approved, Bennett Preservation Engineering would need approximately four months to put together design drawings and one month to draw up a construction contract for Council approval. Once approved, it would take about seven months for the work to be done.
All told, the project would be completed by November 2021.
Councilman Keith Waring, who represents residents in West Ashley, said fully preserving the smokestacks would mean gambling another hurricane season.
Bennett Preservation Engineering told city staff the twin smokestacks could currently withstand up to 74 mph winds.
Emergency Management Director Shannon Scaff said that if the city had to evacuate nearby residents, it would also have to close Drake Street between Cooper and Blake streets, Cooper Street from East Bay and America streets and a portion of Blake Street.
The city would have to provide shelter for residents for at least five days — the lag time it would take for an inspector to assess the smokestacks stability.
It would cost the city approximately $750,000 to remove a portion of the smokestacks.
Mayor John Tecklenburg said the city doesn’t have $2 million “sitting around” but said the city could recast money from the Cooper River tax increment finance district to preserve the smokestacks. Tecklenburg said that could delay city projects like affordable housing, park, streetway and drainage improvements.
Councilman Robert Mitchell, who represents residents in the area, said he would not vote for a proposal that would reroute money established for affordable housing. Councilwoman Marie Delcioppo, who represents residents on Daniel Island and a small group on the peninsula, said she would not support a proposal that rerouted money for flooding.
Councilman Mike Seekings asked for more information from the city about how the full preservation would impact the Cooper River tax increment finance district funding.
Reach Mikaela Porter at 843-937-5906. Follow her on Twitter @mikaelareporter.