Record of the April 19, 2010 JekylI Island State Park Authority Board Meeting in the Convention Center as recorded for JICA
(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 9:30 AM. Board members present were Steve Croy, Buddy DeLoach, Mike Hodges, Sybil Lynn, Ben Porter, and Richard Royal. Also present were legal counsel Brooks Stillwell and Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks. The audience numbered about 41 persons.
CONSERVATION AND PRESERVATION
Chairman Royal called upon Marketing Director Eric Garvey. Garvey summarized the current work of the committee chosen to prepare a new Conservation Plan for Jekyll Island State Park (Garvey is a committee member). Garvey announced that AECom has been chosen to serve as a consultant to the committee, primarily assisting in the organization of the document. The committee is now working on developing a contract between the Park Authority and AECom, defining the consultant's scope of work. At that point, Turtle Center Director Terry Norton arrived (he chairs the Conservation Plan Committee). Norton promised a final Plan by January, 2011. The Board approved the development of a contract with AECom.
Museum Director John Hunter summarized activities in the Historic District. Hunter planned to meet within the week with the Jekyll Island Foundation regarding joint seeking of donors of funds for currently planned projects in the Park's Historic District (museum renovation, and refurbishment of Hollybourne Cottage, $4.8 million total).
Chairman Hodges reported total revenues for March were $1.263 million (slightly better than budget). For the first nine months of the fiscal year, the total revenues were $11.5 million ($62,000 under budget, and $280,000 less than the same period in 2009). Golf revenues were $270,000 under budget for the year to date. Expenditures for March were $1.163 million ($47,000 less than budgeted). For the year to date, expenditures amount to about $11 million ($659,000 less than budgeted, and $236,000 less than spent during the same period in 2009). Hodges commended the Authority staff for holding down expenses. Net operating cash flow for March was $99,552 ($48,000 more than budgeted). For the year to date, net operating cash flow was a positive $500,000 (a loss of $96,000 had been expected).
Accounting Director Marjorie Johnson reported that Parking Fee revenues were up 60% for the month of March, decal sales were up 55%, and daily traffic flow was up 27%. For the year to date, revenues were up 34%, traffic flow was down 9%, and decal sales were up 36%. Johnson noted that visitation in April appears to be quite strong. Johnson concluded by remarking that our State revenues were up in March by 1%, the first monthly increase in State income since November of 2008. There are also hints that business revenues in the Park are beginning to turn upward.
Chairman Hodges observed that hotel business in the Park is still declining; for example, total hotel revenues for the first nine months of the fiscal year were $4.7 million for 2008, $4.0 million for 2009, and $3.8 million for 2010.
Johnson called for the Board to approve a new paycheck policy for Authority staff, a policy that would be in line with State government policy. The new policy would make direct deposit of paychecks mandatory. Exceptions could be granted by the Executive Director. Anyone receiving paper checks would have them mailed on payday. Steve Croy inquired about the reason for the mailing of checks? Answer: it would help encourage the move to direct deposit. Croy expressed dislike of this ploy – he asked if this requirement were mandatory? Answer: we do not have to adopt this mailing policy. Chairman Krueger inquired about the percentage of Authority employees now signed up for direct deposit? Answer: about half. Chairman Hodges agreed with Croy regarding the potential unfairness of the check-mailing ploy. Hodges tabled the request for approval of the direct-deposit policy until the May meeting of the Board to allow further debating of the issue.
Chairman Hodges announced that a revised version of the residential-lease-extension offer is now in the hands of the Authority, and will be sent out by mail and by email within the week. The State Attorney General's Office, the Park Authority, and the Jekyll Island Citizens Association (President Norm Haft and attorney Gil McLemore) contributed to the revision process. Based on numerous conversations with Haft and McLemore, Director Hooks felt he and they were now pleased with the revised lease-extension offer. Hooks announced that JICA will hold a special meeting on Tuesday evening at 7:00 PM at Hartley Hall of the Convention Center, at which McLemore will provide an overview of the revised offer. The Park Authority will be supporting that meeting. Special briefing sessions will also be scheduled with local real-estate companies, and with banks that commonly provide mortgages to Jekyll Island residents. Hooks noted that the lots occupied by multifamily residences do not yet have lease-extension offers available; legal counsel is still working on solving problems connected to this type of offer. Hodges reiterated that it is still the intention of the Park Authority to have all "special" leases (with annual fees at 0.2 to 0.4% of land value) signed by 31 December 2010 (after that time, only "standard" lease extensions will be available, with annual fees of 5% of land value).
