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Beaufort named top small town in the South

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Photo above: Taking a walk through Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park  has charm all its own. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

By Sally Mahan

As anyone who lives here can tell you, Beaufort is the epitome of a wonderful small town.

Now, the secret is out.

Southern Living magazine has named Beaufort as Best Small Town in the South in it latest edition.

According to the magazine, “No matter where you’re from, where you’ve been or where you’re going, Beaufort feels like home.

“Even the name is pretty: Beaufort. Contrary to the spelling, it’s pronounced “BEW-fert,” with the lips pursed as though blowing a kiss. Just hearing it, you can picture the quaint little town that’s been racking up accolades in recent years. It just sounds nice. Beww-fert, beckoning you to come hither, and see what all the fuss is about.”

The story goes on to say, “It could be said that Beaufort has it all. Beauty, check; scenery, check; heritage/history, check; charm, check and double-check. 

“All well and good, but the question is, what makes Beaufort so special? … One visit to Beaufort and zap — you’re in love. It’s such a great place that you want everyone to know about it. You want to spread the love.”

Blakely Williams, president and CEO of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, said they were thrilled to read the Southern Living story.

“Our Southern charm mixed with our history and values make Beaufort a place that we’re happy to call home,” said Williams. “We are honored to be a part of Southern Living’s list of best small towns in the South and we are excited to share everything we love about Beaufort with its readers.” 

As the Southern Living story says, “More than anything else, Beaufort is a way of life. Ask anyone who lives here about the Beaufort state of mind. It messes with your psyche; it spoils you for anyplace else.”

For the full story, visit www.southernliving.com/souths-best/beaufort-south-carolina.

Community foundation awards disaster recovery funds

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The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry continues to award disaster recovery and rebuilding grants to organizations, located in Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton and Colleton counties, which are working directly with individuals affected by Hurricane Matthew.

Grants totaling $46,280 were recently awarded to four organizations, bringing total Hurricane Matthew-related grants to $174,000 since Oct. 11, 2016.

The most recent grants were awarded to:

• Free Born Deliverance Temple in Beaufort to support services such as transportation, food and exterior home cleanup assistance to families who continue to experience hardship due to Hurricane Matthew.

• Coastal District Council of the St. Vincent De Paul Society to offer financial assistance and food to families experiencing hardships due to Hurricane Matthew. The Society continues to provide critical support to low-income residents of Hilton Head Island.

• Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) to purchase materials and supplies for rebuilding homes in the Native Islander community on Hilton Head Island, in partnership with Hilton Head Presbyterian Church.

• Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Achievement School to provide scholarships to cover tuition for children whose parents experienced financial hardship following Hurricane Matthew.

This is the fourth series of Hurricane Matthew-related grants the Community Foundation has awarded from its Disaster Recovery and Rebuilding Fund. 

Other organizations which have received grants include American Red Cross-Lowcountry, Bluffton Self Help, Deep Well Project, Lowcountry Legal Volunteers, Neighborhood Outreach Connection, Sandalwood Community Food Pantry, The Children’s Center, Volunteers in Medicine-Hilton Head Island, St. Stephen’s Outreach Food Bank, Lowcountry Food Bank and Hilton Head Island Recreation Association.

The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry is still accepting Disaster Recovery and Rebuilding Fund grant applications up to $20,000 for recovery and rebuilding efforts related to the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. 

Organizations located in Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton and Colleton counties are encouraged to apply. 

Grant specifics, along with the application, can be found on the Community Foundation’s website at www.cf-lowcountry.org.

Additionally, donations to the Disaster Recovery and Rebuilding Fund are still being accepted. Online donations can be made at the Community Foundation’s website.

Since 1994, the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry has been connecting people, resources and needs by helping build stronger communities and assisting donors in making a difference through charitable giving. 

With over 328 charitable funds, combined assets totaling $65 million and grantmaking and scholarships reaching $64 million, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry is the largest source of unrestricted philanthropic resources dedicated to Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties.

