County council latest panel to hold retreat; 2-day meeting begins today

A presentation by a Charleston architect about planned renovations to the Beaufort County Courthouse will kick off the County Council's annual two-day retreat today in Okatie.

Miles Glick of the architectural firm Glick/Boehm & Associates will present renderings and suggest ways to finance more than $6 million in improvements to the courthouse, built in the early 1990s.

The retreat, which runs through Friday, will be at the Beaufort Jasper Water & Sewer Authority conference room in Okatie and is open to the public.

County officials have said the courthouse needs a new roof, exterior and window work, and possibly more substantial framing.

County administrator Gary Kubic said the crumbling stucco exterior might be replaced with a brick facade that resembles the look of the 19th- and early 20th-century brick courthouses once common in the Lowcountry.

"Brick is a more natural material that will last a lot longer and wear better over time," Kubic said. "We'll just have to weigh the cost versus the longevity of the material."

The County Council also will determine its policy agenda for the coming year through 2015 and receive staff performance reports at the retreat.

Councilman Paul Sommerville of Lady's Island said the retreat will provide council members a chance to talk about the challenges facing the county in the next 12 months.

"The more we can do to communicate outside the rigid context of a council meeting, the better," Sommerville said.

Sommerville said the county has again hired Lyle Sumek Associates, a consulting group from Florida, to facilitate the retreat and evaluate how well the county has managed its resources in 2009 as the council looks ahead to 2010. The same firm has been hired by Bluffton and Hilton Head Island to run their retreats.

The county is still tallying the total cost of the retreat, said Suzanne Larson, county spokeswoman. Last year's retreat at the Waddell Mariculture Center in greater Bluffton cost $5,644, according to county records.