Norm Haft commended the Board and Director Hooks for their cooperation in working with Gil McLemore and himself on the previous, amazingly difficult problems with the lease-extension offer.
Chairman Lynn called upon Human Resources Director Cornell Harvey. Harvey presented a 20-year Faithful Service Award to Cyrus Cummings. Sanitary Engineer Cummings is well known in the Park – he is the truck driver with the permanent smile on his face. Cummings received an extended applause. Director Hooks provided an anecdote regarding Cummings' service. Soon after Hooks had arrived in the Park, he mistakenly placed some non-plant material in his plant-litter pile at the street in front of his house. Cummings had the job of placing a citation on Hooks' front door for this infraction, and it gave him another chance to put on his trademark big smile the next time he saw Hooks.
Harvey reported that the Authority now has 159 part-time employees and 159 full-time employees. During the summer season, 50+ more employees will be brought on board to man Summer Waves.
Chairman Croy had no report to make.
Chairman Porter called upon Senior Marketing Director Eric Garvey. Garvey introduced Ed Lindsey of the Georgia Institute of Technology, who is now working with the Marketing Division of the Park Authority. Using federal funds from the Economic Development Administration, Lindsey will be improving the Authority's definition of its customers, to better target its marketing efforts. Lindsey gave a presentation describing his project. Chairman Porter remarked that Lindsey is well known as an effective promoter of tourism in Georgia, by way of his productive marketing research.
Garvey reported that the Park had received some publicity recently in Southern Living's nationally distributed story on hidden beaches (Driftwood Beach was included). Garvey noted that the new Park website (<http://www.jekyllislandauthority.org/>) contains access information for the Park's new mobile website, which can be called up from smartphones. Visitation to the Park's mobile website has been strong, almost as strong as that to the State's mobile website.
Garvey announced a photographic contest to be held by the Park Authority. Contestants can submit photos to a website address (<http://www.photobook.jekyllisland.com/>). Judging will be held in the fall, and the winners' photos will be used to produce a coffeetable book that will be a part of the Park's rebranding effort.
Chairman Porter added that he is pushing Georgia DOT as hard as he can for appropriate signage, which he feels is very important to the Park's operations. He is focusing on the Exit-29 signage, hoping to include attractive visuals, which he feels will much improve the entry corridor to the Park.
Tise Eyler reported that fly-in traffic at the Park's Airport amounted to 44 planes on a recent weekend. This is becoming an important access venue for the Park. Eyler commended Richard Van Iderstyne for advertising Jekyll Island State Park to the aviation community. Eyler also observed that many winter guests in the Park attend his church, but they depart suddenly because, they state, they don't want to pay the higher summer-season rates for accommodations in the Park. Eyler recommended that, during the forthcoming marketing analysis, the time for the rate change should be examined to see if it can't be moved ahead some, in order to retain winter guests.
Lucien DeBacker, having examined 20 years or so of financial records of the Park, pointed out that there appears to be a strong trend toward family orientation among visitors. This shows up in a downward trend in golf revenues and hotel revenues, and an upward trend in camping and minigolf revenues. He felt that it would be important to recognize this apparent shift.
Sandy Cerrato commented that it is important in the process of redeveloping Jekyll Island, to keep in mind that Jekyll Island is a State Park. She felt that this point is underemphasized in the literature distributed by the Marketing Division. She worried that this approach makes potential visitors believe that the Park is a Hilton Head/Myrtle Beach-type resort destination, and that the advertising is geared toward upscale, fast-track people, an inappropriate marketing approach for a State Park. Chairman Krueger asserted that Cerrato had misread the advertising approach of the Park, or of consultant Ed Lindsey. Krueger denied that the present Board has ever lost sight of the natural beauty of Jekyll Island, or what they seek to maintain on the Island, or of the fact that they seek to attract visitors who will enjoy the natural aspects of the Island.
