New Traffic Light on Ribaut Rd

By Bob Sofaly

Al Amely of the City of Beaufort hangs a new, easier to read traffic light at Ribaut and Waddell roads Thursday. A Beaufort County crew origanly started the project until their truck broke down and, in the spirit of cooperation, the city crew took over, according to John Snedeker of the Beaufort County Traffic Engineering department.

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Sheriff’s Office Investigating Armed Robbery

ST. HELENA ISLAND, SC (February 2, 2012/1:30 PM) – The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is investigating yesterday evening’s armed robbery of a St. Helena convenience store.

Just after 5:30 pm, Sheriff’s deputies responded to the Express Lane #5 (1702 Sea Island Pkwy) in reference to an armed robbery occurring moments earlier. Upon arrival, deputies met with an employee who advised that an unknown black male had entered the store, produced a handgun, and demanded money.

The clerk complied, handing over an undisclosed amount of cash. The suspect then fled the store, running through the woods towards Coffin Point Rd. The clerk was unharmed and no customers were present during the incident.

The suspect is described as a black male in his early 20’s, approximately 5’07”, 160 lbs with a “scruffy” beard. Investigators are currently following up on promising leads to the suspect’s identity.

The Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information to contact either Investigator Sgt. J. Fraser at 843-255-3416 or the Beaufort County Dispatch Center at 843-524-2777.

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Arts fun-raiser channels spirit of Mardi Gras

By Lanier Laney
In support of ARTworks, Beaufort’s community arts center, Mardi Gras is the grand annual fundraiser that uses the strength of a squeezebox and the zing of the washboard to get supporters of the arts moving and grooving. For 2012, the committee decided to take over the newly re-opened Shed in Port Royal, with a balcony in French Quarter style by artist Terry Brennan, a jazzy backdrop created by artist Rebecca Davenport, and the delicious tradition of jambalaya and white chocolate bread pudding by Berry Island. Revelers filled the Shed to capacity, finding their tables loaded with beads, masks, and scratch off tickets to determine the Kings and Queens. Led by artist-boardmember Deanna Bowdish in a stunning red gown, dancers filled the floor in front of Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, direct from New Orleans, and guests took home spectacular art from the silent auction, including artworks donated by the Charles Street Gallery, glass artist Greg Rawls, woodworker Rex Hunter, multi-mediaist Hank Herring, and a much fought over blue crab assemblage by Terry Brennan. Thanks to all who attended and support the arts year round, and kudos to the committee, boardmembers and volunteers, including Claudette Humphrey, Helen Roper, Stacie Van Vulpen, CJ Norwood, Erika Pyle, Carolyn Carter and Barbara Kelly.  Photos by Richard Darby.

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A party in honor of Valentine Ball dinner hosts

By Lanier Laney

Every year, the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation does a wonderful thing. They give a terrific party in honor of all the kind hearted hosts of the upcoming dinner parties held before the Valentine Ball.  This year was no exception and the party was held in the beautiful home of Ty and Marc Reichel for more than 70 hosts. What’s remarkable about this party is the incredible gourmet food that is served and it is cooked by the chefs at the hospital. Plus other hospital chefs were brought in from as far away as Augusta, Ga. After all, the chefs were all trained in fine culinary schools before going into hospital work.  Their skills are on the level with the finest restaurants.  Many thanks to them for all their hard work and thanks also to the volunteers who make the Valentine Ball Beaufort’s biggest charity event of the year.

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Celebration of Love

Valentine’s Day is coming and love is in bloom at the Red Piano Too Art Gallery. The gallery is gearing up for the annual Valentine’s weekend show to open on Saturday, February 11. A collection of works by gallery artists Johnnie Griner, Howard Hunt, S. A. Hunter, Miss Kay, Mary I. Mack, Susan McLendon, Saundra “Renee” Smith, Victoria A. Smalls, W. J. Wilkie will share varying views of love.
The gallery’s curator, Victoria Smalls, says, “The collection will look at love in a lighthearted generic sense, as the love between shrimp boats such as the ‘Tide Runner and Miss Behaven’ and ‘Love Birds’ by local artist W. J. Wilkie.” Smalls adds, “The exhibit also reveals the more traditionally conceived theme of couples in love as in ‘Looking Good’ by St. Simons Island artist S. A. Hunter; ‘You’re Still the One’ by local artist and gallery owner Mary I. Mack; ‘Flowers for Mom’ by Susan McLendon (who signs all of her artwork SUMAC); and ‘I Do’ by Gullah Lifestyle artist Cassandra Gillens.” Smalls will have her signature “Contemplation of Love” series of pastels painted on paper that nearly sold out in last year’s exhibit.
The exhibit will run February 11-28. The public is invited to a Meet & Greet the artists reception on Saturday, February 11, from 12 -5 p.m. at the Red Piano Too Art Gallery located at 870 Sea Island Parkway on St. Helena Island. For more information, visit www.RedPianoToo.com or call (843) 838-2241.

