Economic development, May River top Raymond's priorities for 2nd term

tbarton@islandpacket.comAugust 14, 2013 

Michael Raymond

Bluffton Town Councilman Michael Raymond wants to wean the community from its dependence on tourism and re-plant trees to soak up runoff that pollutes the May River.

"We need to protect our heritage and diversify our economy," Raymond said Wednesday. "Since we're facing rapid growth, it's important we keep our sense of identity, place in history and culture. That is a huge concern of mine. But we also need to stop putting all of our eggs in the basket of tourism. That's not going to sustain us into the future."

Raymond announced Monday he will seek a second term in November's at-large, nonpartisan Bluffton Town Council election.

Two seats will be up for grabs on Nov. 5, but as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Raymond was the only candidate to have filed, according to town clerk Sandra Lunceford

Mayor Pro Tem Oliver Brown, who was elected in a special runoff election in March 2008, also is up for re-election. Attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

Filing for the two at-large seats opened at noon Aug. 7 and closes at noon Sept. 6.

Anyone planning to vote must register to do no later than Oct. 5.

Raymond, a 12-year resident, was an engineer in the town's department of environmental protection before being laid off in 2009. He was elected to council later that year.

As a town employee, he investigated drainage problems and May River pollution. He now works as a partner with Surface Scientifics. The company markets anti-microbial coatings and is one of the companies in the Don Ryan Center for Innovation.

Raymond said he pushed hard in his first term for Bluffton "to take control of its economic destiny," by creating the center, a taxpayer-supported small-business incubator that attempts to help emerging companies.

He intends to continue that push if elected to a second term by advocating greater support for the Bluffton Public Development Corporation, which the town created in 2012 to buy, transfer or lease property to attract business to the town's May River Technology Park.

As for the May River, Raymond said he will continue to urge the town to "re-forest Bluffton." Raymond proposes that the town partner with schools, service clubs and other groups to plant throughout the river's watershed each year.

He claims nearly 3 million trees have been cleared from Bluffton Village to New Riverside in the past six years to accommodate new development. The result, he says, is the introduction of millions of gallons of stormwater runoff into the river, carrying with it harmful chemicals and bacteria.

"We've made tremendous progress with implementing solutions to protect the May River, and we need to stick with the plan and carefully evaluate the results," he said.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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Bluffton residents give voice to Calhoun Street noise complaints: Aug. 13, 2013

Residents gather to discuss what makes Bluffton special: July 9, 2013

Is the Bluffton-based incubator helping businesses grow?: July 5, 2013

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