Record of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JISPA) Board Meeting of 11 August 2008, as recorded by Steven Y. Newell, Secretary, Jekyll Island Citizens Association
(Note: IPJI has placed some text in “bold” type for emphasis)
Chairman Porter brought the meeting to order at 9:37 AM. Board members present were Ed Boshears, Steve Croy, Buddy DeLoach, Mike Hodges, Bob Krueger, and Sybil Lynn. Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks was also present, and Becky Kelley and Counsel George Zier were on a conference telephone line. The audience numbered about 40 persons.
CONSERVATION & PRESERVATION COMMITTE
Chairman Hodges reported no action items, and called upon Museum Director John Hunter for an update on activities. Hunter reported that the refurbishing work on Indian Mound Cottage is progressing on schedule; the interior work is nearly complete, and the exterior work will begin soon. The first of the new trams for historic tours has arrived in the Park. The Museum staff has been working with elementary-school children, teaching them colonial-period games, for example. Conservation Manager Christa Frangiamore took the floor and presented updates in her sector. She reported that there were no new easy-access points found, into the new firebreak clearings. Therefore, for now, there will be no special steps taken to prevent joyriding in the new clearings by off-road vehicles. She called for residents to keep an eye on the clearings, and report any joyriding to her. Any further disturbances of the peace via the clearings will elicit new actions to prevent them. Landscape superintendent Cliff Gawron and Frangiamore have been examining the Park’s current draft tree ordinance, and working on a revision. The proposed wave-monitoring project, joint between Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the Park Authority, is nearing reality, after productive discussions with Villas By The Sea personnel. Antennas may be mounted on the Villas leasehold. Plans for southend walking trails are underway, with the assistance of Gawron’s interns; these would be interpretive trails, for wildlife viewing. They would be located in sites that would not require Shore Protection permits. Frangiamore has begun research into the feasibility of setting up true, wide-spectrum recycling centers in the Park.
Mindy Egan inquired about the location of the potential southend trails? Answer: past the bird-banding station and back north past the gun mounts to St. Andrews Park, and then back through the woods to the origin point. The idea is to make available all of the types of ecosystems in that area of the Park, and to provide interpretive signage.
Steve Newell stated that he had thought that the Park’s Conservation Plan would be presented at the August meeting? Answer: Counsel Zier had estimated that he would have the Plan ready for the Board at the September, 2008, meeting.
Chairman Krueger reported high (75%) average hotel-occupancy rates for July, but noted that this was for a reduced total number of units. A number of routine housekeeping operations have been conducted regarding individual business leases. The Governor’s Office has called upon the Park Authority to increase its financial restraint, coinciding with the same directive to all State agencies. Marjorie Johnson reported that the Park’s revenues missed target by $30,000 for the month of July, but this was mitigated by a $15,000 cutback in expenses for the month. A surprise positive came from Convention Center revenues, which were $1,000 higher than target for the month.
Krueger announced one action item: voting was needed for a bank resolution allowing Executive Director Hooks to sign-off on banking transactions for the Park. Mike Hodges abstained in this voting by the Finance Committee.
Mindy Egan asked whether the $25 million in bond income that the Governor had recently promised to the Park Authority would be affected by the Governor’s call for financial restraint? Answer: no effect is anticipated. Ed Boshears inquired whether the bonds have yet been sold? Answer: they will be sold in October, 2008.
Chairwoman Lynn announced that John Niehardt had been named as the new Golf Course Maintenance Supervisor. A Lease Coordinator is being sought to work with Marjorie Johnson. Human Resources Director Cornell Harvey listed Faithful Service Awards to be presented at the next staff meeting; they will go to Greg Wheeler (15 years of service), Keith Alcantera (15), J. Cade Stepp (10), and Marcia Clark (10). Annual enrollment for flexible benefits is coming up (10 October to 10 November).
Chairman Croy stated that “all’s good in Atlanta with the Governor and the Lt. Governor”, who have asked that the Board continue its good work. Chairman Porter joked that that concluded one of Croy’s better reports.