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Beaufort, Port Royal earn combined and upgraded fire rating

With the possibility of lower fire insurance premiums for commercial properties that could boost economic development, including the Port of Port Royal property, both Beaufort and Port Royal will share a Class 2 ISO fire rating effective May 1.
Working together with improved firefighter training and equipment, the Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department requested a joint ISO fire rating that could greatly benefit commercial property owners in Beaufort and Port Royal, Beaufort Fire Chief Sammy Negron said.
For 15 years, Beaufort has enjoyed one of the state’s highest fire insurance ratings — an ISO 2. That can translate to annual savings on fire insurance premiums, particularly for commercial properties. Insurance companies can use the ISO rating as an indicator of a community’s ability to provide fire protection.
“With our combined firefighting capability with Port Royal, with our strong water supply system and hydrants, and with our new equipment, we earned the joint ISO 2 rating for both the City of Beaufort and the Town of Port Royal,” Negron said. The rating team was in the Lowcountry in August.
Beaufort City Manager Scott Dadson said the continued high levels of firefighter training, strong cooperating between Beaufort and Port Royal, good department management and the City Council’s commitment to update the firefighting vehicles with more responsive all-purpose vehicles and pumpers all contributed to the upgraded fire rating.
Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling saluted the work behind the improved ISO 2 rating and pointed to potential economic benefits as both Beaufort and Port Royal work toward major redevelopment projects, including the Port of Port Royal project and the Boundary Street Corridor.
“The ISO rating reflects these two communities’ investment in providing effective fire prevention for its residents.  Getting an ISO 2 rating for Port Royal will have a dramatic effect on the desirability of the Port property for development and, as we continue to bring redevelopment opportunities to Beaufort and the Boundary Street Corridor, the lure of lower fire insurance premiums will certainly help,” Keyserling said.
The last time Beaufort was evaluated by ISO was in 1981. In 2004, the Town of Port Royal received an ISO Class 3/9, with outlying areas having the lower, less appealing 9 rating.
The joint ISO 2 rating for Beaufort and Port Royal applies to property up to Neal Road in Beaufort and up to the Bell Bridge in Port Royal. The Burton Fire District recently underwent a similar ISO evaluation, including for areas in Beaufort and Port Royal they serve under contract.
Additional benefits of a joint ISO rating include allowing joint purchases of new equipment, saving both Port Royal and Beaufort taxpayers money. The shared equipment will serve the shared ISO, Negron said.
The ISO rating system measures the major elements of a community’s fire-suppression system and develops a numerical grade from one, the highest, to the lowest, 10. Here’s how the review process works, according to the Insurance Services Office:
Fire alarms: 10 percent of the overall grading is based on how well the fire department receives fire alarms and dispatches its fire-fighting resources. Field representatives evaluate the communications center, the number of operators at the center and the listing of emergency numbers in the telephone book. Field representatives also look at the dispatch circuits and how the center notifies firefighters about the location of the emergency.
Engine companies: 50 percent of the overall grading is based on the number of engine companies and the amount of water a community needs to fight a fire. ISO reviews the distribution of fire companies throughout the area and checks that the fire department tests its pumps regularly and inventories each engine company’s nozzles, hoses, breathing apparatus and other equipment.
ISO also reviews the fire-company records to determine:
• Type and extent of training provided to fire-company personnel
• Number of people who participate in training
• Firefighter response to emergencies
• Maintenance and testing of the fire department’s equipment.
Water supply: 40 percent of the grading is based on the community’s water supply, specifically whether the community has sufficient water supply for firefighting beyond daily maximum consumption. During an ISO review, its team checks all components of the water supply system, including pumps, storage and filtration. They check the distribution and location of fire hydrants and the rate of water flow provided by water mains.

