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Hunting Island drains swamp

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Photo above: In preparation for the park’s reopening, four contracting companies are working there. One is clearing the 1,500 trees that fell in public areas, another is building new bathhouses, and two other companies are working to clear away buildings submerged or squashed by trees. Here, park rangers at Hunting Island State Park not only have to negotiate around fallen pine trees, but also deep standing water. Photos by Bob Sofaly.

By Lisa Allen

When visitors flock to Hunting Island State Park when it reopens Memorial Day weekend, they’ll find a much different park, said Park Manager Daniel Gambrell. 

Parking, always a challenge, will be worse now. The 200 spaces at south beach are gone. Rather than turning left to the bathhouse and parking lot, visitors will continue on the main road to the J parking lot.

Because of the limited parking spots, Gambrell said they’ll close the park for the day when it reaches capacity. “We’ve tried the one-out, one-in system before, but it doesn’t work.” 

A sign at Chowan Creek bridge will indicate whether the park is closed so people don’t drive all of the way out to Hunting Island. In the meantime, the park is still considering a shuttle service, but there is no timeline for that option, Gambrell said.

Gambrell told a record gathering of Green Drinks Beaufort at Johnson Creek Tavern about what park employees found at the park after Hurricane Matthew.

“We walked from the main entrance to the lighthouse,” Gambrell said. “Usually that walk would take 20 to 30 minutes. It took us four-and-a-half hours.”

Gambrell said even in waders to his hips, the water sometimes came close to topping them. At one point, he had to wait for an alligator to cross a submerged road in front of them. “We just looked at each other.”

Later, on a small piece of high ground, he saw the biggest buck he’d ever seen. “He looked at me like ‘You wouldn’t believe what I’ve been through!’” Gambrell told the group. Overall, he said it appears that most of the wildlife seemed to have made it through pretty well. 

In preparation for the park’s reopening, four contracting companies are working on the park. One is clearing the 1,500 trees that fell in public areas, another is building new bathhouses, and two other companies are working to clear away buildings submerged or squashed by trees.

“It’s unbelievable all that’s going on at the park right now,” Gambrell said.

He said the campground won’t open until sometime in June, adding that the park will likely continue to lose trees as the saltwater intrusion takes its toll.

With many of the dunes gone, the park has a new look. “It’s going to look different,” Gambrell said.

For more Hunting Island photos, visit www.facebook.com/theislandnews.

Not that there is anywhere to drive, but the speed limit and stop signs leading to where the oceanfront campgrounds were are still standing. The campgrounds, however, are not.
Not that there is anywhere to drive, but the speed limit and stop signs leading to where the oceanfront campgrounds were are still standing. The campgrounds, however, are not.
Storm debris, dead trees and standing water still plague efforts to rebuild Hunting Island State Park. A few pine trees still standing in the background have already been marked to be cut down as soon as work crews can make their way back in.
Storm debris, dead trees and standing water still plague efforts to rebuild Hunting Island State Park. A few pine trees still standing in the background have already been marked to be cut down as soon as work crews can make their way back in.
Saltwater intrusion is killing the pine trees at northern most end of Hunting Island. Once the saltwater intrudes into the tree’s root system, it’s just a matter of time before it falls over. Official at Hunting Island said an original 400 pine trees were either blown over by Hurricane Matthew or killed by saltwater intrusion. An additional 300 trees, including this one with a ring of death painted around the trunk, have been cut down. A park ranger said he suspects that all the pine trees that are still standing from the camp store to the beach will ultimately be cut down.
Saltwater intrusion is killing the pine trees at northern most end of Hunting Island. Once the saltwater intrudes into the tree’s root system, it’s just a matter of time before it falls over. Official at Hunting Island said an original 400 pine trees were either blown over by Hurricane Matthew or killed by saltwater intrusion. An additional 300 trees, including this one with a ring of death painted around the trunk, have been cut down. A park ranger said he suspects that all the pine trees that are still standing from the camp store to the beach will ultimately be cut down.

Noise, parking focus of panel

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By Lisa Allen

A panel assembled by Main Street Beaufort, an organization representing downtown businesses, recently said property owners better keep their tenants in line regarding nighttime noise before the police do it for them.

“It’s gotten down to simply being reasonable,” said Graham Trask, who owns several downtown properties. “It comes down to taking responsibility for your tenants. I have turned away tenants because of the potential noise.”

Frank Lesesne, owner of Anchorage 1770, said Beaufort, isn’t — and shouldn’t be — known as a “bar town.” He said the appeal of Beaufort is its history and natural beauty, not its nightlife.  

Instead, he would like to see stores along Bay Street stay open later. “Our guests are looking for something to do.”

“We need to reach consensus on what we want downtown Beaufort to be,” he said. 

Lesesne said he would also like to see the pavilion in the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park used more often, but not necessarily until midnight or 1 a.m.

