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Town Clerk Diane Allen gets help from Sgt. Clay Naar and Officer Brian Folmer setting up her desk in the temporary office.
Charles Swenson/Coastal Observer

Pawleys Island: Town Hall rebuilding balances wants, needs and costs

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

There is a difference of opinion over the bars on the windows.

At the police department, they fit right in. “I love it,” said Officer Brian Folmer. Just 60 feet down the hall, Town Administrator Ryan Fabbri has his doubts. “They’re not really Pawleys Island,” he said.

In the middle, architecturally and philosophically, is Town Clerk Diane Allen. “I don’t mind them,” she said.

As the town of Pawleys Island makes plans to build a new Town Hall to replace the one that was gutted by floodwaters from Hurricane Matthew, it will try to build consensus among employees, officials and property owners over form, function and cost. The Town Hall will be the first structure the town has built since it was formed 32 years ago. The original building was a real estate rental office. Former Mayor Jack Bland led the effort to renovate it as the Town Hall. After a couple of additions over the years, the building had about 600 square feet.

A mobile office brought in after the storm and placed in the Pawleys Island Nature Park has 720 square feet. It’s an improvement over the 350-square-foot construction trailer and the portable toilets set up in the park immediately after the storm, employees say. “Have you seen the size of the bathroom?” asked Police Sgt. Clay Naar.

The town plans to ask the state Department of Transportation to transfer title to Pavilion Lane, a 66-foot-wide right-of-way that runs 650 feet along Pawleys Creek from the North Causeway to Myrtle Avenue. The street will become a dead end with access from the North Causeway to the Town Hall, park and creek. If the town had to buy property, it would cost at least $400,000, Mayor Bill Otis said. The land the old Town Hall sits on isn’t a buildable lot, and the town hopes to find another use for the shell of the old building.

Fabbri has already had calls from architects interested in the new Town Hall. Before making a formal solicitation, the town Planning Commission will meet with a couple of island property owners who are architects to discuss the process. A town-hall meeting with property owners is also scheduled for January to explain the concept. “I don’t think we’re dealing with the design at this point,” Otis said.

Other Town Council members say they need to come up with some guidelines for the project. “You can’t rely on an architect to tell you what you want,” Holliday said.

“Actually, you can,” Otis said. “You don’t have to say how big the project is going to be for openers.”

He envisions an architect getting input from staff, town officials and property owners and developing a list of wants for the council to narrow down. “They know everybody wants more than you can afford,” Otis said.

Holliday called that “a little bit of a fox-in-the-henhouse scenario.” “They have little incentive to keep it as small and as low-cost as possible, and I think that’s our goal,” he said.

The town needs to establish a budget, Holliday said. But the budget will come from the size, Council Member Sarah Zimmerman said, and the size will come from the needs of the town’s staff.

“I want a room for conferences, meetings and court,” Allen said. The old Town Hall once served all those functions, but Town Court moved to the Georgetown County Magistrate’s Court, Town Council met at the Waccamaw Library before moving back to the Pawleys Island Chapel and committees routinely meet in the conference room at Pawleys Island Realty. Police Chief Mike Fanning said he recently held CPR training at Pawleys Island Community Church. “It would be nice not to have to beg, borrow and steal,” he said.

Council Member Mike Adams wants the council to establish the process for assessing those needs. “I don’t feel we have a good grip on it,” he said.

The town of Sullivans Island spent three years developing a new town hall, Fabbri said. “It looks like a house,” he said. “That’s what I envision here.”

As for a budget, there were two insurance policies that covered the old Town Hall, one from the state and one from the National Flood Insurance Program, Fabbri said. He also hopes the town can get a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build a new Town Hall that has reduced risk of damage from future floods.

The town has leased the mobile office for two years. One thing everyone agrees on is that the process, whatever it is, shouldn’t be rushed. “This is something that is going to meet the needs 30 years after us,” Fabbri said.

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