The Disaster Recovery and Rebuilding Fund was established to collect monetary contributions to support disaster response, recovery, and rebuilding grantmaking to eligible regional, community-based 501(c)3 nonprofits, faith-based organizations or equivalents responding to community needs in the aftermath of an officially-declared disaster.

For more information, call 843-681-9100 or visit www.cf-lowcountry.org.

News briefs for March 23rd-29th

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New TV show focuses on Beaufort County

Beaufort County has introduced a new television show “Beaufort County Compass.”

“We’re proud to introduce this new show to our residents,” said Monica Spells, an assistant county administrator for Beaufort County. “It provides them with access to parts of the county they don’t get to see every day. It also gives us a digital platform to showcase our unique community.”

The show includes three segments:

• “County Capsule,” which takes a look at legislative happenings from Beaufort County government, hosted by Stephanie French of the County Channel;

• “County Spotlight,” which takes viewers behind the scenes of a Beaufort County department in each episode, hosted by Carizma Brown, Beaufort County communications coordinator;

• “County Culture,” which features a unique aspect of life in Beaufort County, voiced by Rob Lewis of the County Channel.

“Beaufort County Compass” will air five times weekly: at 9 p.m. Tuesdays; 11:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8:30 p.m. Fridays;  and 11:30 a.m. Saturdays. 

The broadcast will air on local cable networks: Comcast’s Channel 2, Hargray’s channels 9 and 113, and Time-Warner Hilton Head’s Channel 63. The show also will air at those times on the County Channel’s website.

The first episode featured a summary of the recent Beaufort County Council Leadership and Strategic Planning Session; a guest appearance by Bill Love, executive director of Beaufort County’s Department of Disabilities and Special Needs; and a look at the live oak tree.

Civil Air Patrol takes part in certifications

Numerous Civil Air Patrol cadets and senior members participated in a weekend SAREX (Search and Rescue Exercise) at the Ridgeland Airport March 4-5. 

During this two-day event, cadets and adults received 31 total certifications in seven different search and rescue areas: Ground Team Member, Urban Direction Finding, Mission Staff Assistant, Mission Radio Operator, Mission Scanner, Mission Observer and Mission Pilot. Civil Air Patrol trains cadets through its cadet programs in many areas, but emergency services training is one of the three main missions of Civil Air Patrol. 

Thirty-five cadets and senior members from the Low Country Composite Squadron and the Beaufort Squadron were able to participate in the SAREX and receive training in multiple disciplines.  

For more information, contact squadron Commander Crystall J. Eudy at 843-368-4302. Civil Air Patrol, the longtime all-volunteer U.S. Air Force auxiliary, is the newest member of the Air Force’s Total Force, which consists of regular Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, along with Air Force retired military and civilian employees. 

Public Library Foundation launches campaign

The Public Library Foundation of Beaufort County has launched its major fundraising campaign to raise $250,000. The funds will expand the foundation’s impact on the future of the library and its goal of maintaining its position as a first-class library, meeting the needs of the citizens of Beaufort County. The campaign will focus on donors designating gifts to the foundation through their wills, charitable trusts and gifts of cash. 

The Public Library Foundation Board also announced the creation of the Pat Conroy Legacy Society. 

In addition, the Public Library Foundation of Beaufort County will hold a reception from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, March 30, to give community members the opportunity to meet Beaufort County Public Library Director Ray McBride and hear his vision for the future of the library system. 

RSVP to plfbc@outlook.com.

People interested in discussing a gift to the foundation in confidence can contact Roth by e-mail at atplfbc@outlook.com or through the foundation website at beaufortlibraryfoundation.org.

State conducts open burning on St. Helena

Residents may notice smoke in the air across some areas of Beaufort County over the next two or three weeks due to the state conducting open burning. Southern Disaster Recovery is operating a small burn site on St. Helena Island to burn storm-generated logs brought in from Hunting Island.