Dick Stewart, owner of 303 Associates, said he converted a condo above the Common Ground coffee house to commercial property because of the possible noise downtown. 

He said the noise issue could create more conflict if the Whitehall property across the Beaufort River from downtown is developed into a residential area. A lingering lawsuit between the bank that owns the property and Stewart and Scott Tully has been resolved, clearing the way for a group bidding on the property to complete its purchase. 

“If you don’t fix the noise problem before (Whitehall residents) get here, there will be a heavy-handed approach,” Stewart said.

Linda Roper, director of downtown operations and community services for the city of Beaufort, said that no plans for the Whitehall property have been presented to the city. 

Existing city ordinances require noise levels to fall below a certain decibel at a certain distance by 10 p.m. weeknights and 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights in the Nighttime Music District, which is the water side of Bay Street between Newcastle and Carteret streets.

Parking

The panel also discussed the familiar topic of downtown parking. 

Roper said the new payment hours of 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. has helped the desired “churn” among parking, which enables people to find a spot more easily in the evening. 

When payment ended at 5 p.m., many people left their cars in one spot from mid-afternoon through the evening, making it harder for diners to find parking.

Stewart also talked about preliminary plans for a parking garage to serve the 78-room addition to The Beaufort Inn now underway.

City manager Bill Prokop said the city and 303 Associates are in discussions to decide if the parking garage could be a public-private endeavor. 

An agreement on a garage has not yet been reached.

Walmart officially opens its doors

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Photo above: Traffic was smooth and drivers well-behaved after the official grand opening of Walmart on May 17 on Lady’s Island. However, traffic picked up in the area as the week wore on. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

Staff reports 

Walmart on Lady’s Island has officially opened its doors and the megastore has been continually busy since.

Although traffic was smooth on the first day, it has since picked up quite a bit, according to various people who reported on the traffic on Facebook.

However, Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling pointed out in his weekly newsletter that jobs may help reduce traffic.

“The Walmart is a Walmart, but one of the most unusual sites was to see about 300 new hires among residents of Lady’s and St. Helena islands who will no longer have to leave the island for a daily commute to Hardeeville, Bluffton or Hilton Head Island for the same wages they can make closer to home,” he said. “Though modest in the scheme of things, that will mitigate some of the rush hour congestion on Lady’s Island.”

Meanwhile, Walmart announced its full-year investment plan for South Carolina, including multi-million dollar capital investments in improving existing stores/clubs by remodeling more than 10 locations across the state. 

The Walmart location on Robert Smalls Parkway in Beaufort will undergo remodeling this year.

“2017 is going to be an exciting year for Walmart in South Carolina as we continue to focus on how to better serve our customers through innovation and investments so they can save both time and money,” said Sean Real, Walmart regional general manager in South Carolina, in a press release. “We’ve had a sharp focus on making our store experience second to none and our customers are telling us that our plan is working. Our team is energized and we’re looking forward to exceeding our customer’s expectations for what a great Walmart shopping experience can be like.”

Walmart also says it is continuing its commitment to hire military veterans for a total of more than 4,200 veterans hired in South Carolina since launching the Walmart Veterans Welcome Home Commitment in May 2013.

Additionally, 22 local nonprofits across the state were awarded a total of $755,000 in grants from the Walmart State Giving Program.

The Low Country Food Bank, which serves Beaufort County and nine other coastal counties, received a $50,000 state-giving grant in FY2017.

According to Walmart, it has donated more than 16 million pounds of food to local South Carolina food banks – equivalent to 13.3 million meals . Walmart and the Walmart Foundation donated more than $50 million toward hunger relief in FY2017, including $162,250 for after-school and breakfast in the classroom programs in South Carolina, of which $65,500 went to schools and youth development organizations located in Beaufort County.

News briefs for May 25th-31st

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Various offices closed for Memorial Day

The following will be closed for Memorial Day on Monday, May 29, reopening on Tuesday, May 30:

• All branches of the Beaufort County Library system;

• Post offices and other local, state and federal buildings;

• All PALS facilities;

• All county convenience centers.

Councilman to hold public meeting

Beaufort County Councilman York Glover, District 3, will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 1, at the Grand Army of the Republic Hall, 706 Newcastle St. in Beaufort. 

Gary Kubic and Josh Gruber, of the Beaufort County administration, will be the guest speakers. Kubic’s presentation will focus on opportunities for economic development of light industries in Beaufort County.

“My purpose for holding these meetings is to share information about county-related issues and to listen to residents’ concerns,” Glover said.

Residents do not need to register in advance for the meeting. 

Sheldon center opens for limited operations

The Sheldon Convenience Center has reopened on a limited basis from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Located at 208 Johnson Road in Sheldon, the center closed late last month due to fire damage at the site attendant’s office. 

Staff in the county’s Public Works Department and the Facility Management Department has been actively working to return the center to full operation. 

