Record of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JISPA) Board Meeting of 14 January 2009, as recorded by Steven Y. Newell, Secretary, Jekyll Island Citizens Association
(Note: IPJI has placed some text in “bold” type for emphasis and has clarified some statements)
Chairman Bob Krueger brought the meeting to order at 1:38 PM. Board members present were Buddy DeLoach, Mike Hodges, Sybil Lynn, and Ben Porter. Steve Croy, Becky Kelley, Sam Kellett, Tom Lewis, legal counsel George Zier, and DNR Commissioner Chris Clark were on a conference telephone line. Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks was also present. The audience numbered about 55 persons. Chairman Krueger welcomed Ben Porter back to the Board.
CONSERVATION & PRESERVATION
Chairman Ben Porter called upon Museum Director John Hunter to present this report. Hunter commended the volunteers who participated in the “Hanging of the Greens” in the Historic District for the holidays. He felt that the District looked the best that it has since he has been with the Authority. The contractor working on Indian Mound Cottage has about two and a half more weeks of roof-removal to go, and then the new roofing will be applied (1 month to 6 weeks to completion). During December, the new Holidays in History program was tried – an historical character in costume accompanied each cottage tour. The program was well received, and visitation during the holidays was on a par with visitation in 2007. Conservation Manager Christa Frangiamore worked on arranging a Barrier Island Fire Management Workshop (cooperative with The Nature Conservancy, DNR, and Little St. Simons Island). The Workshop will be held in Jekyll Island State Park on 11 February 2009. Christa has also progressed on her work under her current Coastal Incentive Grant, which deals with the ecotourism products offered in the Park. She is designing and producing a birding checklist, a birding guide, a butterfly guide, and interpretive signs at wildlife-viewing locations. She has also worked on submission of a second Coastal Incentive proposal.
Porter remarked that he had heard many compliments regarding the holiday decorations in the Park, and asked Hunter to thank his staff and volunteers for the displays.
Mindy Egan asked, when counsel Zier completes his review of the Conservation Plan, whether the Plan will be made available to experts in environmental/ecological science (especially those who participated in review of the Plan in 2007) for review? Answer: the earliest date upon which legal review of the Plan can continue is 9 February, and the Authority has not yet determined the extent of review that they will require, so a date for submission of the reviewed Plan to the Authority cannot now be projected. Porter stated that he would report progress on the Plan’s review as it develops. Egan persisted in asking whether environmental/ecological experts would be allowed to review the Plan prior to the Board’s adoption of the Plan? Answer: the Plan will be available for review. [The Conservation Plan was shelved by the board in November of 2007 after environmental groups and members of the general public objected to several features of the revised Plan, particularly with respect to how the Plan’s protective language had been watered down by the members of the board’s Conservation Committee.]
Chairman Mike Hodges announced that he had an action item to bring forward. It is an agreement-reaffirmation document for the Jekyll Oceanfront development. Some confusion arose as attorneys for buyers attempted to close the purchase of some condominium units; the questions centered on the validity of the Oceanfront lease. To answer those questions, counsel Zier put together the reaffirmation agreement, which clarifies some details of the terms of the lease agreement with Leslie Lurken and Jekyll Oceanfront Development Investors LLC. Counsel Zier added that the reaffirmation request was precipitated by Mr. Lurken’s lender, who wanted clarification of the lease terms for the two different parcels of land under Mr. Lurken’s control. The reaffirmation agreement was composed in order to satisfy the bank’s attorneys, but it does not change the terms of the original lease or the prospective lease for the planned new construction. The Finance Committee approved the reaffirmation agreement.
