December 2015

A Note From Our Mayors

Author: David Bennett & Lisa Sulka | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

A Note from David Bennett

A Piece on Peace, and Gifts, and Vision…

You’ve doubtless heard the story. Now nearly 101 years ago, beginning on the eve of 24
December, 1914, some German and British soldiers along WWI’s western front put down their
armaments to partake of a brief piece of peace. Respectfully, they buried their dead. But they
also filled this time outside of their trenches with sport, song and the giving of gifts. Together, if
ever so fleetingly, they shared a vision of a world again at peace. Did this mark the end of the
war? No, indeed the fighting quickly reconvened following the Christmas “truce”. This restoration
of hostilities illustrates what I believe we each intrinsically understand, that peace is not the
absence of disagreement or the perfect alignment of position or opinion. As I’ve often heard it
described, peace is not found in uniformity, but in unity. And gifts? They are surely beneficial to
the giver. Visions? Well, they are the dreams, which given the appropriate investment,
determine our future. And December? That’s the month where these three, peace, gifts and
vision, frequently intersect.

I’ve witnessed this often, and felt it myself. Our extended family doesn’t reside here and
last Christmas, following a very busy fall, we found ourselves with no plans for the day. But, we
had heard of a community Christmas dinner being served at First Presbyterian Church and we
volunteered to help set up. I could never have imagined the outpouring of service I saw in this
place. (And this occurs at Hudson’s on Thanksgiving, too!) Without mentioning names, my wife
carved turkeys next to a local businessman, whose business only closes on Christmas and
Thanksgiving. Where will you find him those two days? He is volunteering at these community
events, peacefully using his gifts of time and talent to contribute to the vision of hospitality he
has for our Island.

During our November planning workshop, Town Council agreed to pursue a Vision for
our Island in a most purposeful and professional way. In my view, a meaningful process will
include a comprehensive analysis of our community’s assets and obstacles and answer the
most important questions of where we are now, where we wish to go and how we may get there.
I am calling upon each citizen to take this opportunity to participate with unity of purpose in a
peaceful process to establish this Vision. I am humbly asking you to give the gift of your time
and effort to this important project, which will surely be advantageous to us all. If we may arrive
at a product born of widespread participation and consensus, it will serve as the guide for
decision-making, evaluating, planning, financing and implementing strategies aimed toward
achieving the Vision in a way which is transparent, understandable, measurable and
foreseeable. The question I’ve been asking each group I have addressed recently is: What
could our preferred future be if some 40,000 genuinely interested Islanders work together
toward a collective vision for our Island? I for one would like to find out.
Reflecting upon my first year as Mayor, I must acknowledge that so many of you have
given much to me as measured in words and works which have inspired and encouraged me,
and often challenged me toward a greater understanding of a matter. I sincerely thank you. May
your December be marked by shared stories of peace, and gifts, and vision.

A Note from Lisa Sulka

An update on Bluffton

As part of Bluffton’s ongoing efforts to improve our infrastructure and offer increased access to the May River while protecting water quality, the town has two very exciting, projects underway: Oyster Factory Park improvements and sanitary sewer installation.

The town has entered into an agreement with Beaufort County to take over the operations and maintenance of the Oyster Factory Park. This allows us to add improvements to the site in an expedited manner. You’ve probably already noticed the beginnings of a transformation at the park with the recent under-brushing that increases visibility of the river. Other improvements include installing ambient lighting in the oyster roast and pavilion area, as well as construction of a floating courtesy dock, expansion of the existing boat ramp to two lanes, and parking lot improvements. These changes will begin in November and will make it much more convenient for our local boaters to launch and load their boats. Additionally, easy access to the shell beach for beachgoers, kayakers, and paddle boarders will be maintained via a ramp which ties directly to the pier head. The existing parking lot will be expanded to provide additional boat trailer, vehicle and handicap parking spaces, and a walkway from the parking area will provide our visitors and residents with direct and safe access to the new dock.

Another jewel within the Oyster Factory Park is the Garvin House, which appears to be the earliest known Freedman-owned home in our area. It is an important and unique part of Bluffton’s history and culture. Preservation work will begin around the first of the year and will add more value to the park’s culture and history. The new Oyster Factory Park will ultimately become a centerpiece which will tie the community together along with DuBois Park, Calhoun Street and the rest of Old Town.

Sanitary sewer installation is a project that helps improve the quality of life of our citizens, while improving and protecting water quality. Through our capital improvement program and with grant support, the town continues to connect as many of Bluffton’s residents to sanitary sewer and minimize, if not eliminate, septic systems. The most recent sewer construction has started on the third phase of sewer in the Buck Island-Simmonsville community. This phase will serve 130 residents in 42 homes. Construction of the fourth phase will follow in 2016, with the fifth and final phase currently under design. Additionally, the town has partnered with BJWSA to provide sewer service to the Toy Fields neighborhood. The completion of all of these projects within the Buck Island –Simmonsville community will allow the town to connect approximately 237 homes to the sanitary sewer system.

The town has also continued its successful relationship with BJWSA by partnering with them on the design of a sewer system for the Jason and Able St. areas. This neighborhood virtually drains directly into the river, and connecting the residents to the sewer system is critically important. The combined impact of these projects will improve the quality of life of our citizens while protecting and providing access to a clean and picturesque river. 

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