LOWCOUNTRY LOWDOWN

in Contributors/Lolita Huckaby/News by

By Lolita Huckaby

Can you say ‘government snafu?’

BEAUFORT – With a month gone by in the new year of 2021, local officials as well as their constituents are scratching their heads and wondering where the vaccines are.

It’s a familiar scenario apparently all over the country, where reports indicate the COVID-19 vaccines are being shipped out but not getting into people’s arms. True, reports also indicate some people aren’t taking the shots because … well … as one nurse has repeatedly been quoted on television as saying, “if I didn’t make it, I’m not so sure about it.”

Hmmm …

Here in Beaufort County, the mayors and County Council Chairman decided last week to send a letter to the state Health and Environmental Control board to ask what’s up and how can they help.

Let’s hope the DHEC board will have an answer. Gov. Henry McMaster, after a visit on Jan. 22 to Hilton Head Hospital with state Sen. Weston Newton, whose district includes Hilton Head and who chairs the legislative task force to look at how the vaccine is being distributed, said he was “happy” and declared hospitals “are doing very well.”

Concerned residents with health issues can take comfort in his words while they wait for an appointment to get their shots.

The Mt. Pleasant mayor made national news last week when he reached out to the local Chick-fil-A manager to help with traffic congestion at their pop-up vaccine distribution site. Anyone who’s watched a Chick-fil-A venue at lunch time knows those folks can handle traffic.

Cheers for more green, protected spaces

BEAUFORT – Maybe it’s a result of quarantine cabin fever or maybe it’s the stars just aligning but there’s some interesting things going on in the area with public parks.

The city of Beaufort has cranked up the Southside Park development plans … again … after years of debating on what recreational activities should be happening on that 30 acres of land. Plans for the park have varied over the years from doing nothing and letting the public enjoy the open space to elaborate ballfields with lights and lots of parking.

The property currently supports one of the few … therefore, most popular … dog parks in the area but on any bright day, it’s obvious the park is already well-used.

With the announcement last month of the establishment of a Beaufort Pickleball Club, it’s a pretty good bet there will be pressure from that group for northern Beaufort County’s first public pickleball court.

There’s the Whitehall park on Lady’s Island. The county/city/Open Land Trust were able to wrestle a deal with developers of that attractive 20 acres to buy half of the area for a public park. Plans for the area are being drafted with emphasis on a “passive park”, aka, no lighted ball fields.

The area’s historical importance is being recognized with the establishment of two public parks, one on U.S. 21 near MCAS Beaufort recognizing the Revolutionary War battle of Port Royal Island (also called the Battle of Beaufort OR the Battle of Gray’s Hill) and the other adjacent to the Beaufort Naval Hospital at the site of Fort Frederick.

Beaufort County completed the purchase of a 12-acre site including the former Harris Pillow Company building last month. The Department of Defense contributed to the $1.8 million sale as did the S.C. Conservation Bank. The S.C. Battleground Trust hopes to link the site to a statewide driving tour of Revolutionary War sites.

The Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve is also a joint project between the county, Port Royal and the S.C. Dept. Of Natural Resources which owns the 3-acre waterfront site. The county has installed a gate, access road, picnic area and has eventual plans for a kayak launch.

The site has one of the oldest remaining tabby fort sections in the state and was home to English troops in the 1730’s as protection of the area.

Certainly not to be left of the list is the Beaufort County Open Land Trust’s Widgeon Point Preserve, the 170-acre tract on U.S. 170 near the Broad River, now open to the public.

County Council bringing in referee

BEAUFORT – Beaufort County Council has also agreed to hire a professional parliamentarian to help them run their meetings better.

The motion to hire Helen McFadden of Kingstree, on a 3-month trial basis at $250 an hour, came at their last meeting after the chairman suggested she might help members comply Robert’s Rules of Order. Councilmember Brian Flewelling, who has served as the council’s parliamentarian for the past several years, promptly resigned from that role.

McFadden was employed by the county in 2018 when the Council was beginning an administrator search to replace Gary Kubic. The Council ended up hiring Ashley Jacobs who left after 18 months.

The Council is expected to discuss during their annual retreat this week how they plan to proceed with selection of a permanent replacement for Jacobs as interim Administrator Eric Greenway has been holding down the proverbial fort.

All quiet on the county front

BEAUFORT – If the unincorporated areas of Beaufort County seem a little quieter these days, you can thank the County Council.

The elected officials last month approved an amended noise ordinance designed to protect the citizenry from “loud, obnoxious, unnecessary or excessive noise” which is deemed “a serious hazard to the public health, welfare, peace and safety.”

Right off the bat, noise from the Marine Corps Air Station jets, aka “the Sound of Freedom” is exempt so no need to look there for relief to those who feel they’re living in a combat zone.

The ordinance took a little longer to enact once it was pointed out to the Council their original draft had not been reviewed by the sheriff’s department which has to enforce the document. But that was corrected, and we can wait for the first misdemeanor ticket to be written, just like we’re still waiting for the first face mask violation ticket.

Update on Dominion tree cutting

BEAUFORT – Bottom line, it’s still going on.

And as of the beginning of the week, according to the city monitors of this painful process, they’re 50 percent through.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg made the news last week when he took a walk through the city’s historic district with the Dominion folks where 170 Palmetto trees are slated for removal. Folks there are upset enough they’re talking about a plan to bury power lines which they know will be expensive.

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and a former reporter/editor with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today and Beaufort Today. She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com.