According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the contractor is in compliance with the Debris Management Sites permit requirements. SCDHEC will ensure that best management practices are used throughout the open burning project, a release states.

The contractor expects to complete the open burning project by Saturday, April 1.

Residents should refer any questions or comments directly to Shawn Iams, Environmental Health manager at SCDHEC, by calling 843-846-1030. 

Upcoming meetings the week of March 23rd-29th

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• Beaufort City Council, 7 p.m. 1911 Boundary St.

• Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority, 8 a.m. Thursday, March 23, Room 109B, BJWSA, 6 Snake Road, Okatie.

• Solid Waste and Recycling Board, 2 p.m. Thursday, March 23, Executive Conference Room, Administration Building, Beaufort County Government Robert Smalls Complex, 100 Ribaut Road, Beaufort.

• The March 23 meeting of the Beaufort County Zoning Board of Appeals has been cancelled.

• Lowcountry Council of Governments, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 23, LCOG Office Point South, 634 Campground Road, Yemassee.

• Northern Beaufort County Regional Plan Implementation Committee, 9:30 a.m. Friday, March 24, 100 Ribaut Road, Beaufort. 

The agenda includes the Sea Island Parkway Corridor Transportation Study, a summary of the Lady’s Island Community Planning Forum; status of the Lady’s Island Area Plan and other items. 

Police blotter for March 23rd-29th

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law day

Photo above: Members of the Beaufort County Senior Leadership Program greet one of the members of the K9 unit from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department during the program’s Law Enforcement Day. The Beaufort County Senior Leadership Program, established in 1993, is offered by Clemson University with the co-sponsorship of Beaufort County Regional Chamber of Commerce. This 13-week program focuses on building community through volunteerism and civic engagement. Photo by Steve Brown.

Firefighters respond to homes on fire  

This home on Paulkie Island was completely destroyed.
This home on Paulkie Island was completely destroyed.

 

This home on Morrall Drive caused the resident of the home to be displaced.
This home on Morrall Drive caused the resident of the home to be displaced.

A Burton resident was displaced after a fire in her Morrall Drive home caused by a fire in her breaker box. 

Burton firefighters were dispatched to a report of a house fire on Morrall Drive just before 11:30 a.m. March 15 after a resident reported that her breaker box was hot and smoking. 

The resident told Beaufort County dispatchers that she could see fire coming from the wall outside of the home opposite the breaker box location. 

Burton fire crews brought the fire, which was spreading through the walls of the home, under control in less than 15 minutes and fully extinguished in less than 30 minutes. Firefighters from MCAS Beaufort also responded and assisted Burton firefighters in extinguishing the fire. 

Burton fire officials said the home did not have a working smoke detector and had this fire occurred during sleeping hours, the result may have been much worse.

No injuries were reported. Damages are not available but the resident was displaced and Red Cross was notified to assist. 

In another incident less than 24 hours later, a fire destroyed a home on Harveys Bend on Paulkie Island.

Firefighters arrived to find a mobile home located on the waterfront fully engulfed in fire and endangering several nearby homes.

Burton fire crews were able to quickly contain the fire, however a nearby home under construction suffered fire damages. It took fire crews over an hour to fully extinguish the flames due to the mobile home’s elevated structure and wind coming off the water. 

Firefighters from MCAS Beaufort, Sheldon and the city of Beaufort also responded to the scene to assist with the fire. 

The residents were not home at the time of the fire and no injuries were reported. The home was totally destroyed in the fire. Costs are not available at this time. The fire is still under investigation

Burton firefighters have responded to 12 building fires so far in 2017, including a fatal fire on March 6 in a Shanklin Road mobile home park and a fire which heavily damaged a two-story home March 11 on Bostick Circle in Beaufort that resulted in the loss of a family dog . 