Chairman Porter called upon Marketing Director Eric Garvey (in Chairman Kellet’s absence). Garvey noted that strong media coverage is continuing of the Park’s sea-turtle conservation activity (both the Brunswick News and the Georgia Times Union had recent feature articles). A meeting-planner publication for the coast of Georgia is in the works. Good Morning America recently had a weekend piece about the Park as an enjoyable destination, which elicited a jump in website visitation of 170%. In October, the Pulitzer Event will be held in the Park, sponsored by the UGA Foundation and the Georgia Review (four Pulitzer winners will be the guests of honor). Jekyll Island State Park was chosen for this event because of the connection of the Pulitzer family to the Park’s Historic District, and because of plans that the School of Ecology has for projects sited in the Park. The 1000-signee level has been reached for the Sea Turtle License Tag, so the signees will soon receive requests for the $25 tag fee, and tag production will begin. The “staycation” promotion (encouraging Georgia folks to take their vacations in their home state, in Jekyll Island State Park) is underway, and the Park’s hotels have reported that the promotion is proving effective (2000 visitors to the “staycation” web page; $9,600 in money spent in response to the promotion at the Park’s hotels). The Beach Music Festival would not involve an entry charge, and the 100 VIP tickets were sold out two weeks earlier. The Festival was advertised on Comcast Cable in Georgia and north Florida. Two group-sales events were held in August, and the producers of these events were pleased. Also, the University of Michigan ladies soccer team trained on the Park’s fields for a 10-day period (the U of M team is coached by Greg Ryan, former coach of the US National Team). It is hoped that more prestigious soccer teams will choose to come to the Park.
Ed Boshears asked for clarification: would the U of M soccer team be using the Park’s soccer fields on the south end? Answer: yes. Boshears continued: how many additional cars will be coming to the Park during the Beach Music Festival? Answer: about 4,000 more than usual, or 10,000 cars on Saturday the 16th. Where will these extra cars be parked? Answer: in the accessory lot across from the Beach Deck, or in the lots north of the Convention Center, or in marked roadside areas.
Chairman Porter joked that an extra EMT should be present for the Music Festival, since Bob Krueger would be shagging at the Festival. Krueger retorted that he is actually a pretty good shagger!
Richard Van Iderstyne described the visit by the Franklin Pond group. He greatly admired and enjoyed the chamber music produced by this group of young musicians (12-16 years of age). He encouraged Park residents and the Authority to support this activity, but he made the point that Faith Chapel, where the musicians played, needs attention for the mildew inside. Chairman Porter instructed Eric Garvey to follow up on Van Iderstyne’s suggestion. Jean Poleszak added the information that Franklin Pond is associated with the Atlanta Symphony, and that the Jekyll Island Arts Association is a sponsor of the Park’s Franklin Pond event. Poleszak also called for the initiation of a Chatauqua event for Jekyll Island State Park; it is her opinion that the Park would be a perfect venue for a Chatauqua, which could be a several-week event that could be set for a slow time for vacationers in the Park. Chairman Porter asked Eric Garvey to contact the Arts Association about the possibility of setting up a Chatauqua event.
PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP COMMITTEE
Chairman Porter announced that there would be no presentation at the day’s meeting of a new proposal for a Town Center by Linger Longer Communities (LLC). He explained that LLC has not yet made enough progress in developing its new plan. There are too many pieces to this puzzle, and digestion of a tremendous amount of input is still taking place. There are great hopes for a public presentation by LLC in September, 2008.
Mindy Egan asked what is happening to the public input regarding LLC’s previous proposals for a Town Center in the Park – will Linger Longer and the Park Authority be making the public input available to the public, so that the public can look at LLC’s new proposal, and judge for themselves whether LLC has responded appropriately to the public input? Answer: making this body of information public would be difficult, but the information is being considered in development of the new plan. Ed Boshears inquired about the identity of those with the Authority who are working with LLC on the new proposal for a Town Center? Answer: Director Hooks, Bob Krueger, and Chairman Porter, along with, on occasion, Mike Hodges.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chairman Porter announced that the 2008 Beach Lighting Ordinance is ready for second reading and adoption. Counsel Zier reported that outside comments, including those of Vance Hughes (involving corrections noted by Hughes as an outside lawyer), have been taken into account in the final version of the new ordinance, which is now on the Authority website. Becky Kelley reported that she is very supportive of the new ordinance. The Board voted unanimously to support adoption of the new ordinance, and Porter stated that he was very glad to have the Authority leading the way on the eastern USA Coast for lighting regulations that are maximally protective of sea-turtle nesting.
Chairman Porter called upon Project Manager Jim Broadwell to discuss the new Design Guidelines draft. Broadwell pointed out that the draft Guidelines contain primarily criteria for making development decisions that have been the informal standards used for quite a while by the Authority. However, now the Guidelines will be put into formal effect, and the process of reaching decisions (approval/disapproval) will be clearly stated. Broadwell stated that he would post the Guidelines on the Authority website for 30 days of public review. Porter added that the main purpose of producing the Design Guidelines is to solidify the theme for development in Jekyll Island State Park. He called for study of the draft and submission of comments.