Chairman Hodges moved to discussion of the financial statements for the Authority for November and December, 2008. An attempt is being made by the financial division of the Authority to change procedures so that when the Board meets, the completed financial statements from the previous month will be at hand. In November, total revenues to the Authority were 14% below projected budget, and for the five fiscal-year months ending at the end of November, the revenues were 7% under projected budget. In November, expenses fell at 10% under projected budget, as compared to 2% over for the fiscal year. At the end of December, net operating income for the fiscal year was 68% below budget. When steps began to be taken to bring revenues more in line with expenses, it stopped the enlarging of the gap between these two categories. In November, expenses were $123,000 less than had been budgeted, and in December, they were $47,000 less than had been budgeted. Bottom line: revenues appear to have been stabilized, and expenses have been reduced during FY 08/09. Ben Porter asked for clarification: revenues for FY 08/09 have declined, and expenses for FY 08/09 have increased? Answer: yes. Porter inquired about steps to remedy this situation? Answer: measures to increase revenues (e.g., the new gate arm at the Greeting Station) and draconian expense cuts. Director Hooks added that some expense-reduction measures are just coming to the bottom line in the month of January. Hooks observed that the US economic slump is affecting Park revenues, and this can be seen in the lease income (Park entrepreneurs are making less money).
Accounting Director Marjorie Johnson pointed out that the Convention Center, Summer Waves, and Mini-Golf are all at least slightly ahead of budgeted income. Park restaurants are suffering the hardest economic hits. Marketing ploys are being used in an attempt to improve income at Morgan’s Grill and at Blackbeard’s (e.g., early-bird specials and Friday night Happy Hour). New programs are being instituted at the Golf Complex also (e.g., participation in the Hamptons Executive Golf Program, and offering of clinics). One item in the Park budget that has caused expenses to rise has been expenses over budget associated with contract negotiation and preparation (legal, consulting, and engineering fees). The portion of this contracting expense that is associated with Linger Longer Jekyll’s contract may be partially offset by bond income, once the $25 million State bond issuance takes place. The Human Resources budget had been showing a negative variance to budget for several months, but is now showing a positive variance. Energy costs (fuel, electric power) have also come down, due to a drop in gas cost, and to careful use of electricity.
David Egan inquired about the State bond issuance that is to cover infrastructure costs associated with the Linger Longer Jekyll Beach Village – would the tenure of the bond be 20 years, or 25 years? Answer: the bonds have not been issued, so the final duration of bond life has not been decided – Ben Porter noted that the date of bond issuance is now likely to come in February rather than January. Chairman Krueger pointed out that it is projected that there will be a five-year grace period, during which no repayments will be made, so this may account for reporting of both 20-year and 25-year terms. Mike Hodges observed that the typical bond life is 25 years, though the principal may not require servicing for the first 5 years. [The Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission says that the Jekyll bond will have a 20-year term. All state bonds being issued for Fiscal Year 2009/2010 have terms of either 5 or 20 years]. Egan projected, then, that the Authority would have to pay interest for the first 5 years? Answer: we may get a bye on both principal and interest payments for the first 5 years. [The question remains, who will then pay the interest on the bond for years 1 through 5?].
Nancy Reed commented that she had heard that the Jekyll Island State Park Easter Festival will not be held in 2009. She felt that this was an unfortunate decision, since so many local citizens have enjoyed this celebration in the past (and she confided that it is one of her favorite volunteering opportunities). Chairman Krueger informed Reed that this item will come up during the Marketing Committee session.
Chairman Steve Croy reported having visited with leaders from both sides of the State Legislature as well as State Executives just prior to the beginning of the 2009 legislative session, and found all pleased with the Park Authority Board’s progress. The Legislature has its plate full with budget and transportation issues, so that it will be a quiet, quiet session with respect to Park issues. Croy reported that he has heard from the Governor’s Office that an additional $25 million in State bonds to be used for Park redevelopment will be included in the budget that he will present to the Legislature during the 2009 session. Croy stated that he has had many, many legislators express confidence in and satisfaction with the Park Authority Board. These legislators have informed Croy that “help is comin’ and it’s comin’ in a hurry”. Chairman Krueger clarified that in the Governor’s FY09/10 budget proposal, there is a $25 million bond intended to assist the revitalization of Jekyll Island State Park. These bonds would provide for enhancements of the park area associated with the Convention Center and the Linger Longer Jekyll Beach Village. Krueger concluded that this was a tremendous vote of confidence by the Governor in the work that the Park Authority Board is doing.
