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  • Town of Bluffton: 2019/Year in Review
    The Town of Bluffton is proud to present a look back at its 2019 accomplishments.
    Capital Improvement Projects:

    • New Riverside Barn Property: The Town of Bluffton purchased a 37-acre parcel from Palmetto Bluff in December 2018. This property includes the 2,700 square-foot iconic barn structure which is visible from Highway 46. In the same transaction, the Town also acquired an additional seven acres adjacent to this property. Town leaders said it is important to create community space in this section of Bluffton because it is one of the fastest-growing areas of the town. The Town hosted an open house at the big red barn on the property on November 2, 2019 to gather feedback from the public. Nearly 300 residents attended this event. Town Council will further discuss plans for the property at the January 21, 2020 Town Council Workshop. Town staff is scheduled to present a conceptual master plan for the property in March.
    • Town Hall Renovations:  The Theodore D. Washington Municipal Building (Town Hall) renovation project was completed in February. Town Council held its first meeting in the newly renovated Town Hall on February 12. During this meeting, Council named its Chambers in honor of Henry “Emmett” McCracken, Jr. for his service to Bluffton as mayor, Council member, as well as several other positions during his more than 20 years of public service to the Lowcountry community. This project included renovating the existing structure which currently houses Town Hall offices, the Charles E. Ulmer Theater and Calhoun Station. The Town also executed license agreements with May River Theatre and Calhoun Station, so these organizations can continue to serve the Bluffton community as residents of Town Hall. This renovation project added 4,571 square feet to the original building to accommodate shared space for Town Council Chambers and the Town of Bluffton Municipal Court. Town Hall now has 29,223 square feet of improved work space.  This project was funded through a variety of sources; however, no debt was incurred. 
    • Martin Family Park: Located at 68 Boundary Street, this new park which opened in November, is described as “an outdoor living room” with open space and numerous Adirondack wooden chairs available for use. This project also provided approximately 60 new parking spaces, public restrooms and open space for community events. The 1.47-acre parcel is located adjacent to DuBois Park and the Heyward House.  The Town hosted two holiday movie nights in the park in December. 
    • 184 Bluffton Road:  The Town’s property at 184 Bluffton Road, former site of Crossfit 843, opened this fall providing 41 new parking spaces and installation of lighting, sidewalks and landscaping. This .710-acre project supplements the additional parking spaces provided by the Dr. Mellichamp Drive Streetscape project which was completed in 2018.
    • Sidewalk Installation on Buck Island Road: The Town of Bluffton installed 1,900 linear feet of five-foot wide sidewalks with street lighting on Buck Island Road.  This project also protected a cluster of Live Oaks in front of Grayco as contractors installed a boardwalk versus concrete sidewalks, allowing the trees and their roots to continue growing. This project is a part of a multi-year, multi-phase sidewalk and lighting project which will connect neighborhoods, neighbors and businesses together.
    • Wright Family Property: The Town completed the first phase of the multi-year, multi-faceted construction of the Wright Family Park, completing the boardwalk and bulkhead at 111 Calhoun Street. The 223-feet timber bulkhead is a retaining wall between the park and the May River shoreline.  The bulkhead will prevent further erosion along the shoreline and stabilizes the existing embankment adjacent to the proposed park. The bulkhead will also preserve three large, mature Live Oak trees which overhang the river’s edge. Construction is currently underway for the park which includes a large central lawn, walkways, parking, landscaping, site furnishing, lighting, fencing and public restrooms.  The Squire Pope Cottage, an antebellum structure sitting on the property which survived the “Burning of Bluffton” in 1863 will be rehabilitated in a future project. This will be the Town’s second park providing public access to the May River.
    • Exhibit Signs Installed at Garvin-Garvey HouseTown staff members, in collaboration with HW Exhibits, installed the first phase of the exhibit for the Garvin-Garvey House which will give visitors insight into the life of Cyrus Garvin, the freedman who built the house in 1870.  The Garvin-Garvey House is the only house still standing on the May River which was previously owned by formerly enslaved people. The Town of Bluffton completed the house’s rehabilitation in June 2017, and it is considered an asset of the National Register Historic District.
    • Oscar Frazier Park’s “Field of Dreams” Pavilion:  The Town, through partnerships with the Rotary Club of Bluffton and the Leadership Class of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, completed another phase of the “Field of Dreams” section of Oscar Frazier Park with the following features:
    • The Rotary Club of Bluffton built and donated the pavilion to the Town of Bluffton.
    • The Leadership Class of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce raised funds and installed playground equipment including a play area designed for children with sensory needs. 
