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A little paint could go a long way toward freshening Beaufort's appearance.
Elbow grease, soap and straight sign poles would help, too, Paul Michau says. That's why he is organizing Beautify Beaufort, a group that will tackle "quick fixes that would have a quick impact."
Michau, who retired from Coca-Cola, moved to Beaufort about 12 years ago.
"I'm excited to see if we can get our town looking like it should," he said. "It's so wonderful when you can go into town and you can see this town is bursting with pride. This town looks like people don't care, and that's not true."
City officials are planning beautification and renovation projects for streets and buildings, but Michau doesn't want to wait five to 10 years for their completion.
He and his small band of accomplices started by talking to city officials about problems they've seen -- street signs almost too dirty to read, angled sign poles, loops of extra wire hanging off utility poles and broken or rusty mail boxes on main streets. Some things, such as cleaning, they can handle on their own, but not everything.
Planning director Libby Anderson said the Public Works Department has tended to some of the problems, such as straightening the sign on Bay Street that marks the city's historic downtown district.
Anderson said other residents can point out unsightly features the city can spruce up quickly.
Not all of the problems on the Beautify Beaufort list are in the city's domain, however. Michau intends to approach Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority about repainting fire hydrants and wants to talk to the S.C. Department of Transportation about its signs.
More complicated will be eliminating the utility poles left in the ground after SCE&G put up new ones. The city has been working on that problem for years, but other utility companies are still using the old poles.
"We don't have complaints about service, just the sloppy manner in which it is delivered," he said.
For his pitch before Beaufort City Council last week, Michau brought packets of photos and information. When Bob Murr, co-owner of Murr Printing, printed the packets, he was so taken with the Beautify Beaufort campaign that he gave Michau a discount. It reminded him of awards his Rotary club in Ohio gave to businesses that did good work around the community.
Flipping through the pages, Murr pointed to an image of a portable crosswalk sign on Bay Street damaged after it was run over. He suggested moving cleaner, newer signs from other places in the city to the main downtown street
"Why do we have to have the dirtiest, busted up piece of furniture on the front lawn?" he asked.
Michau is focusing his efforts on Bay, Boundary and Carteret streets and on Ribaut Road because they are heavily traveled. However, he hopes to expand into surrounding neighborhoods. He is reaching out to garden clubs and local groups for manpower and funding and plans to schedule a cleanup Saturday to get things started.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeonBeaufort.