Common direction led to destination


Now and again, people partner to accomplish something remarkably good. Recently, the partnership formed to advance a Town Council priority attracted national recognition - twice - for doing just that.

The alliance between the Town of Hilton Head Island, the Hilton Head Public Service District (PSD) and the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry (CFL) was established to provide all islanders access to sanitary sewer.

For their work, they were awarded one of 10 Secretary's Awards for Public-Philanthropic Partnership in 2017, presented by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Council of Foundations.

(As an aside, sharing our spotlight was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, another recipient.)

And if that were not enough, HUD and the Council of Foundations launched another initiative, promoting partnership strategies through peer engagement, and ours was the very first to be showcased. It is a model of success.

This five-year Sewer Master Plan (the Plan) is an important undertaking. Our sanitary sewer system was inadequate and incomplete, partially due to failure to address matters of equity resulting from the island's explosive development era.

It has also been detrimental to our environment. Islanders without sanitary sewer, mostly native islanders and low- to moderate- income households, had to make daily decisions based upon weather conditions: Should they wash their clothes and dishes or take a shower and flush? A wrong decision resulted in backups of raw sewage.

The solution to these problems, the Plan, was established and is now on time and on budget. Completion is anticipated as early as the spring of 2019 - a project ahead of schedule! That's direction.

The Plan has two phases. Phase One is complete, with two new regional, large-scale sanitary lift stations (Mid-Marshland and Oakview) now operating. Two others (Summit Drive and Muddy Creek) were upgraded.

New sewer collector mains were placed along 4.9 miles of 27 roads (26,244 linear feet) to serve 238 parcels, some of which have multiple homes.

In March of this year, owners of 91 parcels were invited to connect. In May, the remaining owners were notified of availability. As of mid-June, 53 connections had been established. That's 53 fewer septic systems in use on the Island. That's intervention.

Phase Two will likely begin in August. Another 200 parcels along 31 roads will gain sewer collector mains, and homeowners will be invited to connect. That's another 4.4 miles, or 23,250 linear feet of sewer main.

Upon completion, 9.3 miles, or 49,494 linear feet, of new sanitary sewer will be available to serve our community. Not only will the number of septic systems be reduced, but new septic systems and replacements of failing systems will be prohibited on parcels where sewer is accessible. That's prevention.

How is all this possible? Community. Everyone stepped up to participate - $10 million came from the Town, along with $1.5 million from the PSD to install sewer lines and build lift stations.

In addition, a $3 million philanthropic effort by the CFL, known as Project SAFE, was designated to provide need-based connection grants to income-qualified property owners.

Also, an incredible group of native islanders eagerly became our grassroots partners, securing 71 easements needed for the Phase One infrastructure - at no cost to the Town. They're working now to assemble an additional 120 easements for Phase Two, and they're halfway there! That's commitment.

You might have heard that it's direction, not intention, that determines your destination.

May our direction continue to guide us to more award-winning destinations.

David Bennett is the mayor of the Town of Hilton Head Island. Visit to sign up for the mayor's newsletter.

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