Walterboro man gets 51 years in murder  

Sidney Antoine Holmes
Sidney Antoine Holmes

A Walterboro man has been convicted of the 2015 shooting and killing of a Hampton apartment complex building manager.  

Sidney Antoine Holmes, 26, of Walterboro, was sentenced March 15 to 51 years in prison in the shooting death of 51-year-old Steven Douglas Cochran.  

Following a two-day trial at the Hampton County Courthouse, a jury found Holmes guilty of four crimes: murder, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, discharging a firearm into a dwelling and unlawful possession of a weapon. 

He received 40 years for murder; five years for possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime; five years for shooting into a dwelling and one year for unlawful possession of a weapon. The sentences are to run consecutively.  

“This was a brazen murder committed in front of a group of people,” said Randolph Murdaugh, III, special assistant solicitor assigned to the Career Criminal Prosecution Team. “Not only did people witness the defendant shoot Mr. Cochran multiple times, a Hampton police officer heard the incident while on the phone with the victim. The defendant in this case has a total and utter disregard for anything or anyone.” 

On Aug. 1, 2015, Cochran, who was the building manager for the Hampton Garden Apartments on Holly Street West, called Hampton police after telling a group of men who were loitering at the apartment complex to leave the property. During the call, Cochran began to scream for help. A bystander picked up the phone and told the officer that a man ran up to Cochran and shot him.   

County agencies team up for rescue

Three Beaufort County emergency agencies combined to rescue a family of five stuck on a mudflat in the cold on March 18. 

Beaufort County emergency agencies were notified of an occupied boat stuck on a mudflat off the Broad River boat landing. 

Burton firefighters arrived and located a small boat with a family of five; three adults and two children, stuck on a mudflat in dropping temperatures and approaching nightfall. 

Beaufort Marine Rescue and the Parris Island Fire Department also responded with water rescue equipment, helping to rescue the family and remove the boat from the flat. No injuries were reported. 

Rash of vandalism hits Lady’s Island

Several cars where vandalized by having golf balls thrown through their windows on March 18 in the Telfair/Pleasant Point area. 

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating and is asking that anyone who has information or may have seen something suspicious to call 843-524-2777.

Man wanted on variety of warrants

Desten Faltus
Desten Faltus

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is attempting to locate Desten Faltus for questioning in several cases. Faltus has active warrants with the Beaufort and Bluffton police departments.

Anyone with information is asked to call Investigator Disbrow at 843-255 3407 or Beaufort County Dispatch at 843-524-2777.

For a possible reward and to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers at 888-274-6372.

Hurricane cleanup reaches its final stages

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hurricane main

Photo above: Beaufort County is finishing up cleanup from Hurricane Matthew, but there are still abandoned boats throughout the county. A recent ruling by the state Attorney General’s offices said the law puts the burden on the county to clean up marsh areas. The county is hopeful FEMA will reimburse the $5 million cost. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

By Lisa Allen

Nearly five months later, there are still plenty of reminders to illustrate the mess that Hurricane Matthew made.

Green, blue or gray tarps are still strapped to houses awaiting repair on Hilton Head, Dataw and Fripp islands. Boats tossed ashore like toys still line Sea Island Parkway in Beaufort.

Mounds of mulch 20 feet high and 100 yards long were finally hauled from Dataw’s driving range and along Polowana Road.

“We lost 300 trees from the golf courses alone,” said Dataw General Manager Ted Bartlett. “We decided it would be easier and faster to mulch the trees where they fell. That’s where all of the mulch came from. We mostly lost water and laurel oaks and pine trees. The pines blew over and since the oaks rot from the inside out, they snapped at their weakest points.”

At Dataw Island Marina, only the pilings that anchored the docks remain, an eerie reminder of the size of the marina field that is no more. At one point hundreds of plastic garbage bags were stacked in the marina parking lot filled with chunks of foam that once supported the floating docks.