Marketing Director Eric Garvey called attention to the Island Treasures promotion (January-February, during which colorful, handmade glass balls simulating antique fish-net floats are hidden on the beach for visitors to seek out and collect). Guests have expressed great enjoyment in participating in this treasure hunt. The glass floats are also sold at the Welcome Center, which has increased sales during Jan/Feb by 115%. Garvey gave credit for the success of the promotion to Beth Burnsed (Marketing Coordinator) and Debby Wilkes (Welcome Center Manager).
Garvey noted that the Legislative Oversight Committee had placed emphasis on recapturing the convention business of Georgia-based associations. He called upon Director of Convention Sales, Kevin Udell, to review the prospects for this recapturing. At the Meeting Planner Expo in Atlanta in 2007, the Park Authority Marketing Division had begun communicating with a long list of Georgia-based associations, promoting their return to conventioneering in Jekyll Island State Park by describing the new hotels and restaurants that will be available to conventioneers in the near future. Udell pointed out that all of the potential clients on the list are now in his Destination Sales System software, and 200 of these client files are for Georgia-based organizations, with 94 having expressed a desire to return to Jekyll Island State Park’s Convention Center. Every month, Udell travels to the GSAE (Georgia Society of Association Executives) luncheon to get regular, face-to-face contact with key decision-makers. While in Atlanta, Udell also networks with SGMP (Society of Government Meeting Planners) and GAMPI (Georgia Meeting Planners International). Udell also sends out an e-newsletter to all of the groups in his DSS files (560 total), and to the GSAE, etc. members also, to update the potential conventioneers on the progress of revitalization, and on changes to existing hotels. Udell also holds monthly DOS (Director of Sales, for all Park hotels) meetings in the Park, to bring everyone up to date on progress in building convention business. Udell is planning a kiosk that will be used on invited tours for the convention representatives; the kiosk will provide visuals of projected new Park accommodations, and the visiting representatives will be asked for advisory input. The convention groups have found that when they rotate to several locations for their meetings, attendance at Jekyll is routinely the highest, so they are anxious to see improvements in Park accommodations and restaurants. Udell promised more updates on the convention-business planning, including new convention contracts for 2011 and beyond. Udell recognized Jan Powell and Mary Cason (his lean and mean sales team) for their work in seeking convention business.
Human Resources Director Cornell Harvey took the podium and recognized Beth Burnside, Marketing Coordinator, who has been selected to receive the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Service. Harvey pointed out that Burnside was chosen from a large pool of competitors for the Award. Harvey observed that Burnside had done excellent work in coordinating events such as the Shrimp & Grits Festival, and had twins in the middle of her fine work! Harvey commended Burnside for public service at its finest. Krueger congratulated Burnside, and noted that she will be traveling to Atlanta for further recognition and a meeting with Governor Perdue.
Garvey reported that 273 sea-turtle auto-license tags have been sold to date, lagging behind expectations (1000 sales must be recorded prior to production of the tags). The Jekyll Island Citizens Association has offered to help spread the word that tag sales need to pick up speed (www.jekyllcitizens.org).
Regarding the Park’s Easter Festival, Garvey explained that a decision was made to allocate the Festival’s funds to the Earth Day event (a “Shellebration” at the Sea Turtle Center) instead (two weeks after Easter). Garvey felt that Earth Day was more in line with the environmentally sensitive mission of the Park Authority than the Easter Festival. The Georgia Egg Commission was formerly a sponsor of the Easter event, but they have withdrawn their support. Garvey felt that local churches have larger Easter events than does the Park, so the Park’s cancellation of its Easter event wouldn’t likely be missed.