A new building has been ordered and the utility company is working to restore power to the site. 

Once the restoration project is finished and the site is ready to return to its normal operating schedule, a notice to the public will be issued.

Residents may also use the following nearby centers:

• Big Estate at 63 Big Estate Road: 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

• Lobeco at 6 Keans Neck Road, and Shanklin at 80 Shanklin Road: 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except Wednesday.

For more information, contact the Solid Waste and Recycling Division, call 843-255-2736 or visitwww.bcgov.net/recycle.

Mosquito spraying continues through May 26

Beaufort County Mosquito Control may conduct aerial training, surveillance, and/or spray missions that may include the application of EPA-registered public health insecticides during daylight hours through Friday, May 26.

Mosquito control uses low-flying aircraft and aerial spraying and is dependent upon ideal weather. It does not treat the salt marsh habitats for adult mosquitoes during these aerial operations.

Audubon club elects officers, board

Fripp Audubon had its annual business meeting and elections on May 18 and elected its officers and board members. 

Officers are: co-presidents, Sally Jessee/Sandra Rice; vice president, Linda Sigafoos; treasurer, Linda Freeman; and secretary, Pam Floyd.

Board members are Kathy Agee, John Albert, Jessica Miller, Kevin Rice, Tony Natoli and Cyndi White.

Public safety briefs for May 25th-31st

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officers

Photo above: Annually, each of the local law enforcement jurisdictions submit nominations to the Rotary Club of Beaufort for an individual from their department to be recognized as the Rotary Club of Beaufort as their Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. This year’s winner is Patrolman III Michael Phelan. From left are Deputy Law Enforcement Officer Phil Amsterdam, Department of Natural Resources; Patrolman III Michael Phelan, Beaufort Police Department; Investigator Fred Pascoe, Port Royal Police Department; and L/Cpl. David Stephens, South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Murder-for-hire gunman gets life  

Rohaime “Killa” Hopkins
Rohaime “Killa” Hopkins

A former convict and triggerman in a Jasper County murder-for-hire scheme was convicted recently of shooting and killing Terrance Johnson in 2014.  

A jury took less than 45 minutes to find 37-year-old Rohaime “Killa” Hopkins guilty of murder following a three-day trial at the Jasper County Courthouse in Ridgeland. 

Hopkins was sentenced to life in prison.  

At about 9 p.m. on Nov. 13, 2014, Johnson was shot five times while in a vehicle on Knowles Island Road, according to Career Criminal Team prosecutor and Assistant Solicitor Mary Jones.  

Jones told the jury that Hopkins was hired by a well-known area drug dealer to shoot and kill Johnson because Johnson had “snitched” and owed the man money.  

“The defendant coerced the victim to a rural area of the county, and when he got the victim alone, the defendant shot him five times while sitting in a car,” Jones said. 

Hopkins has been in and out of prison since 1996 on charges that include assault and battery with intent to kill and federal weapons violations.  

“Rohaime Hopkins is an extremely dangerous man who deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars,” Jones said. “There is no doubt that Jasper County is a safer place with this man off the streets.” 

Circuit Court Judge Perry Buckner handed down the sentence.  

Yard debris fire ignites neighbor’s shed

Burton firefighters extinguished a brush fire on May 19 caused by smoldering ashes from yard debris fire which spread to a neighbor’s yard and ignited a shed. 

Firefighters reported smoke in the sky as they approached a shed fire on Belleview Circle East and arrived to find a brush fire that had spread through a fence along a property line and was igniting a neighbor’s shed. 

Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire in approximately 30 minutes with minor damage to the shed. 

The spreading brush fire left scorch marks 50 feet up a nearby pine tree.

The resident on Belleview Circle East was burning yard debris left over from Hurricane Matthew. 

The resident stated he believed he had extinguished the fire, however embers continued to smolder, starting a brush fire that quickly spread.

Burton fire officials warn residents to ensure that their yard debris fires are completely extinguished by stirring the pile while applying water to ensure the embers beneath are thoroughly soaked. Officials also encourage burning yard debris in containers or constructing borders or digging trenches around the burn pile to prevent the fire from spreading.

Beaufort/Port Royal fire recruiting new members 

The spring 2017 reserve membership recruiting period has begun, said Fire Chief Reece Bertholf.  

The City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire Department normally holds a reserve recruitment drive twice a year, once in the spring, and once in the late summer.  

The department then puts the reserve candidates through the same processes it uses to hire career firefighters. 

Candidates are interviewed by a panel of reserve and career personnel, required to pass a physical ability test and meet with the chief.  

“It is a comprehensive process of evaluation that once complete gives the remaining candidates a solid foundation to build upon in order to earn the title firefighter,” according to program coordinator Lt. Matt Bowsher.  

