A Safe Route for Stiles

Stiles Point Elementary School Principal Steve Burger addresses James Island Town Council on the grant funding his "Safe Routes to School" sidewalk project

Stiles Point Elementary School Principal Steve Burger addresses James Island Town Council on the grant funding his “Safe Routes to School” sidewalk project

A Safe Route for Stiles

Stiles Point Elementary received James Island Town Council’s go-ahead to begin construction on sidewalk project

By Charlie Morrison

Community Editor

What good is winning a six-figure grant if you can’t use the money? That’s the question Stiles Point Elementary School Principal Steve Burger has been asking himself for the past five years, after having his school being named the awardee of only the 25th “Safe Routes to School” grant dispersed throughout the state and only the second in Charleston. The dissolution of the fomer Town of James Island didn’t help matters when it came to securing the funds, nor did the bureaucracy entailed in working directly with the state government. And before he’d even realized it, an entire class had matriculated through the school before the Principal or the school caught a whiff of funding from the “Safe Routes” program.

The $300,000 project includes the construction of a sidewalk, complete with drainage improvements along the north side of Godber Street from Stiles Drive to Mikell Drive, along with an additional crosswalk across Mikell Drive connecting the proposed sidewalk along the Godber Street with the sidewalk linking Mikell Drive to Mooring Drive.

Stiles Pt. Sidewalks Project Photo

And while the delivery of the grant has been long-due, Burger’s had little time to lament the lethargy of the state government, as he and students are in only their second year operating out of their sparkling new facility. Burger’s had plenty to focus on in the here and now.

“Right now, I’m just about saying to myself, ‘well, they’ll do whatever they want to do,’ and I’ll trying to keep this school running and make it an excellent school … that’s my primary focus,’” says Burger.

“We were told not to worry. For us it was, ‘sorry, but don’ worry, you haven’t lost the money, you’ll get it.’ Well, I’m going to be retired before things get done … at least it looks like it,” says. Burger.

Burger’s benefactor in acquiring the grant, former S.C. House Rep. Wallace Scarborough, had long since retired from politics, Burger knew the experience of unfulfilled ambition.

Principal Burger is set to retire in a little over a year, the clock is ticking, and the possibility looms that he, like many of his students, would matriculate through the system before any benefit from the grant Burger acquired reaches the students.

The $300,000 project will be funded by the Charleston County Transportation Sales Tax Program and was approved by Charleston County Council as a part of its Transportation Sales Tax Annual Allocations Program. The project’s scope will be is to complete a sidewalk from Mikell Drive, Godber Street, and Anchor Road to Mooring Road.

With the money, Burger had originally planned to encircle his newly expanded facility, installing a full perimeter sidewalk around the school. Confident he could go forward with the project, the funding assured, Burger was approaching a clear idea on what to spend the funds on when the SCDOT nixed any construction on the site.

It was at that juncture that the SCDOT sent a letter to the principal claiming that “the Charleston County School District didn’t have the expertise to do the project.” And while that comment might have irked Berger, along with other school and school district leaders for being factually incorrect, what irks them more is the costs of bureaucracy.

“Supposedly, the money is safe, the money is there and is designated for our project, but every month that goes by the cost of living goes up, inflation goes up and you get less and less than for the dollar,” he continues. Let’s hope, for the sake of the school, that ground is broken on the project sooner than later.

For more information on Safe Routes to School, please visit the Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program at www.scdot.org/getting/safeRoutes_funding.aspx.

 © 2013 by Wiser Time Publishing, Inc.

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