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Focusing on the good things taking place in Beaufort County schools

By Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling

My personal success beating dyslexia (before it was even recognized as a reading disorder) to become a college and graduate school honor student, and my two-year consulting on parent engagement in schools in Vermont, Delaware and North Carolina by no means qualify me as an expert on education. However, those experiences heightened my awareness and understanding of schools if only from anecdotal points of view.
With that disclosure, I believe that I, like many others, have been focusing on news stories about attendance zones, budget battles between County Council and the School Board, unfair state funding formulas and most recently fiscal autonomy, while we’ve ignored and failed to support dedicated hard working teachers by acknowledging many good things taking place in Beaufort County Schools and failing to help with the challenges our teachers and administrators face.
Furthermore, perhaps by pointing fingers at school officials we have excused ourselves from our civic responsibility as a necessary part of the solution.
Given my personal interest, I jump at opportunities to visit schools. Within the past several months, I visited Lady’s Island, Broad River, Shell Point, Port Royal, Beaufort Elementary and Riverview Charter Schools.
I have been overwhelmingly enthused to witness the tender care provided by teachers and aides, the sense of community among faculty and students and an engagement in serious learning.
Last month I received and accepted my first invitation to visit a high school though I have attended events at Beaufort and Battery Creek High schools over the years.
I shadowed Battery Creek High School Principal Ed Burnes. My eyes were wide open as I thought about cynical comments by some members of our community who appear to adamantly not want their sons and daughters to attend the school.
Aside from learning first hand what a principal does, I observed classes in progress, the cafeteria during lunch and small groups of students huddled experiencing the fun of give and take while collaborating on projects in the media center.
Fortunately, the timing was such that I got to meet with the school’s Senior Leadership Team which includes the class presidents and vice presidents from each grade also an impressive event.
The following are some observations which, if I am honest with myself, were pleasant surprises against the backdrop of apparent ill feelings about Beaufort Schools and particularly Battery Creek High.
The level of “adult” dialogue among student leaders, expressing their concerns, recommendations of priorities and how the principal responded to them as young adults who take their responsibility seriously was extraordinary.
The sense of order throughout the school of over 770 students during class changes where students moved throughout the vast hallways and, by the second bell, classroom doors were closed and teachers were conducting classes to attentive and seemingly engaged and well behaved students
While I am sure my findings are no surprise to the hundreds of teachers in our schools, and perhaps some of the parents who give to the community through volunteering at their children’s schools, it was a well worthwhile morning for me and clearly a very pleasant eye opener given I had preconceived notions and have perhaps be wearing “blinders” caused by the negative atmosphere about schools in our community.
Had I been invited to shadow Dr. Durbin at Beaufort High School, I have no doubt the experience would have been similar though some of the programs may have differing focus.
My conclusions are not complicated:
1. Our schools are simply not broken.
2. They need a strong injection of community support through OUR help and support.
If I had to diagnose the biggest challenge to “fixing” our schools, I would not focus on “shortcomings” of the hardworking teachers and their aides or those who train and oversee them.
Rather I would attend to parent absenteeism, as many parents are not preparing their children for school and failing to participate in their children’s education, leaving an almost crippling burden on the teachers and likely handicapping families and perhaps holding back or slowing down students who are better prepared because they are supported by parents who can do so.
I know I am now getting into politically charged and perhaps even politically inappropriate territory for a Mayor of a small city which formally has little if anything to do with managing our schools.
But, I also understand that — like dealing with gun toting teenagers, as I did several months ago by helping and encouraging a newly created neighborhood group to work with those at risk for their lives — some one has to start the conversation about what WE might be able to do to help our teachers and their students.
The first place to find the answer is to look in the mirror to see what each of us can offer.
We face a very complicated reality we can no longer ignore:
As important as it may be, many parents are not able to provide the level of support others provide: an increasing number of parents are single mothers who leave for work as early as 5 a.m. and return as late as 8 p.m. leaving no time to spend with their children; during their own childhood some mothers and fathers did not learn from example positive and strong parenting; yet others do not feel adequate, because they were not formally educated, to offer what their children need; and finally, there is the reality of some parents (I would like to think this is fewer than some believe) who simply shirk the responsibility for their children and expect the rest of us to carry the burden.
We cannot change all of this overnight. But we can accept the reality and work together to compensate as children need positive support from somewhere.
Working with parents to help them understand and meet their responsibilities is a huge challenge but, no matter how much we disapprove and perhaps even resent them for not carrying their weight, we must acknowledge what is missing and develop strategies to improve student preparedness and provide aggressive and comprehensive after school support … if we want our schools to be even better.
I do not know all of the answers, but aggressive tutoring and mentoring is one way we can compensate; volunteering to work and financially support before and after school programs like Thumbs Up, The Boys & Girls Clubs, the YMCA, the new community group called Circle of Hope Coalition and others, is a good place to start.  And finally, we must encourage and reward those teachers and administrators who are already going the extra mile to close the gap between those who have strong home backgrounds and those who do not.
Perhaps it is time for us to look in the mirror and do our job as a community by finding ways to support needy students and the many parents who must become better parents so they will be better equipped to help their children when they are not at school rather than dumping large numbers of students on the teachers.
I know we can do better and there is not a better time to engage than right now!

