Record of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JISPA) Board Meeting of 20 October 2008, as recorded by Steven Y. Newell, Secretary, Jekyll Island Citizens Association

(Note: IPJI has placed some text in “bold” type for emphasis)


Chairman Bob Krueger brought the meeting to order at 9:43 AM. Board members present were Mike Hodges, Becky Kelley, Bob Krueger, Tom Lewis, Sybil Lynn, and Ben Porter. Steve Croy was on a conference telephone line. Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks, legal counsels Brooks Stillwell and Adam Kirk, and local Senator Jeff Chapman were also present. The audience numbered about 45 persons. Chairman Krueger welcomed Tom Lewis to the Board, and administered the oath of office to Mr. Lewis. Lewis will take the committee positions that Ed Boshears had held.

COMMITTEE SESSIONS:

CONSERVATION & PRESERVATION

Chairman Ben Porter stated that his report was in the Board packet. He asked Museum Director John Hunter if he would like to add anything, and Hunter declined. Bonnie Newell inquired about the fate of the Park’s Conservation Plan (which had been set for release at this meeting, according to statements made at the September Board meeting; see JICANet Update Vol. IX, No. 47, 22
September 2008)? Newell noted that the Plan has been in legal review for so long that perhaps new species would evolve in the Park before the Plan is released. Answer: legal counsel George Zier has now been encumbered with any number of legal issues, and his responsibilities have had to be prioritized. The Conservation Plan is still on his desk, and no commitments can now be made as to the date of its release. After some other legal issues are resolved, the Plan will be high on the Board’s list of priorities.

FINANCE COMMITTEE

Chairman Hodges highlighted September’s financials. The percentage of hotel rooms occupied in September, 2008 was down relative to September, 2007 (43% versus 46%). The average daily room rate is down about $3.70 year-to-year.Hotel income is calculated to be about 1/3 down from year to year for September.Revenues to the Authority are down $122,000 for the first quarter of fiscal 2009
as opposed to FY2008, and $288,000 (5%) below budget. All budget categories are down for FY2009, except for Summer Waves and the Sea Turtle Center. On the expenditure side, the budget is $99,000 over that planned for the first quarter of FY2009. The Authority is now 33% under budget for net operating income. Director Hooks reported that he and Accounting Director Marjorie Johnson have looked at each department and forecast potential changes, including implementing new golf rates, menu changes at eateries, use of a perpetual inventory system at the Sea Turtle Center, etc. To counter the unfavorable position in parking-fee income (-$56,000), a new scanner system has been
installed. The new system detects the identity of persons passing the scanner with expired decals. A new gate may also be installed. Letters are being sent out to about 200 persons who have been using expired decals. A couple of the already-approved capital projects are being postponed (>$100,000). A manager’s meeting to be held within the week will result in planning for very conservative spending practices.

Chairman Hodges proposed a new lease amendment for Jekyll Harbor Marina for the board’s consideration. The lease would be extended to January of 2012, in response to some capital improvements that were requested by the Board and which have been completed. Rent will be stabilized for five years, and will then move to a CPI annual increase. New mortgage and default clauses will be included in the amendment.

Chairman Hodges proposed a lease for Jekyll Oceanfront Resort for 9.6 acres of the total 14-acre site, and the Finance Committee approved it.

Senator Chapman welcomed Tom Lewis to the Board, and asked how far along the Board is in its preparing of the long-term contract with Linger Longer Communities (LLC) as the Private Revitalization Partner? Answer: the target date for completion of the contract is 1 November, 2008. Chapman requested some time for public review of the finished product. Chapman expressed strong interest in reviewing the contract before it is signed, so that he can best represent the electorate in the Third District. Chairman Krueger stated that he would certainly take this idea under advisement to see what the Board would see there.
Chapman asked when he might receive word regarding his request to be allowed to review the document before it is signed. Krueger responded that he has been out of State for several days and would need to bring himself up to speed. He proposed that he and Chapman spend some time together in the near future discussing the long-term contract and its potential review by the public.

David Egan requested information about the new lease for the Jekyll Oceanfront property: would it include a rent abatement similar to that provided the group leasing the Canopy Bluff site (the old Buccaneer site)? Answer (from counsel Stillwell): there is no abatement on the base rental, but there is a ramp-up period of ten years on the fee due the Authority from the gross revenue (4.5%). Since the new hotel will be a condo-hotel, the units will be sold, not rented, so after the sales are complete, there will be no abatement. Egan wondered how similar this arrangement was to the Canopy Bluff abatement? Answer: it is similar, but the
investment in the Oceanfront property is considerably smaller, so the abatement amount will be smaller also.

Frank Mirasola asked whether the current Jekyll Oceanfront plan is a part of the plan to build a new hotel on the Oceanfront property that the Board approved some time ago? Answer: the part that is being discussed today is phase 1 of the Oceanfront’s plans, and the second phase will include a hotel unit with 28,000 square feet of meeting space.

PERSONNEL COMMITTEE

Chairman Lynn requested that Human Resources Director Cornell Harvey announce some recent Faithful Service Awards. Harvey repeated the presentation of five awards, that had taken place at the 14 October staff meeting: Eddie Hichborn, 30 years with the golf division; Jan Caton, 25 years, now
managing the mini-golf operations; John Day, 25 years with water/wastewater; David Smith, 25 years with the Fire Department. All four have provided outstanding service to the Park Authority, helping make the Park a choice destination for family outings and vacations. Chairman Krueger thanked the four awardees for their cumulative century of service to the Park.