    • Inclusive Playground Equipment Installed:  The Town, through a partnership with “50 Red Swings” installed two adaptive playground swings at Oscar Frazier and DuBois Parks. This is the first installment of adaptive and inclusive playground equipment for children with disabilities.
    • Sunscreen Dispensers Installed:  The Town of Bluffton installed four sunscreen dispensers at its public parks and docks thanks to the initiative, partnership and fundraising efforts of Bluffton resident Jessica Derkert Long. 
    • Fishing Line Recycling Bin Installed: Additionally, the Town installed a fishing line recycling bin at Oyster Factory Dock. Discarded monofilament (i.e. fishing line) is hazardous  to the region’s wildlife when discarded irresponsibly.  The collected monofilament will be recycled and formed into a fish habitat. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources donated the bin.
    • Streetlights on Boundary Street: The Town of Bluffton installed 12 decorative street lights along Boundary Street and 10 street lights within Martin Family Park, located at 68 Boundary Street. These lights will match the Shepherd’s Crook-style lights used throughout the Historic District and further improve the safety and walkability in this portion of the Historic District.
    • Speed Humps on Thomas Heyward Street:  The Town of Bluffton installed two speed humps on Thomas Heyward Street in August to decrease vehicle speeds and increase neighborhood safety.
    Don Ryan Center for Innovation:
    • Don Ryan Center for Innovation/Buckwalter Place Location: The Town of Bluffton and the board of directors for the Don Ryan Center for Innovation (DRCI) anticipate opening a permanent location for the Center in the Buckwalter Place Commerce Park. The new 3,000 square foot facility will house the new business incubator as well as the state-of-the-art co-working and meeting space for area entrepreneurs. This new space will allow for collaboration and sharing in a high-tech open environment. Construction is underway, and the center is expected to be open in April 2020.
    • Don Ryan Center introduces Sessions Networking Event: In 2019 DRCI launched “Sessions”, a monthly networking event for the DRCI community and public. Held on the last Thursday of each month at the Corner Perk, members of the Don Ryan Center attended free and many non-members also attended these events for a small fee. Monthly topics covered marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), the “design thinking” process and more. Local entrepreneurs also discussed their lessons, challenges and opportunities as they told their story of their company’s journey from a start-up to its current phase of growth.
    • Local Investment in 2019: Through the efforts of the Don Ryan Center for Innovation and partnerships with regional economic development leaders, the Town of Bluffton received commitments of nearly $15 million dollars of private investment in 2019 with the potential of creating nearly 80 new jobs. Watterson Brands moved its corporate headquarters from Chicago to Bluffton, bringing nearly 20 jobs.  Watterson Brands is the parent company of the Burnt Church Distillery which is currently being constructed on Bluffton Road. This $10.25 million-dollar, 20,000 square-foot project, has the potential of producing 35 new jobs as Bluffton’s first distillery.  The Gullah Market, which is proposed for Washington Square located on Buckwalter Parkway, is a 10,000 square-foot, $3 million facility designed to sell locally-sourced seafood and produce.  The Gullah Market has the potential to create 25 new jobs. 
    May River & Surrounding Rivers and Watersheds/Environmental Protection:
    • May River Cleanups: Nearly 500 participants cleaned 5,146 pounds (2.57 tons) of debris from the river, shoreline, and surrounding streets of the Historic District during the two annual cleanups in April and September. A total of 636 pounds (0.32 tons) of that debris was recycled through our partnership with i2 Recycle.
    • May River Watershed Action Plan:
      • Town Council unanimously adopted a revised Stormwater Utility Fee rate structure ensuring consistency with surrounding jurisdictions for fee collection by Beaufort County. These funds support Action Plan initiatives such as sewer extension, water quality modeling that identifies sites for water quality improvements projects, and daily operations of the Watershed Management Division.
    • The Town was awarded its fourth Clean Water Act Section 319 grant for $365,558.36 by the  South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control in support of sanitary sewer connections.
    • Town Progresses Toward Sewer Connectivity: Design of Historic District Sewer Extension Phase 1 (Pritchard Street) and Phase 2 (Bridge Street) began with construction of Pritchard Street sewer expected in early 2020. The Town received a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) in the amount of $320,000 for Phase 5 of the sewer extension in the Buck Island-Simmonsville Neighborhood with construction anticipated to begin in early 2020, along with construction of the sewer extension in the Posey’s Court and Jason-Able Street neighborhoods. Each CDBG grant is from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
    • May River Watershed Action Plan: University of South Carolina-Beaufort (USCB) with financial support from the Town continues its development of “real-time” microbial source tracking capabilities to identify the sources of bacteria entering the May River. The Town also supported increased monitoring efforts and analysis of data collected in the May River by USCB.  Revisions to the Town’s May River Watershed Action Plan have also begun and are anticipated to be complete in early 2020.
