By Jennifer Tuohy, Island Eye News Editor
Photos by Steve Rosamilia
As the Town of Sullivan’s Island approaches its bicentennial next year, it will finally have its very own Town Hall.
“The Town of Moultrieville was incorporated in December 1817,” explained Town Administrator Andy Benke, while standing in front of the nearly completed $3.9 million building. “It’s taken almost 200 years to get a real town hall.”
Of course, the town has had buildings to operate out of in those ensuing years but, as Benke explained, they’d always been repurposed military buildings, never designed for the purpose of running a town.
Town officials have occupied numerous old buildings, including one next to the old movie theater, and most recently, a building originally built to store munitions and other military paraphernalia.
“It was never intended to be occupied, so it wasn’t built to keep moisture and such out,” Benke said of the old Middle Street building that served as the town hall for many years.
Which explains why the town had to move out a little over six years ago, due to mold, rat and related health problems.
The new building won’t have those problems however. “It’s water tight,” says Mayor Pro- Tem Chauncey Clark, who has overseen the birth of the town’s first official building from concept to concrete. “It can withstand up to a Category 4 hurricane, take winds in excess of 150 mph, and has hurricane glass and shutters—belt and suspenders, that is!” he said proudly. “It’s raised for the flood, and the siding is structured with extra nailings. We debated about lightning rods, it was a big add, but we made the decision to do that too.”
“It also has a generator that can drive everything including the A/C,” Clark continued. “It’s a town facility, but it will also act as a command center during any natural disaster. There’s accommodations for living and showering.”
The 13,500 square foot building (about 12,000 occupied square feet) is elevated 11 feet from the ground and was financed as part of a $4.1 million bond and through sale of town property, a process that also financed the purchase of a new fire truck and other capital improvements the town is working on. Built by Hill Construction and designed by Creech and Associates, the whole project was closely overseen by Clark, who has an extensive background in construction project management. “I live on the island so I was able to be over here a couple of times a day,” he said.
“The furniture goes in starting Sept. 23. The weekend of 24th and 25th, it’s telephones and IT. And then staff will move in, and on Monday, Sept. 26, we’ll be open for business,” Benke said.
The Island Eye News took a tour of the near-completed building on Aug. 30. The first thing that strikes you is how attractive it is— it doesn’t resemble what you might expect of a government building. The wrap-around porch adds a lot of charm and blends in with its surroundings. The wide staircase on the side of the building that leads into Stith Park will provide a wonderful space for town celebrations such as Christmas and Fourth of July, and the public restrooms beneath the staircase will be a much welcomed addition to the park.
Inside, the building is state of the art while retaining a small-town feel. Indirect LED lighting, occupancy sensors, spray foam insulation and variable air ventilation that can be controlled by zone, lend to the building’s energy efficiency. Cozy nooks for visitors to sit in as they wait for their permits offer views of soon-to-be installed historical town memorabilia and elegant mill work. Additionally, a specially designed art wall will display local art work.
The town staff have bright open offices, a stark contrast to the six years they’ve spent in cramped trailers initially planned for three month occupancy. The town administrator’s office is the largest—incorporating space for a large monitor for presentations, a conference table and a security monitor that feeds the 12 security cameras around the facility into his office. “We decided we’d give Andy a bigger office and no raise,” quipped Clark.
The most impressive room however is the council chambers—also known as the multipurpose room. “It’s pretty magnificent I think,” Clark said.
A dias for nine people commands the room, each seat fully wired for power and internet, so council members can have a laptop or display, and all the information they need at their fingertips. Two 65-inch monitors and a pull-down projection screen will allow audience members to see what the council members see.
It’s not all high-tech, however. Two specially commissioned paintings by local artist Mickey Williams will grace the large walls, one a beach view, the other the marsh— reflecting the two sides of the island. The first official public meeting in here is slated to be the October council workshop.
Behind the multipurpose room are two rooms, including a private conference room for executive sessions of council. On the opposite side is a kitchen/break room.
The second floor is dedicated to the Sullivan’s Island Police station, and includes many of the same features as the downstairs area, including large bathrooms and the addition of some showers, but with less aesthetic accent features as this is not an area the public will generally see. The police station will also incorporate an interview room and a secure evidence room with an evidence locker. The two floors and the basement are connected by an elevator as well as an internal staircase. The public can access the building via any of the four external staircases.
The building may be finished, but there is a still a fair amount of work to be done on the interior, fixtures, fittings and furniture, plus the trailers need to be removed and the area leveled to create more parking.
Benke and Clarke say they are well on track to be ready for the Sept. 26 opening date, and a grand opening/ribbon cutting will follow in October.