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Lolita Huckaby

Lowcountry Lowdown

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Are we ready when it happens here?

By Lolita Huckaby

BEAUFORT

It’s been more than a week since Uvalde, Texas became a household word for a very sad reason. And it’s been another week while politicians, after offering their prayers, backed into their respective corners and reiterated the same, tired pro and con arguments about gun control

During this same week, parents and concerned citizens shout “do something,” and more shootings have taken place elsewhere in the country.

A lot of Americans are feeling pretty hopeless about the situation, unable to make “the other side” see sense.

But let’s take a look at the local situation. WARNING. There’s not a lot of encouragement here, either.

The day after the Uvalde shooting, Beaufort County School Superintendent Frank Rodriguez called a press conference, attended by the local enforcement folks, including Sheriff P.J. Tanner who’s running for re-election.

While the folks on the podium didn’t mention it, The Island Packet reminded readers that at least six students were referred to family court last month for fighting. At least two of those had brought knives with them into the schools.

Just this past weekend, a 15-year-old was arrested and charged with attempted murder after a shooting in Beaufort.

The Hilton Head High School Class of 2022 celebrated their graduation with recognition of a fellow classmate no longer with them. Khalil Singleton was only 8 years old when he was killed by a stray bullet from fighting neighbors.

The incidents are here, right in our own neighborhoods, it doesn’t take much to string them together.

The Superintendent and law enforcement officers try to assure us they’re trying to prepare for an eventuality. They conduct state-mandated drills and employ trained security guards to try and protect the campuses.

But do they have the “adequate” resources, whatever “adequate” happens to be? Are there budget constraints, and if so, isn’t now the time to be talking about them as the County Council studies the bottom lines and look for ways to avoid unpopular tax increases.

How much of those budgets are earmarked for mental health programs? It’s hard to tell, looking at the multi-page documents.

We do know the county coroner is adding a pathologist to help with autopsy services. What does that say about our priorities?

It’s not just water under the bridge

OKATIE – Curious to know how many saw a little notice last week from the Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority asking water customers to cut back on their water usage because of an emergency.

Turns out the emergency was caused by electrical power surges at the Authority’s Okatie treatment plant where water from the Savannah River is processed for 63,000 customers in Beaufort and Jasper Counties.

The notice asked that customers refrain from washing cars and filling swimming pools, only wash full loads of clothes or dirty dishes until the pumps could be replaced later in the day.

Surrounded by rivers and streams, Lowcountry residents don’t traditionally worry about water shortages. Water shortages are a problem out west, or in other countries. Couldn’t happen here, right?

A lot has been said about water shortages, yes, in the Lowcountry. In 1970, the Ralph Nader Study group issued a report on regional water demands focusing on our neighbors, Savannah’s uses for not just residential but industrial customers.

There’s been a lot of studies done and utilities like BJWSA have long-range plans to try and meet future water needs. The treatment facility at Purrysburg, in Jasper County, is being expanded to double its capacity to meet the needs of all the new residents moving to the area.

For years, the Authority has been urging residents to stagger their water usages on certain days, based on even, or odd-numbered addresses. They’ve developed a “no watering Monday” landscaping campaign, asking residents to cut back on their water use in exchange for the opportunity to possibly win a $25 credit on their bills.

No, we’re not in a water shortage crisis but BJWSA did hit a new daily record high last month – 34.9 million gallons.

It’s something else to think about as you stand outside and water your flowers.

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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