“We bring in people from all walks of life, all areas of our community, all backgrounds and with varying levels of firefighting skills and abilities ranging from none,to highly experienced. We then show them what to do and allow them to practice in order to take our ability test which gives them the opportunity to be a part of a top-notch organization.” 

Call  the Reserve Recruitment line at 843-470-3515 which will provide them all the information on how to get involved, or visit any of the department’s three locations at 135 Ribaut Road; 1120 Ribaut Road; and 1750 Paris Ave.

Firefighters kill blaze at diner

On May 16, fire crews from the City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire Department were dispatched to a reported fire at Beaufort’s iconic Sergeant White’s Diner at 1908 Boundary St.

Arriving fire crews found the proprietor fighting back the flames over his cooking area with a fire extinguisher and small flames were coming from the rooftop vent of the business. 

Patrons of the restaurant were evacuated from the restaurant while fire crews extinguished the remaining flames inside the cooking ventilation system and on the roof from the vent. 

The Fire Marshal’s division is investigating the cause of the fire.   

Gas leak caused by digging hole

Burton firefighters responded to a gas leak outside a private residence on Shell Point Road on May 18, which resulted in a home being evacuated and the road being closed.

Firefighters were called to the 3000 block of Shell Point Road for a natural gas leak resulting from the resident accidentally cutting into the gas line leading into the home while digging a hole for a fence post. 

Firefighters arrived on the scene and could see gas flowing from the ground only 3 feet from the residence and within feet of the on-demand gas heater on the side of the home and the electrical shutoff to the home.

The residence was evacuated and Burton firefighters in full gear who had to breath through their self-contained breathing apparatus entered the home to shut off the power to eliminate any ignition sources that could have lead to an explosion or flash fire. 

Shell Point Road was closed from Hickory Street to Broad River Drive. 

SCE&G arrived on the scene approximately an hour later and was able to shut the gas line off. 

The residents were allowed to return to their home and Shell Point Road was reopened. Burton fire officials caution residents to ensure the location of gas lines before digging in their yard.

Beaufort looks at rules for vacation rentals

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By Lisa Allen

There haven’t been any problems with short-term rentals in downtown Beaufort, and the city wants to keep it that way.

The city appointed a task force last year to study short-term rentals. Its tasks were to recommend an approval process, anticipate any problems that could occur and suggest rules that would head them off.

“The two primary concerns are public safety and preserving neighborhood integrity and character,” said Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling. “There are no documented problems, but people assume there will be problems.”

Up until about three years ago, short-term rentals were permitted only in properties that were zoned commercial. Then Airbnb and VRBOs (vacation rentals by owner) came along. 

“The city woke up a couple of years ago and realized that people were operating short-term rentals in areas not zoned for that,” Keyserling said. 

The city quickly required people to request zoning exceptions before the Zoning Board of Appeals. 

“We didn’t give them enough guidelines. It was arbitrary. If a neighbor objected, it was rejected. If no one complained, they were granted,” Keyserling said.

Thus the 11-member task force was created. 

Primarily using online portals, the task force found just over 50 short-term rentals scattered throughout the city, with noticeable numbers in Pigeon Point, Old Commons and the Northwest Quadrant. (Old Point prohibits short-term rentals.)  

When the city found some lacking business licenses, they contacted the owners and they quickly complied. Short-term rental properties are required to get business licenses and collect and remit occupancy and sales taxes.

After 10 public meetings, the task force submitted 12 recommendations for proposed ordinances. City staffers will draft the ordinances and submit them to the Beaufort-Port Royal Metropolitan Planning Commission for consideration. 

The task force’s March report noted, “We hope that (Beaufort City) Council and the public will recognize that short term rental in residential neighborhoods is a new and rapidly evolving phenomenon, and that predictions on what the impact will be are difficult to make.”

The task force also advised that “the current system should not be structured so that every proposal for a short term rental turns into a contest about whether short term rentals are a good or bad idea. … We strongly urge that council set a policy that is administered and enforced by staff. The present “approval by exception” method of zoning board review can lead to rearguing the desirability of short term rentals over and over for each application. We believe this is inefficient and unhealthy for the community.”

The task force’s recommendations included:

• Each rental must have a contact person that can respond to the city or the guests within three hours.

• Occupancy is limited to two people per bedroom.

• No more than one car per bedroom. Vehicles must be parked on a driveway, not in yards, on grass or in the street.

The task force also recommended that short-term rentals be limited to no more than 8 percent of the total lots in a neighborhood. Given there is little data on short-term rentals, the percentage was a guesstimate, Keyserling said.

“I assume it was because it was more than 5 percent and less than 10,” Keyserling said. “The biggest threat was changing the character of a neighborhood,” Keyserling said. 

The task force also recommends that the city submit an annual report on short-term rentals to ensure no unforeseen problems have arisen and to review whether the ordinances are working as intended.