Richard Van Iderstyne described an incident that had recently taken place at the Park’s airport. At about 9:30 PM, a small plane had landed in such a way that substantial damage was done to the aircraft (though there were no injuries to people). Within about 2 minutes, the State Patrol was on the scene with four squadcars. Five minutes later, the Park Fire Department arrived to assist. Van Iderstyne wished to especially commend Craig Harden of the Fire Department who assisted with handling the accident, and Cade Stepp, who came over immediately from Brunswick to assist in moving the damaged plane with a frontend loader. Chairman Krueger noted that it is characteristic of Authority staff to respond in fine fashion to emergency situations.

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE

Chairman Croy stated that after learning the details of the new LLC Beach Village proposal, he circled back to the Capital and gave key legislators an update of where the Board “was at”, and “all’s good on that front”.

MARKETING COMMITTEE

In the absence of Chairman Kellett, Marketing Director Eric Garvey presented an update. Garvey called attention to the Beach Music, the Shrimp & Grits, and the Colonial Coast Birding & Nature Festivals, and the Beach Christian Music Concert. All events were successful to varying degrees, especially the Shrimp & Grits Festival, which was covered by the Ladies Home Journal (September
issue). The Birding Festival received coverage by Charles Seabrook in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. Other coverage included an article on the Georgia Sea Turtle Center in Southern Living (3-pages in October issue, Georgia Section), and Creative Loafing selected Jekyll Island State Park as its #1 beach getaway destination. Promotions are being designed in concert with Park hotels to drive visitation during the winter months. Calls are going out to all convention meeting clients to let them know that the Convention Center will be operational throughout the transition to its expanded form, and that two new hotels will be located within easy walking distance of the new version of the Center (credit was given to Convention Sales Director Kevin Udell for this behind-the-scenes work).

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

Chairman Krueger called upon Project Manager Jim Broadwell to present the Park’s Design Guidelines for second reading, which had been postponed for a month because of the long list of comments that had been received on first reading (which had consisted of posting on the Authority website for one month). Some of the comments and suggestions had resulted in changes to the original draft. Broadwell expressed confidence in the usefulness of the final draft, which would now be ready for adoption.

Senior Facilities Director Ronny Smith reported on FEMA floodplain management. Only minor changes were needed to make the Park’s ordinance consistent with the Glynn County regulations. One notable change was the insertion into the Park’s ordinance of the requirement for new construction in the Park to be 200 feet from the mean high tide line.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S UPDATE

Director Hooks pointed out to the Board a section of Beachscape (the pamphlet passed out at the Parking Fee Booth) that begins the Park’s effort to better educate the Park’s visitors about the special nature of the Park (e.g, the sensitivity of the sand dunes, the need to avoid collection of living shore creatures, etc.). Other educational materials are planned.

The Authority is now recycling within its business offices and facilities. The current Recycling Center will become the Recycling Park, which should attract visitors and residents, encouraging them to recycle.

The County SPLOST monies are being withheld from the Park until the County’s tier-1 projects are addressed, so some Park projects will have to be postponed (bike-path and beach-access enhancements).

Two public presentations were recently held: 1) of the Bleakly report on estimated new accommodations needed to provide the Authority with the revenue that it has stated is needed to balance the Park’s budget; 2) of the new LLC Beach Village plan (see JICANet Update Vol. IX, No. 53, 22 October 2008). The Authority will have the Q&A sessions from these presentations transcribed, and distributed to Board members.

Hooks explained that recent letters to homeowners regarding the appropriate procedure for sending of rental tax were NOT intended to ferret out identities of visitors, or any other personal information. They were only intended to educate Park residents who might be subletting their homes.

There are now over 1,400 reservations for the new sea-turtle auto-license tags, but production of the tags is now on hold because of legal reviews. The new birding platform at the Welcome Center, which has received some private financial support, should go into operation next week.

The next Park Town Hall Meeting will be held on 13 November, from 5:00-6:30 PM. Becky Kelley asked about the nature of these meetings? Answer: it is an opportunity for citizens to discuss operational issues (anything that is not policy related).

Chairman Krueger thanked Representative Jerry Keen (Chair of the Park’s Legislative Oversight Committee) for coming to the meeting. Keen apologized for being late, and noted that he had made the mistake of checking in at his office on the way to the Board meeting.

Chairman Krueger noted that he and Director Hooks are continuing to work on plans for a Jekyll Forum (an advisory group representing several factions interested in the future of Jekyll Island State Park). He hopes to have something in place by the end of the quarter. [IPJI Note: Chairman Krueger’s list of interested “stakeholders” who will be part of his proposed “Jekyll Forum” does not include the IPJI, despite the fact that IPJI represents the largest group of the park’s stakeholders, some 10,000 Jekyll visitors. This omission speaks volumes about the role of public input in the Board’s approach to park revitalization].

Chairman Krueger closed the Committee Session at 10:32 AM. Chairman Krueger opened the Action Session at 10:45 AM. Tony Cerrato, whose comment had been overlooked at the end of the Committee Session, stated that the Park’s Garden Club had committed $10,800 for four items: 1) the box-turtle exhibit at the Sea Turtle Center; 2) benches along Riverview Drive; 3) new swings at the Clam Creek picnic area; 4) replacement of two dead cabbage palms at the Turtle Center. Chairman Krueger thanked the residents for their involvement in Park activities, both financially and timewise.

All action items from above were approved, and Chairman Krueger adjourned the meeting at 10:50 AM.