MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A South Carolina lawmaker is proposing legislation aimed at putting a higher priority on the safety of high-rise buildings, particularly those along the state’s coastline.
Rep. Wendell Gilliard’s bill comes in the aftermath of the June collapse of a 12-story beachfront condominium tower that killed nearly 100 people in the Miami suburb of Surfside Beach. Reports have said the building was in dire need of repairs.
Gilliard, a Charleston Democrat, said there is currently no solid communication between state leaders and municipal officials when it comes to building inspections. The bill is an effort to save lives and protect both tourists and local residents, he said.
“Why wait ’til a tragedy happens to take these types of measures?” Gilliard said.
Gilliard wants to form a committee to examine the current inspection protocols for commercial buildings with six or more floors. It would include structural engineers and others who would report their findings to the General Assembly.
“We have a lot of problems with flooding,” he said. “We now know that a lot of these buildings by population growth are being built in flood-prone areas.”
Gilliard cited several troublesome spots, including some in coastal areas that could he said could take a dangerous turn unless lawmakers get involved.
Mark Kruea, a spokesman for the city of Myrtle Beach, said inspections are done in Myrtle Beach while buildings are being built. State and local governments don’t require inspections after construction is completed.
“Once it’s there, to go back inside that building and look at it is a fairly invasive procedure, and you may even have to evacuate the building,” Kruea said, adding that the city will respond to structural concerns if asked to do so.
“If it’s gone through the inspection, everything’s been done correctly then there shouldn’t be an issue,” he said. “Consider that the one building collapsed in Florida out of how many millions of buildings are there? It’s a fairly rare occurrence.”
Gilliard, though, said he would rather be safe than sorry.,
“For the safety of our citizens, for the safety of our tourists here, we have to take a proactive position.” he said.
Gilliard’s bill will be taken up when lawmakers return to session in January. He said he’s confident it will be passed.