The task force emphasized that short-term rentals are good for the community because they draw a new type of tourist who prefers that type of lodging. Many are potential future residents that want to try out a residential setting. They noted that they heard no concerns from hoteliers. 

“These are small businesses. As people restore old homes and use rentals to pay for it, it helps the entire neighborhood,” Keyserling said. 

News briefs for May 18th-24th

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Port Royal, Beaufort OK new fire station 

A new fire station on Robert Smalls Parkway has been approved by the the Beaufort City Council and Port Royal Town Council and the facility is expected to become operational in early 2018.  

The station is being built near Robert Smalls Parkway and Castle Rock Road. The municipalities will lease the property and the new fire station, which will be delivered as a turn-key project ready for fire trucks, equipment and firefighters, said Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Chief Reece Bertholf. 

“With our new ISO 1 fire rating, and with input from International City/County Managers Association’s Center for Public Safety Management, we are well-prepared and well-positioned to provide emergency services across Beaufort and Port Royal, and to our growing service areas,” Bertholf said. 

The councils approved a 30-year lease for the property and fire station, including all equipment that’s not vehicles or personnel equipment, Port Royal Town Manager Van Willis said. 

Democratic club holds monthly meeting today

The Northern Beaufort County Democratic Club will hold its monthly meeting on Thursday, May 18, at Grand Army Hall, 706 Newcastle St., Beaufort. 

The social gathering is at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting starts promptly at 7 p.m. 

Ther main speaker will be newly elected SC Rep. Michael Rives, District 121. He will discuss “What’s Going On In the Statehouse.”

All are welcome; light refreshments will be served and ticket details on the group’s May 20 party/picnic will be announced.

CERT classes are scheduled for June

Beaufort County residents interested in learning more about self-sufficiency during a disaster are invited to participate in the Community Response Team Program. 

The CERT program provides training for individuals to increase self-sufficiency in a disaster. Participants will learn to provide emergency assistance to their families and neighbors.

CERT classes are free of charge. 

The next series will start Tuesday, June 6. Classes will be held at the Technical College of the Lowcountry campus in Bluffton at 100 Community College Drive in room 125.

The course is taught in four class sessions that will be held from 6-9 p.m.; and one Saturday exercise class from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The schedule is as follows:

• Tuesday, June 6: Personal Preparedness and Hazard Mitigation

• Thursday, June 8: Disaster Medical I

• Tuesday, June13: Disaster Psychology/Terrorism Response

• Thursday, June 15: Disaster Medical II/CERT Organization

• Saturday, June 17: Fire Suppression /Disaster Search Techniques & Exercise

For more information or to register, send an email to cert@bcgov.net or contact Major David Zeoli, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, at 843-812-8035 or Kris Legge at 843-263-2783.

Solid waste office gets grant funds

The Beaufort County Public Works Department Solid Waste and Recycling Office has received a grant totaling $83,420 from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Office of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling.

The grant funds will not only support the collection of tires and used oil at the County’s Convenience Centers, but also help the county to implement a countywide initiative to eliminate plastic bags from the recycling containers for plastics at its four major Convenience Centers in Bluffton, Hilton Head, Shanklin and St. Helena.

According to Ashley Jenkins, the county’s recycling coordinator, this grant will educate, engage, and equip county residents with the tools and knowledge of how to recycle correctly. 

The grant also gives staff the opportunity to partner with conservation organizations to create a short animated educational series that will teach children about litter prevention, reasons to recycle, and benefits of keeping waterways clean.

Mosquito spraying is ongoing in county

Beaufort County Mosquito Control may conduct aerial training, surveillance, and/or spray missions that may include the application of EPA-registered public health insecticides during daylight hours through Friday, May 19.

Mosquito control uses low-flying aircraft and aerial spraying and is dependent upon ideal weather. It does not treat the salt marsh habitats for adult mosquitoes during these aerial operations.

Penn Center named as success story

To mark the 30th anniversary of the America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list and how it has been a catalyst for the preservation of threatened historic sites around the country, the National Trust is issuing a retrospective list culled from the nearly 300 sites named to the program since its inception. 

The 2017 list highlights 11 once-endangered sites, including Penn Center (formerly Penn School), that are now thriving and contributing to their communities, while also focusing attention on the efforts undertaken to bring them back from the brink. Penn School appeared on the 11 Most Endangered list two years in a row in both 1990 and 1991.

“As the site of one of the first schools for freed slaves, Penn Center sheds light on the contributions and stories of African-American communities that have been overlooked within the traditional boundaries of historic preservation and education history,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

“Beyond its historic significance, Penn Center’s current role as a catalyst for economic sustainability — through its service as a local, national and international resource center for community self-sufficiency, civil and human rights, and positive change — highlights the potential of adaptive reuse solutions in the South.”

Penn Center, founded in 1862 as Penn School, a central component of the Port Royal Experiment, was one of the first schools in the South for formerly enslaved West Africans.

