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Jekyll funding survives attack
The Brunswick News

A state senator from Macon made a last-minute attempt to cut funding for Jekyll Island revitalization bonds, but the effort failed, even though it was supported by Glynn County's senator.

The Georgia Senate passed the state's 2010 $18.6 billion budget, 52-3, Wednesday.

The budget includes a $25 million bond for Jekyll Island to pay for a new conference center and oceanfront public park in the state park.

The bond requires $2.1 million in state funding to get started. Sen. Robert Brown, D-Macon, introduced an amendment to the budget that would have shifted that funding to a veteran's home in Milledgeville that has been closed and residents moved elsewhere.

The amendment failed 31-21, but had the support of Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, one of only two Republicans in the GOP majority Senate to vote in favor of the amendment.

Chapman, who has been an outspoken critic of the project in his district, did not respond to requests for comment on his vote.

Eric Garvey, spokesman and marketing director for the Jekyll Island Authority, said the authority is at a lost to understand why Chapman opposed the project.

"We were surprised to learn of the attempt to remove the funds needed to build the public beachfront park and disappointed that Sen. Chapman again voted against Jekyll," Garvey said.

Chapman has unsuccessfully called upon the state to cancel bonds for Jekyll Island, including $25 million approved last session by legislators and generated by the sale of bonds for the state park earlier this year.

Chapman contends the authority could get a better return on its investment than it's getting with Linger Longer Communities, the authority's partner in the revitalization of the island. The new budget begins July 1, the start of the state's new fiscal year.

"The funding (for Jekyll Island) is now in both the Senate and House versions (of the budget), and we are optimistic it will be a part of the final budget that will get sent to the governor," Garvey said.

Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle, who heads the veteran services committee, spoke against the amendment proposed by Brown on the floor of the Senate. He said funding for the Georgia War Veterans Home had not been requested. The home includes nursing facilities, as well as what had been a residential home for veterans.