Bluffton to seek $500,000 state grant to build sidewalks at new middle school

Bluffton Town Council decided Tuesday to seek a $500,000 state neighborhood revitalization grant to help pay for sidewalks along parts of Simmonsville and Buck Island roads near the new Bluffton Middle School, work outlined as a top capital priority in March.

If the town is awarded the grant, it must provide 5 percent of the grant amount. That money would be drawn from a pool of $300,000 the town set aside for sidewalks in this year's capital improvement budget. The money the town has set aside would cover only a portion of the sidewalk along Buck Island Road.

Town engineer and project manager James Ayers said the state grant would help connect existing sidewalks scattered along both sides of the roads north to Bluffton Parkway. The grant also would fund lighting.

The project would improve safety for children walking and biking to the new school.

"I was just out there earlier and I saw one girl on a bike who nearly got hit, so it really is needed," said Denise Draper, a community and economic development specialist at the Lowcountry Council of Governments, who outlined the grant to council members.

Draper said the grant also would allow 10 more homes to be connected to the public sewer system. That ongoing project will ultimately connect more than 200 residences to the system.

The town has already been awarded two $500,000 grants for improvements in the area. It failed to win a third this spring.

Sharon Brown, who sat on the advisory committee when the neighborhood improvement plan was first formulated, offered support for the grant application after the meeting.

"... the council is headed in the right direction with this grant," she said. "They have their ears very open to community concerns and I can truly say they listen to them."