When the kicked can goes a bit too far

Published 5:06 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2017

For years, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners has struggled with funding much-needed repairs to county buildings. It’s an issue that Vice Chairman Jerry Langley has repeatedly referred to as “kicking the can down the road,” or putting off expensive repairs and maintenance to the next year, simply because that money can be used for something more pressing.

This budget, county commissioners authorized staff to proceed with a $3 million loan to finally fix some of the county’s ailing infrastructure. Some will recall how the Oakland Building, where the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is located, fared during the height of Hurricane Irene in 2011. Sheriff’s office employees had to hang plastic tarps in the rooms where the e-911 communication center is housed to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of equipment from being drenched in the storm. Because of those leaks that became torrents during Irene, the county also faced the possibility that the entire communications center would be rendered inoperable. Now, the Oakland Building is on the short list to be fixed and the communications center has a backup plan in place.

It’s just one example of needs that must be met because if the opposite is the case, it could adversely impact all residents of Beaufort County. Another would be Beaufort County Emergency Services’ finding that the Northside High School generator is not functional. As Northside is one of the county’s primary shelters during a disaster, it’s where those in northeastern Beaufort County would be sheltered should a hurricane with a substantial storm surge come along — say, a storm like Irene.

With Hurricane Harvey having devastated southeastern Texas with record amounts of rainfall and catastrophic flooding, and Hurricane Irma now a Category 5 storm with sustained winds topping out at 180 mph, it’s become apparent that nature doesn’t adhere to man’s schedule, or wait for repairs to be made before its fury is unleashed. While no one knows Irma’s track past the next day or so, the threat is there.

The time to act is now. Beaufort County and its residents can’t afford to kick these particular cans down the road anymore.