Kurt GamblaAs the new COVID-19 vaccinations become more readily available, we’re finding many people have concerns about their safety and efficacy. Below are answers to some of the most common questions I have been asked about the vaccines in recent weeks. 

Are COVID vaccines safe and are there side effects from the shots?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines currently available in the U.S. are extraordinarily safe. Many people experience no side effects from the shots. For those that do, the side effects are similar to what you might experience with flu shots — sore arm, mild fever, fatigue and achiness. 

Most often, the side effects occur after the second dose and rarely last more than a day or two.

sarahrThe Town of Bluffton purchased the Sarah Riley Hooks Cottage, a site on Bridge Street the Town said is “historically significant.” 

The 0.9-acre property was purchased for $475,000 from Kehinde Thomas and Tavi Fields of North Carolina. Town Council will discuss plans to stabilize and preserve the house. 

The Sarah Riley Hooks Cottage, formerly known as the Michael C. Riley House, was built around 1940 by Riley, a prominent African-American store owner and Bluffton resident, according to the Town. Michael C. Riley, who died in December 1966, was the first African- American to be appointed a trustee to the Beaufort County Board of Education. 

WORKFORCE HOUSING INITIATIVES GAIN GROUND

The road to affordable housing for Hilton Head Island’s valued workforce has been slow-going, much-studied and sometimes bumpy. 

But now, workforce housing is gaining ground on the island and elsewhere in the Lowcountry. 

Hilton Head officials spent recent months polishing proposals to enhance opportunities to create affordable, on-island housing for a range of workers essential to the local economy. 

The S.C. Department of Transportation will stop collecting tolls on Hilton Head Island’s Cross Island Parkway at midnight July 1. The agency is preparing to convert the corridor to a non-tolled road, including ceasing the sale of new Palmetto Pass accounts on Feb. 28. More than 32,000 Palmetto Pass customers will be required to close their accounts and return their transponders. They will get a refund on their deposits. For more information, visit crossislandparkway.org/scvector/static/faq/Discontinuing.shtml or call 843-342-6718. 

The Beaufort County School District is launching #YouMatterBCSD, an initiative that will offer discounted counseling services to employees and their families. Through a partnership with Bluffton-based Hope Performance Systems, #YouMatterBCSD counseling programs can be accessed by employees and family members at regional sites throughout Beaufort County. 

#YouMatterBCSD will include peer groups, group counseling as well as individual sessions with licensed counselors from Hope Performance Systems. 

The Town of Hilton Head opened the 103- acre mid-island tract near Union Cemetery Road. The Town removed dead and fallen trees and underbrush at the site of the former Planter’s Row Golf Course. Trees were trimmed, and there’s parking for 20 to 25 cars at the Union Cemetery Road entrance. Some portions are untouched, including 10 acres for bird and wildlife habitats, and five acres around stormwater ponds to serve as riparian habitat. 

The installation of 10 new fire hydrants and associated water main upgrades over the last two years has better protected some Hilton Head Island neighborhoods, according to the Town of Hilton Head. The Town partnered with the Hilton Head Public Service District. New fire hydrants have been placed primarily in Gullah neighborhoods on the north end of the island including Murray Avenue, Pinefield and Mackerel roads, Aiken Place, Cobia Court, Alice Perry and Horse Sugar roads, Christopher Drive, Sunday Ford Drive, Mustang Lane and Red Tip View, and Bligen Lane, according to a news release. Some of the homes were 1,000 feet away from the nearest fire hydrant. 

SCOTT LIGGETTScott Liggett, longtime director of public projects and facilities for the Town of Hilton Head Island, died after suffering a “significant medical emergency,” according to a news release. “Scott was a selfless colleague whose leadership and service to the Town and our community were invaluable,” the Town said. “His professionalism, intellect and wit will be missed by all who worked with him and interacted with him.” 

Liggett joined the town as an assistant engineer in January 1991, was promoted to town engineer in January 1994, and then to director of public projects and facilities/chief engineer in April 2008.

BLUFFTON OPENS WRIGHT FAMILY PARK, CALHOUN DOCK

After much anticipation, in December the town of Bluffton opened Wright Family Park, the town’s second public park offering access to the May River. The park opened after about three years of renovation and construction.

Wright Family Park, across the street from the historic Church of the Cross, offers a boardwalk, a large central lawn, walkways, parking, landscaping, site furnishing, lighting, fencing, public restrooms and views of the May River.

GFWC WOMAN’S LEAGUE HELPS CREATE ‘BOOK NOOK’

The Arts and Culture Community Service Program of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs Woman’s League of the Lowcountry and Piggly Wiggly Store has teamed up to create a Mr. Pig’s Book Nook inside the Ridgeland store. Members and friends of GFWC have donated more than 1,000 books for children between the grades of pre-K-8.

1. A Great Egret in full breeding plumage at the Rookery at Pinckney Island during mating season as photographed by Mary Alice Tartler.

2. A sunrise looking over Colleton River toward Spring Island from John Metzger’s home in Belfair.

3. The mating dance of Great Egrets at the Rookery at Pinckney Island as captured by Mary Alice Tartler.

HHM GullahTHE ISLAND’S HISTORIC GULLAH NEIGHBORHOODS GET DESERVED RECOGNITION

Over the last decade or so, native islanders have made huge strides in making their story a part of the narrative told about the history of Hilton Head Island. The century between the retreat of the plantation owners and the invasion of the golf course designers, we now know, represents a singularly unique era in the island’s history.

OrlandoMarc Orlando accepted a contract offer from Hilton Head Town Council to be its next town manager. He will begin his new role Feb. 22. The town had been in a search of a new leader after former town manager Steve Riley announced last June his plan to retire. Orlando had been Bluffton town manager since September 2014. Originally from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, he was named Bluffton’s deputy town manager in 2009.

According to a statement from Hilton Head mayor John McCann, town council determined that Orlando “embodies the characteristics necessary to effectively meet the Town’s needs and is therefore the ideal candidate for Town Manager.”

Beginning Jan. 13, any South Carolina resident age 70 or older, regardless of health status or preexisting conditions, was eligible to schedule an appointment to receive COVID-19 vaccine. The mortality rate from COVID-19 for those 70 and older in South Carolina is approximately 655 deaths per 100,000 people. For those under the age of 70, there are 37 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people, a news release said.

“This is a staggering comparison and illustrates why vaccinating this population next is critically important in our mission to save lives,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Interim Director of Public Health.

Beaufort County’s decal program at all convenience centers began in early January. All vehicles are stopped entering the centers and attendants scan decals from residents that have received barcodes. One decal will be issued per property.

Each residential property owner will be allowed three visits per week to a convenience center.

Parker’s recently donated $20 million to support charitable initiatives. The Parker’s Community Fund will support a range of charitable causes across the region, a news release said.

“We have a strong commitment to the Palmetto State and are incredibly grateful for the support of our customers in Charleston, Moncks Corner, Goose Creek, Summerville, Walterboro, Hardeeville, Bluffton, Hilton Head, Beaufort and Port Royal,” Parker’s founder and CEO Greg Parker said.