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City Hall soil problem being fixed

By Jefferson Weaver, The News Reporter

Much of the soil on the Whiteville municipal building site had to be removed and replaced this week.

City Manager Darren Currie brief the council Tuesday on the problem, which has been remedied at no additional cost.

The city voted last year to demolish the mold-ridden 1938 municipal building and erect a new structure at the corner of Columbus and Madison streets. The new building will include both the original City Hall lot and the lot created when the city purchased and tore down a rundown rental property next door.

The property next door was the problem, Currie explained.

“Apparently there weren’t sufficient soil tests where the old house was,” Currie said, “and that dirt just won’t compact properly.”

Combined with that problem, Currie was, was the complication that some of the dirt brought in to fill the footprint of the former City Hall was below standards. All that dirt has since been excavated and is being replaced, Currie said.

“Most of the dirt that filled in the basement was fine,” Currie said. “It’s just that the soil under the old parking lot and where the house had to be replaced.”

Councilman Tim Blackmon asked if the fill problem was built in to the City Hall construction budget. Currie said that the architect and engineer had intentionally made sure the possibility of needing more fill was included in the original plans, but the buffer wasn’t quite enough. The remaining cost will likely come out of the general contingency funds for the project, Currie said.

Councilwoman Sara Thompson questioned whether the complications would delay the project, which is due to be completed by the end of the year.

“Will they need extra time?” she said.

“They will, and they will receive it,” Currie said. “This is not something that could have been planned for. Nobody saw it coming. There was no reason to suspect a soil sample at the old house would have been any different from the rest of the lot.”

The heavy rains of the past few days slowed progress on the project, Currie said but footings and some of the foundation could begin being poured in the next few weeks.

“This was just something that couldn’t be planned for,” Currie said. “The footprint for the new city hall is different from the old building – maybe half the new council chamber is actually on the site of the old City Hall. Much of the rest of the building is where the old parking lot and the home were located.”

Officials hope to be in the new City Hall by February 2019. The building is being paid for through a combination of savings from the general fund, fund balance, a loan and a property tax increase.

Stuart Rogers