Councilman pushes for more meetings in southern Beaufort County

cconley@islandpacket.comDecember 24, 2012 

  • Beaufort County Council will meet at 10 a.m. Jan. 2 to swear in Councilwoman-elect Cynthia Bensch, who will represent a greater Bluffton district in the Rose Hill and Buckwalter areas. County Council also will select its new chairman and vice chairman for the next two years. The meeting will take place in council chambers at the county administration building in Beaufort.

A Beaufort County Councilman from Hilton Head Island wants more council meetings held each year in the southern part of the county.

From 2006 through 2009, County Council held three meetings each year in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island. Since 2010, a total of four meetings a year have been held in those towns.

Councilman Steve Baer wants to restore the southern meetings in 2013. He says meetings at satellite locations "south of the Broad" usually draw a crowd and give residents a chance to interact with their elected officials.

"Most of the tax base and most population is down here," Baer said, despite the fact that that the city of Beaufort is the county seat. Holding just a quarter of meetings in the southern communities, he says, is "a reasonable compromise and it's consistent with what wehave done for many years."

Beaufort County Council meets 24 times a year, usually in the county's administration building off Ribaut Road in Beaufort. It started holding meetings in Bluffton in 2003 and has held meetings on Hilton Head since at least 2000.

Three meetings were held on Hilton Head in 2012, and one was held in Bluffton.

Meetings will be held at Bluffton and Hilton Head libraries in 2013, but it won't be clear how many until the council's schedule is set Jan. 14.

Baer said he is raising the issue now because he "doesn't like to blindside people."

"Usually, we go into those meetings and it's a list of meetings presented and we just vote on it. What I wanted to do is act preemptively while that list is being put together," he said.

Fewer meetings were scheduled in Bluffton starting in 2010 because of technical problems at the Bluffton library that prevented meetings from being televised on The County Channel, said acting County Council Chairman Paul Sommerville, who represents Lady's Island. Those problems have been eliminated, he said.

"We didn't drop it because we didn't want to go there. We dropped it because if we went there, we couldn't televise the meetings effectively," Sommerville said Friday.

He doesn't foresee any issues with adding back the southern meeting dates when County Council adopts its schedule next month.

"I can't imagine anyone would have ... any objection to it," he said.

Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.

Related content:

County Councilmember Steve Baer to seek second term in November, March 3, 2010

County airports post draws few applicants, Dec. 12, 2012

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