Along the ocean, Hunting Island State Park hopes to reopen its campground and the north beach between Memorial Day and mid-June, according to park manager Daniel Gambrell.

Countywide, crews have collected nearly 1.5 million cubic yards of debris stacked along roadsides, according to a recent report from Beaufort County officials. They’ve hauled 30,184 truck loads and they aren’t quite done.

Fires have been burning for five months straight at three of the four debris fields from Daufuskie Island, Henry Sod Farm on St. Helena, Ihly Farm north of the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and Pinckney Point near Okatie.

“They piled the debris in wind rows and dug a trench alongside it,” said Colton Rucker, assistant manager of Henry Farms. “They pushed the debris into the trenches and burned it. They’ve been burning it since a couple weeks after the storm and I think they’ve got a month or more to go. It was 600,000 cubic yards of debris.”

Some of the debris was chewed up into mulch, part of which will be used for a firing range in Yemassee. Meanwhile, logs from Hilton Head Island’s 100,000 downed trees were sold to a paper mill, a firewood supply company, a lumber yard, a sawmill and exported to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, according to a presentation Feb. 20 to the Beaufort County Council, subtitled Day 136. In all, Hilton Head removed 2.5 million cubic yards of debris.

The third and final pass to remove debris and mulch is winding down, from 122 trucks running non-stop in the weeks after the storm to 17 now.

In the next 40 days, county officials plan to close out the last damage reports, clear out the debris sites and release contractors.

The next task will be to haul out boats and other debris that are not in navigable waters. An SC Attorney General ruling stated that  the law puts the burden on the county to clean up marsh areas. The county is hopeful FEMA will reimburse the $5 million cost.

Photo by Lee Scott.
Photo by Lee Scott.

Walmart hiring about 200 new workers

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Staff reports

The new Walmart on Lady’s Island will be hiring about 200 people to fill positions at its new store.

While new jobs are welcome, many community members have raised concerns about traffic in the area and the need for more and better infrastructure to handle the large store.

A recent traffic study was presented to the community to address those concerns (see page B4  for more information on the traffic study).

Meanwhile, a temporary hiring center has opened at 3 Celadon Drive in Lady’s Island.

Applications are being accepted from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Interested applicants can also apply online at careers.walmart.com.  

The majority of new associates will begin work in April to help prepare the store for its grand opening.

According to store manager Gene Wallace, the store will be hiring both full- and part-time associates. 

“We are excited to begin building a team to serve the Beaufort and Lady’s Island community,” said Wallace in a release.

Walmart provides a benefits program to eligible full- and part-time associates. For example, it provides a variety of health and well-being benefits including healthcare coverage with no lifetime maximum.  Walmart also offers eligible associates matching 401(k) contributions of up to 6 percent of pay, discounts on general merchandise, an Associate Stock Purchase Program and company-paid life insurance. Additionally, eligible associates receive a quarterly cash bonus based on store performance.

In addition, Walmart will offer a job to any eligible U.S. veteran honorably discharged from active duty since the Veterans Welcome Home Commitment began on Memorial Day 2013. Interested veterans can visit walmartcareerswithamission.com.

News briefs for March 16th-22nd

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Democrat club to meet at Grand Army Hall

The Northern Beaufort County Democratic Club will meet from 6:30-7 p.m. Thursday, March 16, at Grand Army Hall at 706 Newcastle St. in Beaufort.

The program is entitled “Challenges” and will feature Chuck Newton, spokesperson for the Sea Island Corridor Coalition. He will speak on traffic, commerce, safety and other challenges in Northern Beaufort County.

Participants will also write to legislators about challenges in South Carolina, including education, gun safety, redistricting and more. Names, bill numbers, argument points, stamps, envelopes and pens will be furnished. The public is invited.

‘Friend of Coast’ awarded to Sanford

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-SC, was named 2017’s House representative Friend of the Coast by the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, an organization dedicated to preserving, protecting and enhancing coastal resources.

