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County auditor chalks up another lawsuit for which we’ll pay

BEAUFORT – In case you missed it, the Beaufort County Auditor is being sued by Beaufort County. 

“The County,” we’ll assume is actually the Beaufort County Council since the elected body of 11 call the shots, they decide how the tax dollars are spent. But they talk about these things – who they’re going to sue – in closed-door sessions so we don’t know much about what the council was thinking. 

We do know this latest lawsuit against Jim Beckert happens to the fourth he’s racked up since being elected by the people to a second four-year term in 2018. The county Treasurer Maria Wall has filed a lawsuit against him as has the county’s former chief financial officer Elisa Howard, both charging harassment. 

The County Council, which is being represented in this latest suit by a Charleston-based law firm, already had one suit against him for “failure to do his job.” 

The County Council has also decided to put the question of whether the Auditor and the Treasurer should continue to be elected officials or appointees of the Council, a question that will be on the ballot in November. 

How can this be, you might ask? Wasn’t the Auditor, elected by “we the people?” And aren’t “we the people,” Beaufort County? And aren’t “we the people” going to be paying the legal fees for this, as county taxpayers. The answer is yes. 

HBF enters courtroom in challenge to 303 projects 

BEAUFORT – It’s been relatively quiet on the downtown development front as the futures of a proposed parking garage, four-story new hotel and a new three-story apartment complex have all moved into the courts. 

The Historic Beaufort Foundation last week filed an appeal of the city’s Historic Review Board’s approval of the parking garage and new hotel, projects that were already being challenged by downtown property owner Graham Trask. 

Trask and now HBF charge the city review board was wrong to permit the projects under existing building codes. 

303 Associates and Beaufort Inn, LLC, developers of the project, are also named in the lawsuits. 

Holy Trinity School, Beaufort Elementary, Robert Smalls Middle move forward with expansion 

BEAUFORT – Holy Trinity Classic Christian School’s plans for a new campus got a blessing last week from the city’s Design Review Committee. 

The school, located on Burroughs Avenue, will soon celebrate its’ 10th anniversary and launch a two-phase building program that will include a 19,000 square foot gymnasium-fellowship hall and, eventually, a new classroom building for K-12 grades. 

Located in the former Battery Creek Elementary School, Holy Trinity purchased the 1950’s school campus and has grown to the current enrollment of 315 students. With the new expansion plans, the enrollment will be capped at 450. 

And on the topic of school construction, Beaufort Elementary renovations are drawing closer to completion after more than a year of construction trucks outnumbering school buses at the Bay Street school. 

The renovation project, which includes a complete overhaul of the building’s interior and a big, old brick security fence along the Prince Street side of the campus, was one of the six major projects included in the $344 million referendum approved by the voters in 2019. 

The largest single school building project in the bond referendum is the Robert Smalls International Academy, formerly known as Robert Smalls Middle School, which is slated for complete replacement beginning this summer. 

Battery Creek High School is also slated for a new replacement building, with both Robert Smalls and BCHS scheduled to be completed by December 2022. 

All projects contingent, of course, on finding construction workers. 

Hey, did you know there’s gonna be a new bridge to HHI? 

HILTON HEAD ISLAND – Okay, so Hilton Head Island’s going to get a new bridge. Not “our” problem (as North of the Broad-ers)? 

Not necessarily true since we, alas, don’t live in an isolated bubble, and almost everyone, unless you just don’t go out at all, has to cross over to that island every once in a while. (If you haven’t driven on U.S. 278 coming on or off the island on a Saturday, you’re REALLY in for a traffic surprise.) 

True, we NoBs probably don’t have much stake in the future of those bridges as the 39,907 residents who live there or the hundreds who drive onto the island every day for work. 

But since no man is an island, as the poet John Donne pointed out, a basic synopsis of the new bridge story, thus far, is that it’s expected to cost $290 million, the current bridge is going to be demolished and a six-lane bridge will be its’ replacement. 

After that, it’s up to the town council, their consultants, the citizens and our friends at the S.C. Department of Transportation. 

If, for some reason, you would like to know more, check out https://www. scdot278corridor.com/public-hearing

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and former reporter/ editorial assistant/columnist with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today, Beaufort Today and The Robesonian (Lumberton, N.C.). She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com. 

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