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News Briefs

Change in filing deadline for state income tax returns
The South Carolina Department of Revenue (SCDOR) will honor the April 17th individual income tax filing deadline set by the Internal Revenue Service. Since April 15 falls on a Sunday, and Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C. (a DC-only holiday) is observed on Monday, April 16, the official filing deadline will move to the following business day which is Tuesday, April 17. SCDOR will honor the federal due date but will not change forms to reflect the April 17th deadline. This deadline applies to any income tax return or payment normally due on April 15th; it also applies to the deadline for requesting a tax-filing extension. South Carolina taxpayers who file and pay electronically have until May 1, 2012 to do so without penalty or interest being assessed. The May 1st deadline does not apply to federal returns or to SC taxpayers who file paper returns.

SCDMV hosts driver suspension eligibility week
The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) announced today the upcoming Driver Suspension Eligibility Week for drivers with certain license suspensions. The program will be held March 5-9, 2012 in all DMV offices across the state and in six offices on Saturday, March 10th.
During Driver Suspension Eligibility Week, South Carolina drivers who have lost their driving privileges for suspensions included in the program may be able to reduce or clear the remaining time of their suspension. The program will assist the following types of suspended drivers:
• Underage drivers suspended for excessive points.
• Those suspended for operating an unlicensed taxi or vehicle.
• Drivers suspended for operating an uninsured vehicle that they did not own .
• Those suspended for operating or allowing operation of an uninsured vehicle.
• Drivers suspended for driving under suspension, excluding alcohol or drug related convictions.
To qualify for the program, drivers must meet all of the conditions of their suspensions. All fees must be paid and SR-22 insurance must be filed, if required. If a driver has more than one suspension, DMV will recalculate the suspension time. Drivers with suspensions not covered by the program will still need to serve that suspension. Drivers who have a clear record may apply for a driver’s license. Depending on the type of suspension, they may be required to take the vision, knowledge and road skills tests before getting a new driver’s license. For more information, visit the SCDMV Web site at www.scdmvonline.com.

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BJWSA to remove swing bridge over Whale Branch

Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority (BJWSA) is removing the railroad swing bridge over the Whale Branch River in Northern Beaufort County. Removal of the swing bridge is part of BJWSA’s railroad removal project. Demolition work is slated to begin the week of January 30, 2012, and will be completed by the end of February.
During demolition, it will be necessary for the contractor to place the bridge in its locked, closed position for several days. Performing this change may make it difficult for watercraft to pass underneath. BJWSA anticipates that the bridge will be closed through February 3; however, weather and other site conditions may cause that closure period to be extended. Boaters are urged to use caution in the area.
BJWSA purchased the Port Royal Railroad in 2008 as a utility corridor. Removal of the rail ties, ballast and rock began in fall of 2010. All work is slated to be complete by summer of 2012.

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Scott named to BJWSA board of directors

James Scott of Hardeeville has been appointed to the Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority’s (BJWSA) Board of Directors. Mr. Scott was appointed by Governor Nikki Haley with special consideration by the legislative delegation. His term runs through 2017, at which time he will be eligible for re-appointment. Mr. Scott replaces Mark Snyder, who gave nine years of exemplary service to the Board of Directors from 2002 through 2011, and served as chairman from 2004 until 2007.
Mr. Scott has a distinguished history of public service in the Lowcountry, working for the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, the City of Hardeeville and the Beaufort County School District. He is currently a licensed real estate broker and shareholder with Keller Williams Hilton Head and Bluffton Real Estate Company and a licensed residential and commercial contractor.
BJWSA’s Board of Directors is an eleven-member body, with Directors representing Beaufort County, Jasper County, the City of Beaufort, the Town of Bluffton, the Town of Hardeeville, the Town of Port Royal, the Town of Hilton Head Island and the Town of Ridgeland.

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