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News Shorts

Updates and information from around the region

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"The whole idea of free Wi-Fi is great, but somebody, at the end of the day, has got to pay for it."

Entrepreneur Phil McQuade on the difficulty establishing a city-wide WiFi in Annapolis, Md. Charleston is still awaiting the broad launch of its WiFi blanket. Source: The Baltimore Sun

Better Than Botox

Just as the curtain was falling on Charleston's Spoleto festivities, the city unveiled the new old City Hall at long last. Shuttered nearly three years ago for the extensive, more-than-$10 million restoration, crews took apart each room to the foundations and built them back. Every element of the building was removed and either repaired or replaced in the largest restoration in well over 100 years. Here are some high points:

• Foundation Support: With earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes, the years haven't been kind to the building. The concern was that another earthquake would bring City Hall to the ground. To bolster the building, the foundation was layered with 12,000 stainless steel screws and reinforced concrete columns were installed from the floor to the roof. "It will last for hundreds of years to come," Mayor Riley says. But then, if there's one thing Mother Nature loves, it's a challenge.

• Well, Then: Considering the building really doesn't have a back side, the prospect of a large heating and cooling unit didn't appeal to anyone, so the city installed 60 wells 200 feet deep into Washington Square behind the City Hall that will naturally heat and cool the building.

• The Replacements: Tile in the entrance has been removed and replaced with marble, and a balcony lost in past catastrophe has been replaced in the council chambers. And the bathrooms. Oh, the bathrooms. Cramped one-stall johns have been replaced with spacious four-stall havens that have been the talk of municipal circles and an asset to an area with few restrooms.

• Game No. 1: The artwork in council chambers is magnificent. Guess the Mayor is a fun game to play using the portraits that hang in the balcony. Okay, "fun" is a subjective term.

• Poor York Fraser: A display in the ground floor boasts some of the artifacts found during the restoration of the building. Included is an apparently misplaced delinquent tax notice for York Fraser from 1892. Lets hope York figured out why they were seizing his property even if he didn't get the note.

• Game No. 2: A video documenting the building's changes was playing in the lobby on the ground floor. Viewers could simulate a hurricane with one person going into the nearby bathrooms and triggering the super powered (and super loud) hand driers at the exact moment the film shows Hurricane Hugo heading straight for us. Tragic storms aren't funny. But hand driers always provide a good time.

• Lessons Learned: Don't know what a balustrade, lintel, or quoin is? Neither did we. Now we do. Thanks, City Hall! —Greg Hambrick

Sofa Store Fire Kills Nine

Charleston has been thrust in to the national spotlight again with a fire at the Sofa Super Store on Savannah Highway Tuesday that has killed nine firefighters. Mayor Joe Riley said that it was the worst fire in his 30 years in office.

"In my time as mayor we have never had a fire like this. We've never lost a firefighter and to loose nine is a tragedy of immense proportions," Riley said.

Firefighters created a hole in the back of the building and successfully got an employee out, Riley said, but other details regarding the fire and what specifically took the lives of the firemen will have to wait until an investigation. No arson is expected, he said.

"It's a tragic reminder of their profession and what they're willing to do every time they put on the badge," Riley said. —Greg Hambrick

$7.5 million

That was the proposed cost for a gay bomb that had been proposed by military personnel in 1994 for development as a non-lethal weapon. The Pentagon confirmed the proposal, but says that it was quickly scuttled. Apparently not before a budget estimate and paper trail was formed. Source: The Washington Post

"Graham does, uhm, seem... flustered is a good term. Hysterical, maybe. Passionate, perhaps. He waves his arms around, that's for sure."

Time blogger Ana Marie Cox on the congressional fit by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) over an amendment proposed by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) for the failed immigration reform bill. Source: Time.com

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