Record of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JISPA) Board Meeting of 16 August 2010, at McCormick's Grill, 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 9:35 AM. Board members present were Chris Clark, Buddy De Loach, Mike Hodges, Sybil Lynn, and Richard Royal. Also present was Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks. Steve Croy and Ben Porter were on conference telephone. The audience numbered about 35 persons.
CONSERVATION AND PRESERVATION:
Chairman Royal stated that his committee had no report. Director Hooks commented that the consultant working on developing the Park's Conservation Plan will send representatives to the JISPA Board meeting in September, to discuss progress.
Chairman Hodges affirmed the fiscal year-end figures that had been tentatively presented at the July Board meeting. Highlights: total revenue = $16,678,000 ($81,000 over budget, and $200,000 more than in the previous fiscal year); total expenditures = $15,456,000 ($174,000 under budget, and $509,000 more than in the previous fiscal year). Total revenues for July, 2010 were $3.1 million ($220,000 over budget, and 9% better than July, 2009). A major contributor was the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which had revenues of $224,000. Almost all expense categories for July were under budget. Net operating income for July was $1,496,000 ($389,000 over budget). Accounting Director Marjorie Johnson added that the revenues at the Greeting Station were up 56% from the previous July, while auto traffic was down 1% and decal traffic was up 13% (decal sales were up 26%). Director Hooks noted that the new 7-day pass may not be a good replacement for the previously available 3-day pass; he recommended further examination of this policy. Chris Clark compared State Park revenues from around the State: excessive heat has caused revenues to be generally flat or down at lodges, campgrounds, and golf courses.
Chairman Hodges reported that hotel revenues for July, 2010 were $3,874,000, up substantially from July, 2009 ($3,146,000).
Director Hooks observed that an amendment for the lease for Redbug Pizza was appropriate, since leases were now being based upon annual base rent per square foot rather than percentage of income. An increase in the rent to $15 per square foot with no percentage of income being charged was being recommended ($2,033 per month). An approximate 50% discount would be applied at first, because $41,000 in improvements to the building housing the business have been made, and these become the property of the Authority. The lease amendment was approved.
Chairman Hodges announced that the Authority wishes to enter into an agreement with PNC Equipment Finance to lease golf-course maintenance equipment (several Toro mowers, etc.). The monthly cost would be $4,874, over a 36-month lease. Director Hooks explained that maintenance and repairs to the current golf-course equipment have been excessive, and it is felt that moving to leasing of Toro equipment, which has proved to provide better performance than the currently owned mowers, etc., is the most cost-effective way to proceed. The PNC leasing was approved.
Chairman Hodges announced a one-year renewal of the Americorps grant held by the Georgia Sea Turtle Center ($329,331, with $105,000 as matching funds from JISPA for accessory supplies and labor). Acceptance of the grant was approved.
Director Hooks remarked that only one comment was submitted in response to the first reading of the Park's draft Residential Rental License Ordinance. The comment was a suggestion that the rental fees be submitted to the Park Authority on a quarterly basis, rather than monthly, but this comment was subsequently withdrawn. The Ordinance was adopted by the Board.
Human Resources Director Cornell Harvey introduced some new personnel. David Garrison was introduced as the new Information Technologist; Harvey noted that Garrison had hit the ground running, and had already troubleshot several lingering computer problems. Erica England is the new Communications Specialist, coming from similar positions at Jacksonville Beach and Jacksonville International Airport. Jessica Malnik is the new Interactive Marketing Coordinator, coming from a video-editing position with a TV news company in Jacksonville. Robert Baggarly is the new Deputy Chief of Operations and Training at the Fire Department, coming from the Macon Fire Department.
Harvey announced a 20-year Faithful Service Award for Shift Captain EMT Craig Harden of the Jekyll Fire Department.
Director Hooks presented this report for Marketing Director Garvey, who was in Atlanta, being interviewed about Jekyll Island State Park on early television shows. Hooks remarked that in July, 2010, about 5000 more hotel rooms were occupied than in July, 2009, possibly due in part to vacationers choosing Jekyll over more usual Gulf Coast spots, but also to returning convention groups. There is concern, however, about visitation levels in the current "shoulder season", because of the move to start school sessions earlier in Georgia. There are campaigns underway to target family-vacation marketing (emphasizing uncrowded, natural-environments) to areas of the eastern USA wherein school still starts at later dates (e.g., northern Virginia). The campaign has apparently resulted in large increases in visitation to the JISP website. There has also been a campaign to market the Beach Music Festival and Barbecue Bash to sites at closer driving distances, but also to the Nashville, TN, area, because of guest surveys from last year. Several outlets for advertising of the Beach Music Festival have been utilized, including highway billboards, and Dilys and Rob Jagger have been instrumental in promoting the Festival through the Golden Isles Shag Club (Shag Clubs sold out the Hampton Inn for the Festival weekend). Beth Burnsed and her team designed a novel trophy for the Barbecue Bash (a pig in a Hawaiian shirt on a surfboard).