For over a half-century, the center has recognized that African Americans on St. Helena and along the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor — established by Congress in 2006 — have managed to keep their special identity, language, religious customs and African cultural heritage more than any other group of black Americans. 

Republicans to present Young Patriot Award

The Greater Bluffton Republican Club’s next meeting will be held Monday, June 5, at the Roasting Room at 1297 May River Road in Bluffton.

The group will present its 2nd Annual Young Patriot Award.

The social hour begins at 5:30 p.m. and the meeting starts promptly at 6 p.m. 

The public is welcome.

County is ranked tops for retirees 

Beaufort County has been ranked as one of the top spots to retire based on income.

SmartAsset, a group that studies wealth and risk management decisions, released its third annual study, analyzing Social Security income, cost-of-living data and taxes across all counties to determine where people are getting the most mileage out of Social Security.

McCormick County ranked No. 1 in the study, while Beaufort County ranked fifth of the counties in the state where retirees will get the most bang for their buck.

The full study results, methodology, and interactive map can be found here: https://smartasset.com/retirement/social-security-calculator#southcarolina.

Public safety briefs for May 18th-24th

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Burton shooting is under investigation

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a shooting in Burton that left one man wounded.

At approximately 9:40 p.m. May 8, a 911 call came in regarding a shooting incident on Vanita Drive in Burton. 

Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded and found a wounded man and secured the scene, while others responded a short distance away to Donaldson Camp Road to meet with the other subject involved in the shooting incident (one of the 911 callers). 

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) was summoned to Vanita Drive and treated the man for a gunshot wound to his neck. EMS transported him to the Beaufort Memorial Hospital (BMH), where a decision was made to fly him to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston for additional treatment.

On Vanita Drive deputies and investigators met with potential witnesses, processed the scene and secured evidence. 

On Donaldson Camp Road where deputies and investigators met with the other man involved, he said he left the scene and drove there in order to safely call 911. The handgun believed used in the shooting was recovered from his vehicle at that time. He too was treated by EMS and transported to BMH for head lacerations he sustained during the physical encounter with the man who ultimately was shot. 

Investigators are still looking into the circumstances surrounding the incident. No one has been charged as of yet. There is no update on the condition of the man flown to MUSC for the gunshot wound to his neck, but the man that sustained head lacerations was treated and released from BMH.

Additional information will be released when available. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Sgt. Adam Disbrow at 843-255-3407 or CrimeStoppers at 1-888-CrimeSC to remain anonymous and for a possible reward.

Burton home fire displaces family

The Burton Fire District and MCAS firefighters extinguished a house fire recently that displaced a family in the Independent Mobile Home Park in Burton.

Firefighters arrived on scene to a single-wide mobile home with fire already coming through the roof. 

Burton firefighters were able to enter the home and battle the flames while searching for victims, but luckily the family was not home at the time. Firefighters were able to confine the fire to the kitchen and living room; however, the home suffered significant smoke damage throughout. 

The fire is under investigation. One adult and three children were displaced. The Red Cross was called to assist the family.

Accidents cause problems on Robert Smalls Parkway

The Burton Fire District responded to two separate motor vehicle accidents on May 11 on Robert Smalls Parkway, causing traffic delays and one driver being transported to the hospital. 

The first wreck was reported in front of Stokes Toyota on Robert Smalls Parkway just before noon yesterday. The two-vehicle accident, involving a passenger vehicle and pickup truck, caused minor damage and traffic delays.

Burton firefighters assisted the drivers, however no injuries were reported.

The second accident was reported just before 11 p.m. in the 800 block of Robert Smalls Parkway also involving a passenger vehicle and a pickup truck. 

Both vehicles were damaged and one driver transported with what appeared to be non-life threatening injuries. 

One lane of Robert Smalls Parkway was blocked for approximately 30 minutes while firefighters assisted the injured driver and removed roadway hazards. 

The Burton Fire District has responded to 122 motor vehicle accidents in 2017; 31 of those accidents have occurred on Robert Smalls Parkway and 24 have occurred on Parris Island Gateway. 

Parris Island Gateway wreck sends 1 to hospital

The Burton Fire District responded to a vehicle accident on May 11 at the intersection of Parris Island Gateway and Cypress Street during high traffic times, causing traffic delays and injuring one. 

Just before 3:30 p.m., the Burton Fire District responded to a two-vehicle accident at the intersection of Parris Island Gateway and Cypress Street in the Shell Point area of Port Royal. 

One driver was transported to Beaufort Memorial Hospital with what appeared to be non-life threatening injuries. 

Both lanes of Parris Island Gateway by Cypress Road were blocked for approximately 30 minutes while emergency crews assisted the injured driver and removed roadway hazards.

