Benedict moving students out of dorm

Benedict College is moving students out of an off-campus dormitory that Richland County fire officials consider unsafe.

The college has promised to have everyone out by Friday, said Steve Morrison, a member of the board of trustees.

Students will relocate to apartments or hotel rooms while the dormitory at 1539 Horseshoe Drive is fitted with sprinklers and other fire-safety equipment, Morrison said.

He was not sure how long the students would be in temporary housing.

"We've already started to work on finding alternative housing for the kids," Morrison said.

President David Swinton informed students living at the dormitory Friday of the relocation.

Student Hilkiah Williamssaid Swinton told the group some students may move as soon as Sunday.

Williams, a 20-year-old business management student, said he's hoping the dormitory will be fixed quickly so students can finish out the school year together.

On Wednesday, county officials issued an order of evacuation for the building Benedict leases.

The move intensified a potentially dangerous situation that had been smoldering since the first week of August.

"We ended up with 251 students who were upset and concerned and, to us, that's the first priority," Morrison said. "Whether we were in agreement with the county or not, our students need to be focused on their work."

The board of trustees, in two days of meetings that concluded Friday, agreed the students must relocate.

A county statement noted the plan gives the college and officials "adequate time to address outstanding zoning, fire, and building concerns" at the dorm.

Morrison said students will not be asked to cover any additional housing costs.

If all 251 students were placed in apartments, Morrison said, it would run about $50,000 a month. Hotel rooms would cost much more, about $185,000 a month, he said.

Between now and move-out day, the college will maintain around-the-clock patrols and a system of fire alarms and smoke detectors at the dorm.

"We're minimizing the short-term risk as we move the students from the situation they're in now," Morrison said.

One of two pumps in the dormitory used for firefighting is still not working properly, he noted.

In addition to deficiencies in its fire equipment, the college needs to resolve a land-use zoning issue. County standards do not allow dormitories more than one-half mile from a main campus.

The renovated hotel on Horseshoe Circle is more than seven miles from Benedict.