“I’m honored to receive this award from the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association,” said Sanford. “I think it’s important that we recognize how important our environment is and to treat it like it’s an investment in our future – because that’s how I see it. Accordingly, I look forward to working to continue efforts to conserve our natural as well as our financial resources.”

The Friend of the Coast award is given annually to two members of Congress, one in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate. Sanford was nominated for this award by Mayor Tim Goodwin of Folly Beach, and was supported by South Carolina Beach Advocates for his work in support of South Carolina’s beaches and his help in advancing the WIIN Act in 2016. 

Photo contest being held in county

Beaufort County is accepting submissions for a social media photo contest.

Photos can be posted with the hashtag #lovebeaufortcounty to the county’s accounts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

A panel of county staff will judge the photos. The best ones will be featured on the county’s Instagram page and website, according to a county release.

The first theme of the ongoing contest will be Gardens, Gates and Blooms, and will be from Monday, March 20, to Monday, April 10.

Beaufort County plants trees to beautifies road

Beaufort County residents visiting the Depot area in Beaufort will soon enjoy the blooms of 26 Sioux Crape Myrtle trees that now line Depot Road near Bay Street.

Keep Beaufort County Beautiful, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, received a grant to complete a beautification project, allowing them to remove 20 overgrown trees and plant 26 new Sioux Crape Myrtle trees on Depot Road. The volunteer-based group is steered by the Solid Waste section of the Beaufort County Public Works Department.

The trees that lined the streets prior to this project grew into the power lines, causing a safety hazard. The new trees were planted to meet SCE&G compliance and will only grow to a certain height, keeping the trees below the power lines.

Area residents were educated on Sioux Crape Myrtle trees and the importance of purchasing and planting trees appropriate for the specific planting site.

It all began with one call to Beaufort County made by 89-year-old Beaufort County resident Betty Waskiewicz to inform officials that the trees that lined the street at the time were over-grown and unhealthy.

“I sat up there on the corner at the street light and saw a tree that looked like a hay stack,” said Waskiewicz. “I knew something had to be done and made the call.”

That small phone call led to a huge collaborative project.

The grant was funded through Palmetto Pride, of which Keep Beaufort County Beautiful is affiliated. Several groups collaborated to complete the project including Beaufort County, the city of Beaufort, SCE&G, South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), Bartlett Tree Experts, Horticultural Management Services, Preservation Tree, Southern Palmetto Landscaping and Southern Tree Services.

Public invited to comment on plant management plan

The public is invited to review and provide comments on the draft version of the 2017 South Carolina Aquatic Plant Management Plan through the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). 

The plan is available at bit.ly/2nsvEXg. 

Comments and suggestions must be submitted to the SCDNR in writing or e-mail and must be received by Thursday, March 30.

The SCDNR, in conjunction with the S.C. Aquatic Plant Management Council, is responsible for the management of nuisance aquatic plants in the state’s public waters. 

Each year the SCDNR and the council prepare a plan that identifies aquatic weed problem areas, prescribes management strategies and determines funding requirements. 

Since the inception of the program in 1981, more than 160,000 acres of invasive aquatic vegetation in public waters have been controlled to improve public access and use.

Public input is an important part of the planning process, and comments on the draft plan are welcome. All comments must be received in writing by regular mail or e-mail by the closing date to ensure that they are given proper consideration in the final plan. 

Send comments to: Chris Page, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, 2730 Fish Hatchery Road West Columbia, SC 29172; or by e-mail to: invasiveweeds@dnr.sc.gov.

Port Royal seat up for special election 

Beaufort City Council’s Port Royal councilman, Vernon DeLoach, died recently.

South Carolina state law requires the town of Port Royal to hold a special election to fill the vacancy. 

The filing period opened March 10 and closes Monday, March 20.

Election Day will be Tuesday, May 16.