The Burton Fire District provides emergency services to the Shell Point area of Port Royal, as well as the Mink Point area of Beaufort, through contracts with the city of Beaufort and Town of Port Royal. These emergency services are provided by the Burton Fire District fire station located at 602 Parris Island Gateway. 

Alcohol program targets minors

For the eighth year, an “enforcement and education blitz” coordinated by the 

S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS) has helped focus attention on the dangers of underage alcohol use.

Through the statewide campaign, South Carolina’s Alcohol Enforcement Teams (AETs) and prevention professionals collaborate on activities aimed at limiting access to alcohol by young people under the age of 21. 

The increased enforcement and public education efforts promote a safe end to the school year and a safe prom season.  

The campaign – called “Out of Their Hands” – emphasizes that it is against the law for anyone under 21 to purchase, possess, or consume alcoholic beverages.

The campaign, which ran April 1-30, resulted in 13 party-dispersal operations; 175 traffic stops; 528 casual contacts; 660 compliance checks; 149 on-premise bar checks; and 25 public safety checkpoints.

The various operations led to 301 cases of charges being filed.

In addition to the law enforcement activities, 88 “media activities” were held at high schools and middle schools, colleges, public forums, community events, civic groups, beach rentals, lodging establishments, retail alcohol outlets, and other retail locations.

Brush fire started by burning trash 

Burton and Sheldon firefighters extinguish a slow moving brush fire which was caused by an unattended burning trash pile on May 10 on Jacob Lane in Burton.

Just past 8 p.m., the Burton Fire District was dispatched to what was originally believed to be a house fire on Jacob Lane in Burton. Callers initially described a possible trailer on fire. Firefighters arrived to what was actually a slow-moving quarter-acre brush fire. 

Burton firefighters extinguished the fire using approximately 1,000 gallons of water and required assistance from the Sheldon Fire District due to the lack of hydrants in the Seabrook area. The fire was caused by an unattended burning trash pile on the side of the road. 

No injuries were reported. 

It is illegal to burn trash in Beaufort County and the fire is under investigation.

Plastic bags might be on their way out in Beaufort County

in Local News by

By Lisa Allen

Interest is growing in finding a way to keep plastic bags out of Beaufort County waterways. 

Isle of Palms was the first South Carolina community to ban single-use plastic bags in 2015, followed a year later by Folly Beach, also in Charleston County.

That’s what stirred things up. 

Novolex, a $2-billion plastics and recycling company based in Harstville, S.C., urged state legislators to ban plastic bag bans. Yes, a ban on bans. Last year, Rep. Weston Newton, R-Bluffton, killed the bill in his Legislative Oversight committee. 

This year, the plastics industry tried again, this time getting it assigned to the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee. The bill made it out of committee and was debated twice on the House floor. Many legislators objected to the legislation, primarily over the principal of home rule, or the ability of local governments to do what they think is best in their community. 

Using that argument, three Republican Beaufort County lawmakers — Reps. Shannon Erickson, Bill Herbkersman and Weston Newton — spoke against the “ban of bans” bill.  

Newton said he objected to the ban because local coastal communities can see the need to keep plastics from harming their ecosystems. 

The House voted to keep the bill from being considered again, until at least next January.

“But it will come up again,” said Rikki Parker, project manager for the South Coast office of the S.C. Coastal Conservation League (SCCCL). 

In the meantime, SCCCL, the Friends of Hunting Island and Beaufort Indivisible are trying to get a local ban of plastic bags on the books. 

Circulating petitions have garnered several hundred signatures. The topic drew a lot of attention at the Earth Day celebration at the Port Royal Farmers Market on April 22.

A plastics summit at the South Carolina Aquarium last month highlighted how plastics are wreaking havoc on all species, including humans.

Endangered sea turtles love to dine on jellyfish. Their mouth and esophagus are lined with sharp, pointy, backward-facing papillae to prevent slippery jellyfish from escaping by floating back out of their mouth. But when they mistake a floating plastic bag for food, they can’t spit it out.  The bag can block their airway or, if completely consumed, their intestines. Either way, the bag can kill them.

Plastics imperil creatures further down — and then up — the food chain too. Plastics don’t disappear, but crumble into smaller and smaller pieces, fooling smaller and smaller creatures into thinking the particles are food, down to shrimp and oysters. When we eat shrimp and oysters, we ingest the plastic, too. 

EcoWatch said that over the last 10 years, we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century. Half of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.

A study estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic went into the oceans in 2010, the equivalent of five grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world, said study author Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer from the University of Georgia. 

By 2025, the annual output of plastic into the world’s oceans is estimated to be around 155 million metric tons.

Plastics corporation Novolex compiled a list of reasons plastic bags are more environmentally friendly than either paper or cloth bags. They argue that making plastic bags requires less energy and water than making paper or cloth bags, they consume less energy to transport and take up less room in landfills. They also point out how much plastic is recycled. 