    • Regional Stormwater Standard: The Town partnered with Beaufort County, Jasper County, the Town of Port Royal, the City of Beaufort and the City of Hardeeville to develop a Regional Stormwater Ordinance and Design Manual to protect the region’s coastal waterways. This new manual will assist developers with parallel stormwater regulations and management standards throughout the region. The draft document is complete and expected to enter public comment period in early 2020 and is expected to be considered for adoption by the municipalities in Spring 2020.
    • Neighborhood Assistance Program: The Town of Bluffton spent more than $130,300 in 2019, helping 23 Bluffton households with its Neighborhood Assistance Program. This program assists with repairs to homes and properties of low to moderate-income residents and is operated through the Town of Bluffton’s Affordable Housing Committee. Repairs include projects such as leaking roofs, unstable or unsafe floors, failing septic tanks, inaccessible private roads, removing broken or unwanted items from a resident’s property, removing unsafe structures from a resident’s property, ensuring local emergency services have an official address to a resident’s property, and assisting in obtaining proper paperwork for heirs’ property.
    Awards and Accolades:
    • Municipal Association of South Carolina/Achievement Award: MASC awarded the Town of Bluffton an Achievement Award for the population category of 10,001-20,000.  The award honored the Town’s two new streetscapes for providing walkability, connectivity and accessibility throughout the Historic District.  Bluffton competed against 29 other cities and towns for this award. The May River Road and Dr. Mellichamp Drive Streetscapes, completed in 2019, were the last components to tie together the entire Historic District with sidewalks.  These two streetscapes enable residents to walk from the northern to the southern end of the District on well-lit sidewalks, accented with landscaping and site furnishing.
    • Safest City Designation: For the third year in a row, the Town of Bluffton has been listed in the top 10 list (#4) of “Safest Cities” in South Carolina by HomeSnacks, a website which collects data from various sources describing cities and towns across the nation.
    • Safest City Designation: Home Security Advisor, an organization which aggregates information about personal safety and security systems, named Bluffton the safest city in South Carolina (#1).
    Finance & Administration:
    • FY2020 Budget Approved:  Bluffton’s Town Council approved and adopted the Town’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 consolidated budget in June.  State law requires all municipalities to adopt a balanced budget ordinance before July 1. The budget totals $34,941,440 and moves the Town forward through program enhancements and a robust capital projects schedule. Programs for affordable housing, beautification, May River Watershed Action Plan and capital improvements are prominent features of the FY 2020 budget.
    Bluffton Police Department:
    • Cookout with Cops:  Cookout with Cops, started in 2018, is an outreach program which allows Bluffton residents and police officers to get to know each other during a neighborhood cookout. The Bluffton police officers cooked hot dogs in three neighborhoods and one at the M.C. Riley Sports Complex this year. If you are interested in planning a Cookout with Cops for your neighborhood, please contact Joy Nelson (jnelson@townofbluffton.com).
    • Lutzie 43 Campaign:  The Town partnered with the National Lutzie 43 Campaign in January 2019. The Lutzie 43 Foundation is named after Auburn football player Phillip Lutzenkirchen who was killed in a vehicle accident in 2014. Since Phillip’s untimely death, the Lutzenkirchen family created the Foundation to educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving. This campaign is integrated into every facet of the Town through awareness campaigns and partnership with community leaders and youth organizations. This year’s grand marshals of Bluffton’s Christmas Parade were Warner Peacock, of Peacock Automotive, and the Lowcountry Alliance of Healthy Youth. The Town honored Mr. Peacock, his company and the youth organization for their dedicated efforts for increasing awareness of the dangers of distracted driving through campaigns of their own.
    • Explorer Program:  Twenty-eight cadets graduated from the Bluffton Police Department Explorer Program. This is a five-month program for middle and high school students providing an in-depth look at law enforcement for students interested in pursuing a law enforcement career. Students meet weekly to learn about a different facet of law enforcement.
    • Citizens Police Academy:  Twenty-three students graduated from the 2019 Citizens Police Academy. This 10-week course focuses on numerous facets of law enforcement such as traffic enforcement, radar operation, evidence collection, fingerprint recovery, defensive tactics and firearms. The program is designed to increase citizens’ knowledge of how law enforcements operates within our community. This was the 6th annual Citizens Police Academy.