Church gets grant from community group 

Free Born Deliverance Temple in Beaufort has received a $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation the Lowcountry. These funds will support the Free Born Deliverance Temple Disaster Recovery & Rebuilding Project. 

Additionally, families visiting the church food bank will have access to meat products purchased by funds from the grant; and leaves, debris, and or mold/mildew caused by Hurricane Matthew and located on the outside of homes will be removed with grant funds. 

The goal of the church is to assist families or persons who need help but did not receive assistance or were not aware of assistance provided by FEMA or the SBA. 

To support the efforts, call 843-476-7036 or email kbpastor590@gmail.com.

Free Born Deliverance Temple was established in 1981 and is now pastored by Apostle Kathy and Pastor Kenneth O. Brown. 

Correction for March 2 edition 

In a story in the March 2 edition of The Island News, the first name and title of Hemingway’s owner was not included. The owner is Andina Foster.

Police briefs for March 2nd-8th

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Sheriff’s office, SLED investigating fatal fire 

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Arson Team members and the Burton Fire District are investigating a fatal fire that occurred March 6 at the Bay Mobile Home Park at 327 Shanklin Road in Burton. 

An adult woman was found inside the residence. She was taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. 

The cause of the death of Doreen Joy Varga, 53, has been determined to be suspicious.

Pathologists at the Medical University of South Carolina reported her cause and manner of death were not apparent at the preliminary autopsy and are still under investigation pending further medical and toxicology studies.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact Staff Sgt. Adam Zsamar at 843-255-3408 or CrimeStoppers 1-888-CrimeSC to remain anonymous and for possible reward. 

Arrest nets illegal drugs and firearms

Jovani Cuenca
Jovani Cuenca

Following an investigation into illegal drugs on Hilton Head Island, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office investigators recently obtained a warrant to search a residence located at 19 Deep Fording Road. 

SWAT members and investigators served the warrant on the residence, and during the search, investigators say they discovered a distribution amount of cocaine and marijuana, along with pills believed to be controlled substances. 

In addition, three handguns and two long guns were located and seized from the residence. 

Jovani Cuenca, 30, was taken into custody without incident and charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He is being held at the Beaufort County Detention Center.

Beware of scammers impersonating cops

Numerous Beaufort County residents have reported that they have received telephone calls from a suspicious person impersonating a law enforcement officer.

The callers identify themselves as Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies and request money from the resident in order for them to avoid arrest and further legal action. 

“No member of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office will ever ask a citizen for payment of a fine over the telephone in lieu of being arrested,” according to a sheriff’s office report.

Shoplifters steal $500 in merchandise

shoplift

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is attempting to identify the people  who took $500 worth of merchandise from the Sun Glass Hut in Tanger I Outlet, 1270 Fording Island Road, Bluffton. 

The incident occurred on Feb 23. The younger female distracted an employee while the older female stole two pairs of sunglasses.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call Cpl. C. Gibson at 843-255-3310 or Beaufort County Dispatch at 843-524-2777.

Sprinkler system, exit plans save lives 

fire

People throughout the nation changed their clocks recently for daylight savings times and changed the batteries in their smoke detectors, but Burton firefighters stress that smoke detectors are only the first step.

Next to residential sprinkler systems, Burton fire officials state smoke detectors are one of the most important things families can do for home safety; however, smoke detectors are only the first step and Burton officials urge citizens to then ask, “Now what?”

When a smoke detector activates it provides early warning for a fire to allow a family to escape, and while many families took that first step in changing the batteries in their detector, they also need to consider and discuss what will happen next. 

Families should ensure two ways out of every room and Burton firefighters stress windows are exits too. Burton firefighters advise citizens to make sure doors and windows are accessible and can open, and to remove obstacles such as dressers, beds and other furniture that would prevent a person from escaping or a rescuing firefighter from entering.  

Families should also discuss how young children will be removed and by whom, and identify a family meeting place outside the home for the family to meet. Practicing this drill is also important. 

