More council meetings coming to southern Beaufort County

cconley@islandpacket.comJanuary 14, 2013 

  • In other action Monday, Beaufort County Council:

  • Gave preliminary approval to the Bluffton Township Fire District's plan to hire 24 firefighters and create temporary fire stations inside Colleton River Plantation and Palmetto Bluff. The action, which would cost $555,000 through June 30 and $1.3 million a year thereafter, is at least a month away from a final vote.

  • Voted to rezone about 65 vacant acres across from Kittie's Crossing shopping center in greater Bluffton to allow commercial development.

Beaufort County Council will hold a fourth of its meetings -- six in all -- in Southern Beaufort County this year, against some northern council members' objections.

Council approved its 2013 schedule on Monday by a narrow vote split mostly along regional lines. Just four of the meetings had been scheduled for south of the Broad River before the vote.

The move follows action last week by the Beaufort County Board of Education, which will hold one of its two monthly meetings at the Hilton Head library, starting next month.

Councilman Steve Baer, who represents a Hilton Head district, argued that meetings in southern Beaufort County are well-attended and give residents a chance to interact with elected officials face to face.

He also noted that a majority of county residents live in southern Beaufort County. County Council now also has a majority of members who represent southern Beaufort County districts.

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

From 2006 through 2009, council held three meetings a year in Bluffton and on Hilton Head. Since 2010, four meetings a year were held in those municipalities. Last year, three meetings were on Hilton Head and one in Bluffton.

Several council members, most from northern Beaufort County, opposed the plan.

Councilwoman Laura Von Harten, who represents Beaufort and Port Royal, argued that holding meetings in southern venues posed a challenge for county staff.

"I just want to reiterate: This is our county seat," she said, referring to Beaufort.

Von Harten joined Councilmen Gerald Dawson, William McBride and Jerry Stewart in opposing the measure, which was approved by a 5-4 vote. Chairman Paul Sommerville was absent.

Councilmen Stu Rodman, Rick Caporale and Brian Flewelling and Councilwoman Cynthia Bensch joined Baer in supporting the change.

A final vote on the 2013 meeting dates was approved 7-2.

Meetings will be in Bluffton on Feb. 25; May 20; Aug. 26 and Oct. 28. Hilton Head meeting dates haven't been scheduled.

Related content

  1. ISO issue raises fairness questions in Bluffton, Jan. 13, 2013
  2. School board to hold some meetings in southern Beaufort County, Jan. 12, 2013
  3. Councilman pushes for more meetings in southern Beaufort County , Dec. 24, 2012

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