    • Safety Day:  The Town of Bluffton partnered with the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Natural Resources, Bluffton Township Fire District and other non-profit organizations for its 3rd annual Safety Day held May 18 at Oyster Factory Park. This event provides free boat inspections as well as various safety and wildlife information in preparation for boating season. 
    • National Night Out:  More than 2,500 people attended the 6th annual Bluffton Police Department’s National Night Out event at Eagles Field. The police department partners with other local law enforcement agencies and non-profit organizations to provide safety information, display law enforcement exhibits and first responder demonstrations. This event is held yearly in early October.
    • Toy Drive:  Bluffton Police Department collected hundreds of toys during the 7th annual 2019 Town of Bluffton Toy Drive. Bluffton police officers distributed all the toys to local Bluffton families who are experiencing financial challenges. Residents donated toys for children from infants to 15 years old. As in years past, the Bluffton community was extremely generous and donated hundreds of toys.
    • Shop with a Cop: A brainchild of a Bluffton police officer, the first “Shop with Cop” event happened in 2018. A school resource officer chose a student from each Bluffton school to go Christmas shopping with an officer. Each child was given a $100 gift card to pay for their gifts. In 2019, the department was able to raise more than $4,000 through private donations. These donations allowed the program to double the amount, giving each child a $200 gift card. The children who received these gift cards are from families experiencing financial challenges. They use the gift cards to shop for their families or to purchase themselves a Christmas gift. 
    Special Events:
    • Historic Preservation Symposium: The Town of Bluffton hosted its fourth annual Historic Preservation Symposium, Thursday, May 23 at 5: 30 p.m. at Town Hall. The symposium, “The Bluffton Historic District:  Then & Now,” brought together historic preservation organizations, residents, students, business owners and Town leaders to discuss the importance of preservation. This symposium also celebrated the 23rd anniversary of the designation of the Bluffton Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places. The symposium featured regional historic preservation experts Christian Sottile and former Bluffton Town Manager Josh Martin.  Sottile has worked extensively with Nationally Registered Historic Districts. Martin was Bluffton’s Town Manager during the creation of the Old Town Master Plan and brought unique perspectives due to watching Bluffton implement plans for historic preservation while promoting business-friendly initiatives. 
    • May River Cleanup:  The Town hosted its 19th Annual May River Cleanup April 27. This event, in which hundreds participated, is an annual way to honor the May River as volunteers picked up trash and debris throughout the nearby streets and on the River. The Town collected more than 1.6 tons of debris during this event. A total of 340 pounds of that debris was recycled through the Town’s partnership with i2 Recycle.
    • Arbor Day: Mayor, Town Council, Town staff and members of the Town’s Beautification Committee celebrated Arbor Day as they planted a Cathedral Oak at the Theodore D. Washington Municipal Building on April 26.  The Town annually celebrates Arbor Day to honor the contributions of local trees as they provide beauty, shade and a habitat for birds and other animals.
    • Hurricane Dorian: The Town of Bluffton’s Emergency Operations Center operated for five and a half days during the potential impact of Hurricane Dorian in early September. Hurricane Dorian brought wind and rain to the area, however, there was no significant damage to the Town. Due to shifting predictions and the potential for impact, town employees spent nearly a week preparing for the possible effects of a Category 3 storm and were prepared for heavy flooding, power outages and significant debris and damage to buildings.
    • River Sweep:  The Town of Bluffton hosted its 12th Annual Beach/River Sweep at Oyster Factory Park September 21. This event is a part of a statewide effort to clean South Carolina’s waterways.  This is the 31st annual statewide event and 12th time the Town has hosted its event in Bluffton. Hundreds of local volunteers join the thousands across the state in the largest, one-day litter-cleanup of beaches, marshes and waterways.  Local volunteers collected a total of 1,936 pounds (0.968 tons) of debris; of that debris, 296 pounds (0.148 tons) was recycled through the Town’s partnership with i2 Recycle.
    • Hurricane Preparedness Meetings:  The Bluffton Police Department hosted two public Hurricane Preparedness meetings in May. The workshop covered topics such as:  lessons learned from past storms, evacuation routes, evacuation procedures and evacuation plans. The Town also distributed a complete guide to how the Town of Bluffton prepares for hurricane season and guidelines for residents, business owners, contractors and property owners associations.  If you would like a copy of this guide, please contact the Town’s Public Information Officer Debbie Szpanka at (dszpanka@townofbluffton.com).