Burton firefighter Daniel Byrne states that families rightfully demand that our schools have such a plan in place; however children are most at risk at home between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., yet families don’t hold themselves to similar accountability. 

“Waking up to a smoke detector at 2 a.m. is not the time to put a plan together because that is when panic sets in,” Byrne said. “This week, put a plan together with your family, discuss it and practice it.”

Murder investigation has become cold case

On March 8, 2003, 25-year-old Nathaniel Davis was shot multiple times by unknown suspects while in his vehicle engaged in the trafficking of crack cocaine on MacPhersonville Road in Yemassee.

The crime scene investigation led to the recovery of a large amount of crack cocaine in Davis’ vehicle.  

An eyewitness, Patricia Cooper, who accompanied Davis in his vehicle, was unable to provide the identities of the suspects. She described the suspects as three black males driving in a green Buick, but it is believed she was withholding information about their identities.  

Cooper was ultimately charged with the trafficking offense, as she was complicit in the proposed drug deal.

It was determined through the investigation that Davis was a high-level and well-known drug dealer and was believed targeted for this reason.

A reward of up to $2,500 is being offered for information leading to an arrest in any Beaufort County cold case.

During some criminal investigations, investigators might exhaust all credible leads in a case. When this happens, the case can become stagnant or what is typically known as “cold.”

Anyone with any information can contact Capt. Bob Bromage at 843-255-3402, 843-816-8013 or robertb@bcgov.net; or CrimeStoppers at 1-888-CrimeSC to remain anonymous and for a possible reward. 

Law enforcement still needs clues on Calverts

On March 4, 2008, David White, brother of Elizabeth Calvert, reported that she and John Calvert had not been heard from since March 3.  

The Calverts were scheduled to have a meeting with their accountant. Dennis Gerwing, the previous day in Sea Pines Center on Hilton Head Island.  

Witnesses revealed Elizabeth Calvert suspected Gerwing had been embezzling money from the couple’s business interests and she and John Calvert were going to confront him. 

Gerwing was interviewed and confirmed the Calverts had met with him on March 3. He also said when the meeting was over the Calverts left to go to dinner.  

Gerwing said there was no hostility during the meeting. A closer look at his story revealed major inconsistencies and substantiated suspicion of his involvement in the disappearance of the Calverts. 

On the night the Calverts disappeared, Gerwing suffered a laceration to his right hand, bought bandages and latex gloves at CVS and purchased three commercial grade drop cloths.

Gerwing committed suicide on March 11 and admitted to the embezzlement in a note he left.  There was no admission or denial of his involvement in the disappearance of the Calverts in his note.

The Calverts have never been located. 

A reward of up to $2,500 is being offered for information leading to an arrest in any Beaufort County cold case.

During some criminal investigations, investigators might exhaust all credible leads in a case. When this happens, the case can become stagnant or what is typically known as “cold.”

Anyone with any information can contact Capt. Bob Bromage at 843-255-3402, 843-816-8013 or robertb@bcgov.net; or CrimeStoppers 1-888-CrimeSC to remain anonymous and for a possible reward.

Upcoming meetings the week of March 16th-22nd

in Local News by

• Airports Board: 1:30 p.m., Thursday, March 16, Council Chambers, Administration Building, Beaufort County Government Robert Smalls Complex, 100 Ribaut Road, Beaufort.

• Beaufort County Natural Resources Committee: 2 p.m. Monday, March 20, Executive Conference Room, Administration Building, Beaufort County Government Robert Smalls Complex, 100 Ribaut Road, Beaufort.

• Public Facilities Committee, 4 p.m. Monday, March 20, Executive Conference Room, Administration Building, Beaufort County Government Robert Smalls Complex, 100 Ribaut Road, Beaufort.

• Beaufort County Board of Education: 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, Bluffton Branch Library, 120 Palmetto Way, Bluffton.

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