Doc Dougherty expressed dismay at cancellation of the Park’s Easter Festival. He stated that it is the single most financially rewarding day of the year for many of the Park’s shops. The Easter event has been traditional in the Park for many years. Dougherty understood the necessity for shifting of financial resources, but he implored the Board to find a way to support the Park’s Easter Festival, and continue the tradition. Chairman Krueger suggested to Dougherty that he get together with Director Hooks and Garvey to see what can be worked out. Mark Lichtenstein described his volunteering at the Park’s Easter event, and the enjoyment of the children who participated. All of the children find eggs; none go home disappointed. Lichtenstein requested that the Authority find a way to hold both Earth Day and Easter events, perhaps combining them.
Mindy Egan noted that Eric Garvey had overlooked the website of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island (www.savejekyllisland.org) as a source of prominently displayed information regarding the sea-turtle auto-license tag.
PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP COMMITTEE
Chairman Krueger had no new information to report.
David Egan inquired whether Linger Longer Jekyll has decided to build the potential loft condominiums (above the retail stores) that they showed in their Beach Village plan. Answer: no firm decision has been made, but it is likely that the loft condominiums will be built.
Egan went on to ask about the pricing of the time-share units that will be built in the Beach Village – in the December financial projections of the Park Authority, the price cited for the time-share units is some 20% higher than the price given by Linger Longer representatives at their public hearing in October? Answer: the prices in the December projections were provided by Linger Longer. The October values were rough estimates. Egan asked whether this situation was the same for the mid-scale hotel planned for the Beach Village, for which the December prices are about 15% higher than October values? Answer: yes. Chairman Krueger clarified the nature of the “time-share” units – he preferred the term “vacation-ownership” units.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Director Hooks recognized Johnny Paulk for his induction into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame, a who’s who of golf (Paulk received a long, standing ovation). Paulk drew attention to a new piece of Tiffany glass for the Park (his Hall of Fame trophy), noting that now we have two Tiffany locations, some in Faith Chapel, and one at the Paulk household.
Hooks moved to the Park’s land-delineation question. He noted that the 1996 Master Plan included a full delineation of developed and undeveloped acreage, and that new projects have required a continuing tracking of changes in developed acreage. Legal definitions of developed and undeveloped acreage involved examination of precedents and advice from the State Attorney General’s Office. The definition of developed acreage includes platted areas, paved roads, bike paths, golf courses [excluding 65 acres of man-made, golf course ponds that serve as water hazards/penalty stroke areas], maintained historic sites, and lakes and ponds used for recreation. Landscape Superintendent Cliff Gawron has been responsible for tracking any changes in developed acreage. In July, 2008, the Authority signed a contract for use of LIDAR technology for checking the developed-acreage estimates with their consulting engineers from Thomas & Hutton. The work was completed in September, 2008. [In May, 2008, IPJI announced that independent research was underway using LiDAR technology to recalculate].
Bill Foster of Thomas & Hutton took the floor, and summarized the acreage delineation. The work began with digitization of the map from the 1996 Master Plan. Next the Jekyll Island portions of the GIS LIDAR maps of Glynn County were purchased from the County, and used to determine the new breakdown of developed/undeveloped acreage, with the edge being the contour line 4.3 feet above mean sea level, as per the 1996 Master Plan. The revised map gave 4,152 acres total, 74 acres smaller than the 1996 determination. Also, 26 acres changed from the undeveloped to the developed classification. That left 55.57 acres available for future development, in view of the legal requirement that only 35% of the Park’s acreage can be used for development.
Ben Porter asked whether the technology used was the best available? Answer: LIDAR is the latest and greatest technology for this purpose. The only additional step that could be taken for more accuracy would be total on-the-ground surveying of the entire island, a job costing more than $500,000. Porter asked whether Foster believed that his new estimate was an accurate delineation of developed and undeveloped land. Answer: it is accurate.
