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$100,000 property sale will help fund Ridgeland fire station remodel

The town of Ridgeland is selling property for $100,000 with the intention of having all proceeds go toward the remodeling of the fire station on Railroad Avenue.

Town council approved the sale at Thursday’s meeting, but it led to a lengthy discussion. The vote wasn’t unanimous because councilman Tommy Rhodes voted against the sale citing fiscal concerns.

The land, at the intersection of S.C. 336 and Bees Creek Road, will potentially be home to Old South Exterminators. Town administrator Dennis Averkin noted the sale is contingent on the results of Old South’s environmental survey on the property.

During the public hearing, Carmen Malphrus, who lives across the street from the property, expressed concern for how the building will affect the town’s look, citing possible unsightly fencing.

“It’s not an aesthetic I think is nice for that part of our town,” said Malphrus, who is also concerned about traffic congestion. “We have beautiful parks, but sometimes I feel like we are the garage for Hilton Head Island. Can we have something pretty, pretty please, for that location?”

Councilman Grady Woods acknowledged Malphrus’ concerns, but said the town plans to maintain its standards.

“Our intent, when this is done, will not be a negative, it will be a positive,” Woods said. “We need to ensure our standards are as high as they can be to complement the neighborhood. … It’s not something that will be detrimental.”

Averkin said there will be a “vegetative barrier” in front of the fence. He said Old South’s owner also owns Yates-Astro in Savannah, which has buildings that are “immaculate.”

“This is not going to be a building with a chain-link fence,” Averkin said. “This will be an asset to the town.”

The town originally bought the property with the intention of building a new fire station at the Good Hope development (which has since been canceled), but Woods said plans changed when the recession hit.

“I was here when we voted to buy the property,” Woods said. “We bought that piece of property for a fire department. That was the intent. That changed during the recession. What we are doing now and working toward is promoting a fire department. We wish we could get more than we paid for, the market hasn’t come back up yet, and we are in need of a better fire department. But that’s not going to lower the standards on that property.”

Averkin believes the original purchase price in 2006 was $230,000. He said Friday the town expects to recoup the money in property tax revenue and business license revenue with Old South potentially staying in town. It also keeps jobs in town, he said.

“There was a very real chance that they would have gone to Beaufort County,” Averkin said.

Rhodes said he voted against selling the property because he originally voted against buying it.

“I can’t in good faith, fiscally, vote in favor of it,” he said. “When we purchased it, I didn’t agree with it then. At this point to sell it. …I can’t support it because of that. I have no misgivings about the business and the way it would be handled. …Fiscally, is the reason I vote against it.”

Councilman Chris DuBose said the fire department remodel is a priority.

“That’s what the property’s worth now, we can’t change it,” he said “(The fire department) needs this. We are trying to help the town with public safety. That’s why I’m in favor of it. I understand we are taking a loss, but I’d hate to see us get into any more debt than we have to, with the sale of this property that’s going to allow us to be able to do something.”

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