Novolex didn’t mention in its pro-plastics briefing all of the plastic that is neither sent to landfills nor recycled, but instead winds up in the oceans, local waterways, woods and roadsides. 

Beaufort County Councilman Rick Caporale, R-Hilton Head Island, thinks a ban is a good idea.  

He forwarded information about the damage plastic does to marine life, particularly sea turtles, to senior county leadership and his fellow council members. 

Brian Flewelling, chair of the Natural Resources Committee, agreed to take up the issue this summer, but isn’t certain what solution will emerge. It could be a revenue stream that can fund picking up bags near waterways, Flewelling said.

“We’ll figure out what makes the most sense,” he said.

Caporale said, “Being a coastal county, I can see the potential for the good that could accrue from it. If I lived in an inland county, I wouldn’t have as much interest in it.

“I’ve seen a lot of articles about that damage that plastics bags and other pollutants do, like that plastics blob in the Pacific. They’re far enough away from us, like war, that we could ignore it. But we all contribute to it because of the amount of the pollution that we cause. I’m horrified when I go to the convenience center and see how much trash my wife and I generate.

“When I go to the beach, I see diapers and hundreds of straws and cigarette butts in the sand. When I fished, it was not uncommon to see pelicans caught in fishing line or hooked. It’s like a lot of other environmental issues. The facts are what they are and you have to respond.”

Beaufort City Councilmember Stephen Murray also supports a ban.

“There are two issues here,” Murray said. “The first is home rule. Local governments best serve their local communities. I was frustrated that again the legislature would take something out of the hands of local government.

“The second is that this is important to coastal communities. I know several local watermen and they told me they see plastic bags in our waterways every day.”

Beaufort City Council hasn’t had any discussions about plastic bag bans yet, Murray said.  

“I think it’s a countywide issue,” Murray said. “Every municipality in the county has to come up with something that makes sense for everyone. It would be easier for the local businesses if it was the same everywhere.”

Caporale knows the ban will face opposition. Right now, he pegs the chances of success at about 50-50.

“I’m not worried about the criticism,” he said. “I expect the blowback. I think it’s a good idea to keep plastic bags out of the water and out of the woods.”

Officials: New fire station needed to deal with growth

in Local News by

Staff reports 

As new neighborhoods develop and commercial construction continues along Robert Smalls Parkway and adjoining areas, the town of Port Royal and city of Beaufort are considering establishing a new fire station on Robert Smalls Parkway to better serve the growing needs of both municipalities. 

The station is planned to open by January 2018 near Robert Smalls Parkway and Castle Rock Road, according to a press release.

If approved, the municipalities will lease the property and the new fire station, which would be delivered as a turn-key project ready for fire trucks, equipment and firefighters, said Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Chief Reece Bertholf. 

“We’ll turn on the lights, roll in the equipment and be ready to roll back out if there’s an emergency,” Bertholf said. “The property is perfectly located for us to provide exceptional emergency protection to Port Royal and Beaufort businesses and residents.” 

The Port Royal Town Council and the Beaufort City Council heard formal presentations about the new fire station and service agreements on April 19 during a
joint meeting. Both councils were scheduled to consider and vote on an expanded intergovernmental agreement and the lease during a special meeting on April 24.

The Beaufort/Port Royal Fire Department is proposing a mutual aid agreement with the Burton Fire District that will have the fire station closest to any emergency be the first responder, regardless of governmental boundaries. 

“As firefighters and first responders, we are here to save lives and property, and that’s the purpose of the mutual aid agreement,” Bertholf said. 

The goal is to provide better service to area residents and businesses while at the same time providing better allocation of resources to other parts of the community, Port Royal Town Manager Van Willis said. 

“This plan has been under consideration for several years and the commercial and residential growth happening now on S.C. 170 and Parris Island Gateway make this the ideal time to open the new fire station,” Willis said. 

As part of the feasibility study, Port Royal and Beaufort councils engaged the services of the International City/County Managers Association’s Center for Public Safety Management to review the plan and proposed service areas and response times. Their analysts confirmed the new fire station would be ideally located to provide full fire and emergency service to Port Royal and Beaufort residents and businesses – now and into the future.

In the coming months, a large car dealership, a fast food restaurant and other businesses are expected to open on Robert Smalls Parkway/S.C.170 within the Beaufort city limits. 

In the near future, a large campus is scheduled to open for Bridges Preparatory School in the Port Royal section of Robert Smalls Parkway, along with residential developments. 

Extending the Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department’s reach with the new fire station isn’t expected to affect taxes in Beaufort or Port Royal, Willis said. The properties affected already pay city or town taxes. 

A possible benefit of the new fire station to affected property owners is that the ISO fire rating, related to fire insurance premiums, may improve. 

The councils will consider a 30-year lease for the property and fire station, including all equipment that’s not vehicles or personnel equipment.

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