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LOWCOUNTRY LOWDOWN

8 mins read

 It’s almost time to go to the polls again 

 BEAUFORT – In less than three weeks, Beaufort County voters will have the opportunity to go to the polls. It’s always interesting to see how many do. 

It’s not likely all 142,700 registered voters will be flocking to the polls in this off-year election; in fact, there’s an opinion that so few WILL take the opportunity, supporters of the Local Option Sales Tax, which is on the ballot, think their changes of approval are improved. 

On the other hand, some supporters – like city of Beaufort and Port Royal officials who really want this tax alternative for needed projects – are concerned the off-year timing may hurt changes. 

We’ll see. 

The county has a detailed explanation of the 1 percent sales tax proposal and what it will mean to the individual property owner: https:// www.beaufortcountysc.gov/topics/ local-option-sales-tax/index.html 

Also on the county-wide ballot is a measure to change a small segment of the county government structure – making the treasure and auditor’s offices hired positions rather than elected. 

The County Council put this on the ballot after the day-time drama created last year by current Auditor Jim Beckert and Treasurer Maria Wall which resulted in at least four lawsuits against Beckert for intimidation and failure to do his official job. 

The county Republican Party has come out against the change, outlining their position in an on-line message, https://saynoinnovember. com/form-of-government. 

And Port Royal voters have an important election to decide – two of the four Town Council seats are up for grabs. Incumbents Mary Beth Heyward and Darryl Owens are seeking re-election and facing challenges from Eddie Gugino, a cyber security engineer, and John Hazel, owner of Devil Dog Headquarters retail shop. 

Area has a rich history with Orders of the Palmetto 

BEAUFORT – Last week, in this space, instead of seeing this columnist’s smiling face, you got to read about Gullah/ Geechee Nation Chieftess Queen Quet’s most recent honor with South Carolina’s highest civilian award, the Order of the Palmetto. 

Queen Quet, who grew up on St. Helena Island, has accomplished a number of things in her years of promoting the Gullah/Geechee culture around the world.

Her efforts are to be applauded, BUT also not to be overlooked is retired Jasper County Coroner Martin Sauls who also received the Palmetto award from Gov. Henry McMaster that same day.

Sauls who served as Jasper coroner for more than 40 years, also served as an elected county councilman and then state legislator in the late-1970s.

Many Beaufortonians came in contact with Sauls in another capacity, as owner of the Sauls Funeral Home in Ridgeland that handled services for a number of families, especially south of the Broad River.

In the past 40 years the Order of the Palmetto has been awarded to more than 3,000 people including author Pat Conroy, former Beaufort city manager Ed Duryea, former Lt. Gov. Brantley Harvey, former S.C. Rep. Harriet Keyserling, retired Beaufort County Councilmember Skeet Von Harten and former Solicitor Randy Murdaugh III.

Speaking of Palmettos

FOLLY BEACH – Latest reports from the files of “environmental accidents” show Dominion Energy’s tree killers are scheduled to begin work on Folly Beach soon, with 500-plus Palmettos on their hit list.

Like they so brutally did in Beaufort this spring and summer, the contract cutters are slated to continue the utility company’s “safety” program to completely remove Palmettos that might cause damage to their power lines.

For those who cried “foul” over the most recent atrocities and implored the S.C. Public Commission to consider the utility’s pruning practices as part of Dominion’s request for a 7.68 percent rate increase earlier this year, that didn’t happen either.

The utility got approval for a lesser 1.46 percent increase which showed up on September bills and there was apparently no consideration of the demolition practices.

High speed chase prompts ponderings about life in a ‘news desert’

LADY’S ISLAND – With the current debate about the impact of Facebook and other social media streaming platforms, it was interesting to see, online, the other day a complaint that this community exists in a “news desert.”

When you consider all the media reports from our neighbors to the west, i.e., Hampton County and the Murdaugh family, one might question that “desert” description.

This particular complaint was generated in response to a high-speed traffic situation that occurred more than a week ago. Online comments indicated at least one driver had to hit the shoulder of Sams Point Road to avoid being run over by speeding vehicles, primarily, more than a half-dozen blue lights giving chase to one white work van.

After considerable inquiry, it was revealed that this was a Jasper County case, instigated by the Jasper County Sheriff’s department but joined by Beaufort County sheriff’s deputies and possibly some municipal officers.

It started in the wee-morning hours (that’s 2:30 to 3 a.m.) on Argent Boulevard, near Tailgators Grill, when the chase began following reports of a van driving erratically. It continued down S.C. 170, into Port Royal, across the McTeer Bridge, down Sams Point Road until the driver finally stopped near his home not far from Brickyard Point boat landing.

According to the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department, it was a distance of about 30 miles total and luckily, no one was hurt. The young man spent the night in the Beaufort County Detention Center and faces charges of failure to stop for a blue light … a bunch of times.

Now you know the “rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to say.

The point is, how often do we see incidents happen around us and wonder, “Huh, what’s THAT all about?”

Once again, we have to accept there are some things we’ll never know.

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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