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Report on 1 East Side smokestack shows 'good' condition, interior liner remains a problem

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The 135-foot smokestacks at St. Julian Devine Community Center on Cooper Street are pictured Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020, in Charleston. One of the two smokestacks, which were ordered removed in late August after questions about their structural integrity arose, is in "good shape," according to the latest draft engineering report. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

One of the two smokestacks on Charleston's East Side that were ordered to be removed in late August after questions about their structural integrity arose is in "good shape," according to the latest draft engineering report given to members of a task force that will make recommendations on their fate.

That evaluation of the northern of the two 135-foot smokestacks at St. Julian Devine Community Center on Cooper and Drake streets noted some concerns with its interior liner. A draft report on the southern stack had not yet been evaluated by the task force. 

In late August, Chief Building Official Ken Granata ordered the smokestacks removed after a report on their structural integrity showed some deficiencies. 

But a little over a month ago — and after weeks of public outcry to preserve the two smokestacks — Charleston City Council hired Bennett Preservation Engineering to come up with a plan and established the task force to figure out how much of the smokestacks to save and how to do it.

A crew from International Chimney Corp. examined each smokestack in late October.

"Based upon the condition assessment, the overall condition of this (northern) chimney is in good shape given its age," said the draft report by International Chimney of Buffalo, N.Y. 

"Most of the brick itself is in good condition, a lot of the mortar joints are not," added Craig Bennett, of Bennett Preservation, who also noted problems with the interior liner.

There are three cracks around the exterior on the top, and the liner is broken in a "fair number of places," Bennett said. 

The draft report recommends reinforcing the inside of the chimney to withstand seismic activity and winds and removing the inside liner.  

Bennett said the draft recommendations outlined are "not a long way off" from his recommendations in 2018. 

A draft report of the southern smokestack was not shared Thursday morning, as city staff said it was sent over just before the task force's meeting began.

Whatever the city does, officials want the structural integrity of the smokestacks addressed before the next hurricane season, Mayor John Tecklenburg told the task force.

The group will reconvene in a month and be briefed on a list of options, advantages and disadvantages to each and costs associated with any plan, Bennett said on Thursday.

The task force will make a recommendation to City Council and come up with a plan so the city pays no more than half the cost. The task force will be required to make a recommendation by the council’s second meeting in January.

Ultimately, council will decide among three scenarios: remove the smokestacks at an estimated cost of $535,000; preserve them by reducing their height by half at an estimated cost of $1.6 million; or preserve them in their entirety, with an estimated cost of $3 million.

Reach Mikaela Porter at 843-937-5906. Follow her on Twitter @mikaelareporter. 

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