October 2013

October 2013: Mayors

Author: Drew Laughlin & Lisa Sulka | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Many Town Council goals have revolved around improving the economy, attracting and retaining permanent residents, encouraging tourism, enriching our quality of life, and redeveloping island areas. As one possible means to achieve these goals, town council wishes to examine the role of our local performing and cultural arts organizations. Arts facilities and programs add value to and enrich residents’ and guests’ lives, support economic development, and attract guests to live on the island.

In particular, Town Council wishes to study a possible collaboration among local performing and cultural arts organizations to share resources and expertise to instill more efficiency in operations and use of facilities; eliminate duplication; determine appropriate funding methods and sources with fair distribution; and encourage community support of the arts organizations and programs.

The overall goal and vision of the project is to ensure that by making efficient use of existing and new public and private resources, the town and community partners will be able to collaborate on flexible initiatives to implement recommended strategies and enhance performing and cultural arts on Hilton Head Island. In essence, the focus of a strategic plan will be to outline a program structure for a healthy arts system.

Cultural Planning Group from Pennsylvania has been retained to draft a 10-year strategic plan. The process for developing the strategic plan shall:

-be a public and participative process;
i-nvolve the Town Council, town staff and community stakeholders;
-define the role and vision of the town in both supporting and funding the arts;
-define the vision of the community in both supporting and funding the arts;
-establish a clear set of goals, priorities, and actions;
-define a process by which the community can engage and support the arts to become sustainable;
-assess current strengths and identify future needs;
-describe what similar municipalities have accomplished to fulfill their goals; and
-define a step-by-step action plan that recommends collaborative efforts among arts organizations, facilities and programs which instill more efficiency in operations and venue use.

The plan shall also recommend public and private funding options with fair distribution techniques; develop strategies for further integrating performing and cultural arts into the community; and describe a general education and outreach program. It should also provide a schedule that can be supported through policy and a commitment of town and other resources.

A 10-12-question digital community survey will be provided on the town’s website and at the following link: http://www.keysurvey.com/f/547624/142e/. This survey will gauge the community’s support for different types of arts, a vision for the arts, and willingness to fund the arts. Links will also be provided on participating property owner associations’ web pages and the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce web page. The survey will be available in early October for the entire month, so please voice your opinion.


In 2009, the Town of Bluffton was awarded an EPA 319 Grant through SCDHEC to improve the health of the May River. One of the components of the grant was a large scale stormwater pilot project, aimed at reducing fecal coliform bacteria reaching the May River. The town is proud to have recently completed this pilot project, the New Riverside Stormwater Lagoon. Without public-private partnerships and professional collaborations, the town would not be in the position it is today, actually implementing “boots on the ground” projects that have been discussed for years.

Weekly water quality sampling by the Town of Bluffton, Beaufort County and USC-Beaufort has consistently shown high levels of fecal coliform bacteria in an area of New Riverside with very little upstream development. As development is not necessarily the reason for the high bacteria concentrations, the town’s Stormwater Management Division saw an opportunity to construct a pilot project to attempt to lower the high, background pollutant levels. This project would be designed to divert stormwater runoff from the upstream area, treat it to reduce fecal coliform, and return the treated runoff to the existing ditch system where it ultimately reaches the river.

Our sampling program also shows that runoff exiting stormwater lagoons has low bacteria concentrations compared to the surrounding ditches. With that knowledge, a pilot project concept was chosen, which was to construct a lagoon to treat the existing stormwater runoff.

Town staff approached Crescent Resources with the concept since they owned land that was ideally located. They were excited about the partnering opportunity and offered six acres within New Riverside on which to construct the lagoon. With an agreement in place, stormwater management staff worked closely with town consultants to quickly design and permit the project so that it could be constructed before the expiration of the EPA 319 grant.

Construction is usually the most challenging aspect of any project. While a design always works on paper, unforeseen challenges can occur during construction that must be addressed. This project was no exception as difficult weather conditions created challenges for grading and site access. Project management and stormwater management staff worked together through those circumstances to achieve solutions that maintained the intent of the design and kept the project on time and within budget. This departmental collaboration and partnership was critical to the successful completion of this project given the aggressive schedule, budgetary constraints, and extremely volatile, wet summer that hampered construction.

Now that the lagoon is operating, the town has added weekly water sampling locations that will be used to determine the project’s success. Initial results are encouraging. Although at least six to 12 months of data will be needed, initial sampling has shown fecal coliform reductions as high as 75 percent. However, equally important to the lagoon’s function is what it represents for the town and the community, which is the implementation of on-the-ground solutions, demonstrating real action toward restoring the health of the May River.

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