    • Youth Community Service Award Ceremony:  The Town hosted the 4th Annual Youth Community Service Award May 14.  The Mayor’s Bluffton Youth Community Service Program recognizes high school sophomores and juniors for their volunteerism to the Bluffton community during the past year. Students are honored for 50 or more volunteer hours to a greater Bluffton non-profit organization. This is an annual program.
    • Town of Bluffton Job Fair:  The Town hosted its first job fair at the Rotary Community Center August 9.  The fair provided prospective applicants an opportunity to meet with the Town’s department leaders and discuss professional opportunities at the Town.
    • Municipal Elections:  The Town of Bluffton Municipal General Election was held November 5.  Voters cast ballots for the seats of Mayor and two council members.  Mayor Lisa Sulka ran unopposed and was re-elected.  Councilman Dan Wood was re-elected to a second term. Bridgette Frazier was elected to Town Council and will be sworn-in to her first term in January.
    • Bluffton Christmas Tree Lighting and Parade:  The Christmas Tree Lighting was held December 6 in DuBois Park. After the tree lighting ceremony, hundreds of children visited with Santa as town employees, dressed as elves, passed out cookies and hot chocolate. The parade was held the next day. The Tree Lighting and Christmas Parade are the Town’s gift to the community, and it is held the first Friday night and Saturday of December, rain or shine.
    • Movie Night at Martin Family Park:  The Town hosted two movie nights in December for the first time at the Martin Family Park. The inaugural movie night featured “The Grinch” after the Bluffton Christmas Tree Lighting and the second movie night featured “The Polar Express” December 20.  If you want to be notified of future events, please sign up for the Town’s mailing list on the Town’s website or “like” the Town’s Facebook page for updates.
    Wall of Honor 2019 Inductees:
    • Mayor Lisa Sulka:  Mayor Sulka is Bluffton’s first female mayor and was also honored for her commitment to the success of Bluffton’s young residents through her mentorship and advocacy.
    • Pressana Grant: Known as “The Bluffton Songbird,” Ms. Grant graced many audiences with her gospel music, singing in every church on Hilton Head Island and many in Bluffton. She was also a licensed Evangelical minister.
    • Jeffrey Robinowich:  Robinowich has lived in Bluffton since he was 3 years old and was honored for his dedication to countless community projects.
    Citizen Engagement Resources:
    • Bluffton Ambassador Program:  Working in partnership with the University of South Carolina-Beaufort (USCB), the Town of Bluffton sponsors its “Bluffton Ambassador” program.  This program, conducted by faculty members of USCB, provides attendees with a plethora of knowledge about Bluffton to include history, local government information, ecology, cultural characteristics, citizen engagement opportunities and more.  Those who complete the seminar are considered “Bluffton Ambassadors,” and in 2019 the program produced over 80 new ambassadors.
    • SeeClickFix:  The Town of Bluffton launched a new citizen tool in May 2019 called “SeeClickFix.” This app will allow citizens to request Town services and report service issues with the Town of Bluffton.  This mobile app, available via Google Play or the App Store, gives residents direct access to Town staff.  Residents are able to report service requests for the Town’s parks, properties and open spaces.  
    • Website:  The Town of Bluffton’s website is:  https://www.townofbluffton.sc.gov/.  Via the website, residents have access to public meetings schedules, agendas, supplement documents, event calendars and numerous Town resources.
    • Town Map Gallery:  Within the Town’s website, a Map Gallery exists. The two most frequently-used maps describe public and private projects occurring in Bluffton. The “Capital Improvement Map” also known as the “CIP Story Map” will give a summary and schedule of every Town public project.  Residents can also keep abreast of private development private via the “Application Permit Map.” This map provides a summary and schedule of every project of which a Town permit is required.
    • Mailing List: Resident are able to “opt-in” to the Town’s distribution list to receive all public meeting notices, agendas and media releases.  To sign up for the Town’s mailing list, click “Subscribe to Our Mailing List” at the top of the Town’s homepage or via: https://www.townofbluffton.sc.gov/subscribe-to-our-mailing-list
    • Social Media:  The Town of Bluffton, the Bluffton Police Department and the Don Ryan Center for Innovation are active on the following social media venues:  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and You Tube.  Facebook and Instagram are the most active sites. Please “like” or “follow” these pages to keep abreast of all Town events, policies and projects.
    • Town Environmental Volunteer Opportunities:  The Town hosts two River Cleanups annually, the River Sweep is held in September and the May River Cleanup is held in April. Both events usually attract hundreds of volunteers to help clean up the May River and areas surrounding our waterways.  If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Kim Jones (kjones@townofbluffton.com) or Beth Lewis (blewis@townofbluffton.com) within the Town’s Watershed Management Division.

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