July 2013

July 2013: Mayor Lisa Sulka

Author: Lisa Sulka | Photographer: Photography by Anne

A Day in the Life of the Town’s Stormwater Staff
When council and staff are out in the community, they are sometimes asked by a friend or citizen, “Why is the town doing _____?” You can fill in the blank with any project in progress. When I hear about this happening, the old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees,” comes to mind as a possible explanation. Sometimes it’s hard to see how individual staff activities and town projects (the “trees”) fit into the big picture (the “forest”). The “big picture” that we are all working to achieve is our vision for the town and its future. The current vision for Bluffton, as articulated in our recent strategic planning workshop, has multiple key points, including celebrating the May River, respecting the Bluffton character, and a community of livable neighborhoods. The work of the town’s stormwater staff supports this vision by improving our environment and the quality of life for Bluffton’s citizens.

On any given day, the Stormwater Division’s activities serve as a great example of staff implementing individual projects as part of an interconnected web of activity guided by the vision framework. A typical day is something like this: our geospatial information system (GIS) analyst heads to the field to collect information on the location of each stormwater curb inlet, pond outfall, and connecting ditch, uploads it into the GIS program and shares it with our water quality program and stormwater project managers. Our water quality manager studies the maps and takes stormwater samples to be analyzed at the water quality laboratory at USCB. These results are also shared with the stormwater project manager. The GIS and water quality data are used by the stormwater project manager to generate a model that identifies locations and projects within the May River watershed that are most likely to improve water quality within the May River.

Using this information in consultation with advice from our citizen-supported advisory committee, our division director brings these projects to town council as part of the capital improvements program (CIP) for funding. Once funded, with or without grant assistance, we bring in support from other divisions where the infrastructure project manager works with contractors to make sure the projects are constructed on time and within budget. During the construction phase of these projects, our erosion and sediment control inspector ensures that the town’s environmental regulations are met and works with contractors to correct any potential problems.

Even CIP projects that are not directly tied to improving stormwater quality include techniques that protect our environment. For example, our transportation project manager has ensured that the May River Road streetscape, Tom Herbkersman Commons, and DuBois Park projects include rain gardens and other stormwater treatment practices. Together with staff from other divisions in engineering & public works, the stormwater division works as a seamless unit to help improve the environment and quality of life of its citizens as stated in the vision for the future Town of Bluffton.

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