Mindy Egan asked about the height restriction for buildings; she wondered whether developers could receive variances on this when they were restricted in the horizontal dimensions of their buildings (for example, when they are required to save particular specimen trees)? Answer: it would not be called a variance, because the rules are simply guidelines, but a developer would be given the right to penetrate the height restrictions in a case such as Egan described, and such as has happened with the Canopy Bluff developers. The payback for the Authority came in the form of a specimen group of live oaks, and the addition of more open space. The additional height amounted to 2% more than originally permitted, throughout the hotel building. Porter added that the Authority had denied permission to the Canopy Bluff group when they asked to be allowed to remove the specimen oaks, and this had forced the developers to do considerably more design work to arrive at a small increase in roof height, which the Authority chose to forgive.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT
Director Hooks apologized for the remaining problems in using computerized distribution of documents to the Board, but he asked for forbearance, in view of the fact that paper is being saved, and about $5,000 can be saved in FedEx delivery fees. Hooks has notified Authority staffers that they must cut expenses wherever possible, to comply with the Governor’s financial-restraint request. Hurricane-preparedness plans have been prepared, and been shared with Park business owners and conventioneers; they will be presented to the Citizens Association at their next meeting in September. Hooks announced that Town Hall Meetings with Park residents will begin within the next few weeks. Key managers and Director Hooks will attend these meetings, and respond to questions and comments from Park residents.
Chairman Porter noted that Director Hooks likes to get things done punctually, and may at times “beat up” the Board to accomplish his missions. He is also an outstanding communicator. For this reason, his Town Hall Meetings should be very worthwhile.
Ed Boshears inquired about Director Hooks’ statement in his Board report that dealt with his analysis of the current spending upon public-relations consultants. He asked for clarification. Hooks explained that he feels that the return on this spending has not been up to par, and he and Eric Garvey have been looking at new directions in this area.
Buddy DeLoach requested of Director Hooks that he consider not using unnecessary images in his computer-distributed documents. For example, the color-picture cover took ages to print.
Georgia Sea Turtle Center Veterinarian Terry Norton took the floor, and Chairman Porter praised his work in advancing the Center’s causes and recognition. Norton reported that turtle Dylan is off the central Florida east coast, and apparently doing well. Georgia’s loggerhead nesting is on a record pace (1,544 nests on the Georgia coast, and 165 in the Park [plus 276 false crawls], with the potential for more). One potential explanation for the high rate of nesting is that a cold-water current in 2004 affected the prey base, delaying some nesting into later years (loggerheads ordinarily nest every 2-3 years). The Center has several loggerhead patients as of now, but these are recovering, so there should be more releases coming in the next few months.
Chairman Porter inquired about visitation rates at the Center? Answer: during the first year of operation, 110,000 visitors have toured the Center.
Chairman Porter adjourned the Committee Session at 10:20 AM.
At 10:37 AM, Chairman Porter convened the Board Meeting. The July minutes were approved. The bank resolution permitting Director Hooks to sign-off on banking transactions was approved. The 2008 Beach Lighting Ordinance was adopted. Director Hooks asked the Board to recognize the dedicated, good work of the Authority’s maintenance staff, which did an outstanding job cleaning up after a recent storm.
Chairman Porter, as the final meeting item, announced his retirement from the Chairman’s post, and noted that he will serve the remainder of his term as a Board member. He expressed his appreciation to all those who have supported his efforts as the Park Authority Chairman of the Board, including Governor Perdue, the legislative leadership, and other Georgians. He thanked the Board for its hard work in attempting to bring about revitalization of the Park. He then handed the Chairman’s gavel on to the new Chairman, Bob Krueger.
Chairman Krueger stated that he was honored to follow in the footsteps of Ben Porter. Krueger read an open letter to the Jekyll Island State Park Authority Board of Directors, praising the good job of volunteer work that former Chairman Porter has accomplished, with the “highest degree of dedication and integrity”. Krueger accepted the gavel with thanks to Porter for his great sacrifice of time and effort on behalf of the citizens of Georgia. Krueger presented Porter with a plaque recognizing his service, and added a gift: a carved wooden box with a sea turtle on the cover. Krueger announced that he would be making several appointments in the next few weeks, and closed the meeting at 10:45 AM.