Tise Eyler remarked that on the Georgia State Parks website, Jekyll Island State Park is not listed. This is apparently because (although Jekyll Island clearly is by law a State Park), the only parks listed are those annually subsidized in the State budget – the State Parks which are financially self-sufficient are not listed. Eyler asserted that Jekyll Island State Park should be listed very clearly as a State Park on the website. Eyler asked of Richard Royal whether the State would ever include Jekyll Island State Park in its annual budget? Answer: it is unlikely. Chairman Krueger's opinion was that having Jekyll in the State's annual budget would be undesirable, because it could mean that the Park's funds could be redistributed during tough financial times.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Director Hooks reminded the Board that the final day for operations at the current Shopping Center will be 17 September, and the Convention Center will close on 1 August in preparation for demolition.
Demolition has just gotten underway at the new Flash Foods/Dairy Queen. Project Manager Jim Broadwell has approved the building design, and is working on getting the signage and lighting to match the designs in the Beach Village. Landscape Superintendent Cliff Gawron is reviewing the landscape plans. It is hoped that construction can begin during the first week of May, and opening sometime in August.
Hooks expressed pleasure with the outcome of the mid-April interviews with applicants for constructing and managing the hotel and retail operations of the forthcoming Beach Village. After reviewing further submissions of materials, Hooks and his staff will present recommendations to the Board, at least by the May Board meeting. The interviewed companies were Phelps Development of Greeley, CO, Jekyll Island Promenade Partners LLC of Jekyll Island, GA, Journeymen Austin Holdings of Austin, TX, Winding Road Development of Scottsdale, AZ, and Jekyll Landmark Associates of Wilmington, DE and Jekyll Island, GA.
Trammell Crow is still considering its options for the two combined leased sites that it holds (the Buccaneer and Georgia Coast Inn sites). It is hoped that something more substantial can be reported at the Board's May meeting.
Hooks observed that Blackbeard's Restaurant has been receiving very good reviews since MMI (Mississippi Management Inc.) took over its management a little over a month ago. MMI has been strongly emphasizing training. Fourteen part-time and two full-time employees have moved from the Authority payroll to the MMI payroll.
The position of General Manager at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center has become available. Hooks noted that Director Norton is NOT leaving his post. Hooks wished Jim Squires all the best as he moves on.
Hooks reported that recent investigation has revealed that there are 155 properties in the Park that appear to be at least occasionally rented, but are not reporting the rentals to the Park Authority. On 5 April, the Authority sent out letters of notice regarding enforcement of hotel/motel tax requirements.
Hooks announced that the Park Authority has become a sponsor of Georgia Public Broadcasting, and that Morgan's Grill will officially become McCormick's Grill on 1 May.
Chairman Krueger observed that funds held by the Authority are currently earning returns that are unacceptably small. He proposed that the Authority Executive Director and the Senior Accounting Director be vested with the job of moving these funds to more lucrative investments when needed. No funds will be moved to investments that are not totally backed by U.S. government pledges of safety. This proposal was adopted by the Board.
Krueger commended Mike Hodges on his spearheading of the Red Carpet Tour by business owners (sponsored by the State Chamber of Commerce and the State Economic Development Authority, and timed to coincide with the Masters Golf Tournament) as it visited Jekyll Island State Park for the first time since 1999. The participants in the Tour, which stayed overnight at the Club Hotel, made it clear that they wished that they had had more time to spend in the Park. Krueger also commended Kevin Runner and the other entrepreneurs at the Club Hotel for their excellent hosting of the Tour, and for their excellent operations at the new Hampton.
Krueger proposed a resolution of appreciation to Representative Jerry Keen, who will not be running for re-election to his State House seat. The Board approved the resolution.
Chairman Krueger adjourned the meeting at 11:01 AM.
Seven Y. Newell, Jekyll Island Citizens Association