A Hilton Head Island panel recommended Wednesday giving $1 million to Beaufort County to improve the look of a proposed flyover connecting the Bluffton Parkway to U.S. 278 near Moss Creek.
If the Town Council approves the recommendation of its Public Facilities Committee, the money will pay for aesthetic features and landscaping for the flyover, a set of elevated ramps allowing traffic to flow smoothly from one road to the other, similar to an interchange on an interstate highway.
Some town officials have opposed the flyover, saying its urban look would ruin the existing view on the approach to the island -- an expanse of water and marsh.
Committee members expressed hope that the contribution will give the town more say in the eventual look of the flyover.
"At the end of the day I think we are going to want some say and input into the design, and if we do, then we have to be willing to fund that," said Councilwoman Kim Likins, who chairs the committee. Even though town money would be going to a project that's not on the island, Likins said it was justified because the area where the flyover would be built is "the gateway to our community."
Councilmen George Williams and Bill Harkins expressed similar feelings. Both attended the meeting, although they do not sit on the committee.
"If we are not involved in funding the aesthetics, I feel we will not get what we really want," Williams said.
Beaufort County Administrator Gary Kubic said the county intended to cooperate with the town regardless of the committee's vote on the money.
"We want your financial support," Kubic said, "but we also want to your political and community support on this project."
"We're one community; we want to work together," he said.
Construction on the flyover could begin in June, Kubic said.
R. R. Dawson Bridge Co., of Lexington, Ky., submitted the low bid for the project -- at $36.7 million -- and is expected to be approved by County Council next month, according to Rob McFee, the county's engineering director.
Town Council members Marc Grant and John McCann, who sit on the committee, initially opposed giving the county the $1 million.
McCann said he had "concerns over the whole project," not just with the appearance of the flyover. He said he understood concerns about hurricane evacuations -- flyover advocates say it would help evacuations go more smoothly -- but was not persuaded of the overall benefit of the flyover.
Grant said he was reluctant to lock future councils into a vote he made that day. Grant also said he wanted assurances that local contractors would be given preference for the work.
Kubic said such preferences would not be allowed with the project's grant money.
After Likins and Williams urged approval of the expenditure, the committee voted 2-1 in favor of it, with McCann voting no.
The committee's recommendation will be considered by the full council Feb. 19. Councilman Lee Edwards, who is not a member of the committee that considered the measure Wednesday, has been previously expressed opposition to the flyover.
Other sources of money for the $45-million flyover project include federal and state funds, revenue from a 1-percent county sales tax and bond anticipation notes, a form of short-term, low-interest borrowing.