Mike Hodges noted that there have been assertions that developed acreage in the Park is now greater than 35% of Park acreage. He asked how the Thomas & Hutton findings square with that assertion. Director Hooks stated that the key point is the well defined definitions of developed/undeveloped acreage from the 1996 Master Plan that were used by Thomas & Hutton. The new delineation is correct and conservative. Ben Porter inquired whether the Master Plan revision (adopted in connection with the planning for the Linger Longer Jekyll Beach Village – see JICANet Update Vol. IX, Number 58, 17 Nov 08)? Answer: it is included. Chairman Krueger declared that it is the Authority’s opinion that the assertion (by University of Georgia personnel) that developed acreage is now greater than 35% was based on taking of liberties with definitions of developed/undeveloped acreage. Steve Croy pointed out that the University of Georgia study was performed by a student, and his professor would not back up the study, due to use of a tidal level not considered correct. Sybil Lynn inquired whether the Linger Longer Jekyll Beach Village acreage was to be designated newly developed. Answer: this acreage was already considered developed. Mike Hodges asked how much it cost to find out that what they thought was true was true. Bill Foster of Thomas & Hutton stated that the LIDAR panels that they purchased cost between $300 and 400. Director Hooks noted the importance of continued tracking of the developed/undeveloped breakdown, emphasizing the large shift in acreage from north to south ends of the Park. He felt that the new LIDAR study was money well spent. Croy seconded Hooks’ comment on the value of continued tracking, so that the Board can confirm what its thoughts are, because the Board’s detractors sometimes let the facts get in the way of their assumptions.
Director Hooks reported that the Authority is looking into renewing its contract with Steve Sharpe for the management of Summer Waves, and into changing the audio-visual provider for the Convention Center. Hooks also noted that Authority staff will soon be meeting with Linger Longer Jekyll representatives to work on timing issues for the building of the Beach Village. Chairman Krueger asked Hooks to take it under advisement that there are objections to the canceling of the Park’s Easter Festival.
Frank Mirasola asked Bill Foster how the various land-type definitions (e.g., wetlands) were applied on the land-delineation map that he has generated. Answer: Thomas & Hutton did not attempt to define types of land. Rather, they focused on the delineation of developed tracts. They accepted all land-type designations (e.g., wetlands) from the 1996 Master Plan. Mirasola observed that sometimes when presentations like Thomas & Hutton’s are made, it can be inferred incorrectly that all parts of the maps or charts shown are now found to be correct and accurate. Cliff Gawron clarified that Foster was determining an accurate 4.3-foot contour, not defining ecosystem types such as wetlands. All developed/undeveloped determinations were based on the specific language of the 1996 Master Plan.
Kevin Runner of Jekyll Ocean Oaks (Club Hotel operators) proposed to the Board that they consider renaming Captain Wylly Road to Johnny Paulk Drive. Chairman Krueger took the suggestion under advisement.
David Egan requested information on the timing for groundbreaking at Canopy Bluff? Answer: an additional contract is being negotiated, and the groundbreaking should take place following completion of that contract.
Chairman Krueger reported that the meeting with the Legislative Oversight Committee had gone well in December, and the invitations to potential participants in the Jekyll Advisory Forum have gone out, with six having responded positively. Mike Hodges and his Finance Committee are now charged with looking into the question of potential changes to the residential leases, and with seeking recommendations.
Steve Croy expressed happiness at seeing Ben Porter back at work on the Board. Porter gave credit to “clean living lately.”
Chairman Krueger adjourned the Committee Session at 2:48 PM, and opened the Board Meeting at 3:00 PM. The minutes of the December meeting were approved, and the reaffirmation agreement for Jekyll Oceanfront was approved. Chairman Krueger invited the Board to take a quick hard-hat tour of the new Hampton Inn & Suites building. The Board meeting was adjourned at 3:03 PM.