Several publications have carried stories about Jekyll Island State Park recently, including an upscale magazine that will send a judge to the Shrimp & Grits Festival, a Sunday color newspaper insert that has a circulation of about 10 million, and an aviation magazine focusing on the Park as a fly-in destination. Chairman Porter added that, because of the work of the Park's publicists, he has heard more comments about the Park in Atlanta in the last 3 months than he had heard there in the last 3 years.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE:
Chairman Krueger announced that he has been reappointed Chairman of the Park Authority Board, and he offered nominations of Steve Croy as Vice Chair and Mike Hodges as Secretary. The Board voted "aye" on these two nominations.
Director Hooks observed that the gas-station/Dairy Queen project is running about a month behind schedule. Hooks introduced Robert Williams, Director of Maintenance and Construction for Flash Foods. Williams expressed excitement about the new facility that they will be operating in the Park, and apologized for the delays in construction, attributing them to engineering and design problems (e.g., Dairy Queen asked for some changes), and to the handling of three large projects simultaneously. Williams anticipated no further delays in the construction of the new Flash Foods gas station/Dairy Queen. The opening of the stores is projected to take place at the start of 2011. Ben Porter inquired about the possibility of temporary facilities being set up to serve visitors? Answer: except for emergency gas availability from the Fire Department, no temporary convenience-store service will be available until the new Flash Foods opens. Director Hooks stated that IGA may have expanded hours at its temporary store, to make up for the loss of the convenience outlet.
The ribbon-cutting for Great Dunes Park is now scheduled for 20 September. Also on 20 September, the temporary convention-center pavilion space (37,000 square feet) will be finished and turned over to the Park Authority. The first convention event is scheduled for 9 October. At the Authority Board meeting on 20 September, it is expected that a recommendation will be made for hiring of the contractor to demolish/rebuild the Convention Center. Convention Center bond monies spent to date = about $5.8 million (balance = $41.6 million). Expenses to date include the temporary convention pavilions, etc.
Hooks reminded the audience that the deadline for receipt of responses to the Request For Information (RFI) regarding the forthcoming update of the Park's Master Plan has been extended to 17 September, due to a mix-up in initial advertising to the public. Both narratives and visuals are desired from professionals and the public by the Park Authority for use in composing the next Master Plan update. The definitions of "developed" and "undeveloped" acreage is a primary issue for focus by responders to the RFI. Hooks emphasized that the Park Authority continuously accepts commentary on all of the Board's actions, not just in situations like the present, when responses to the RFI are being sought. The process for the Master Plan update is in its early stages; advertisements have not yet even been issued for the consultant who will assist with the composition of the update. It is expected that the Conservation Plan will be complete before the beginning of the writing of the update.
Two results of the new partnering with the Coastal College have already come about: a College golf tournament is planned for the spring, and the Park's Beachscape publication is now being distributed at the College's bookstore.
There have been 501 requests for new-lease paperwork (out of 627 total residential leases). Of the 501, 488 have been mailed out, and 289 have been recorded by the County and returned. Only 2 leaseholders have informed the Authority that they will be staying with their current lease (expiration, 2049).
The National Fish & Wildlife Foundation has granted $15,000 to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to cover funds spent in caring for sea turtles hurt by the cold-stunning events of winter 2009/2010.
Director Hooks reminded the audience that the Authority is still seeking entries of poetry and photographs for use in the forthcoming Jekyll Island Coffee-table book. Deadline for submissions is 22 September. Current entries include some of outstanding quality.
Chairman Krueger reminded the Board members that they must file personal finance disclosures with the State Ethics Office.
Krueger announced that Smith Travel Research, a top hotel-data provider, has awarded its top citation for this year to Days Inn & Suites for hotel performance (e.g., occupancy rates, etc.) in its class (of 10,000 total hotels in the class). An award for excellence in hotel construction was also received by the Hampton Inn & Suites. The Jekyll Hampton has become a top hotel destination in the Park, achieving over 90% occupancy for June/July, 2010.
Chairman Krueger observed that the September Board meeting will also be held at McCormick's Grill.
Tise Eyler added some praise for an additional hotelier, Linda Keel, who has now retired. Keel managed the rebuilding of the Days Inn & Suites in 1999, and subsequently moved to the Villas By The Sea, which had been exhibiting subpar performance. Keel made the Villas a top site for investors in condominium properties. Keel moved on to the Jekyll Quality Inn, and made that the most productive property of the eleven that its owner held. Eyler wished to acknowledge Keel's contribution to Jekyll Island State Park through her excellent hotel-management activities, and the audience further acknowledged her contribution via their applause.
Steve Newell inquired about the 2004 Master Plan update for Jekyll Island State Park – was this update ever approved by the State Legislature (a requirement to provide standing for Master Plans and their amendments)? Answer: no one was certain of the answer; an answer was promised following research. Newell pointed out that the full 2004 update is no longer available on the Authority website (there is only a brief summary).
Chairman Krueger adjourned the meeting at 10:52 AM.
Steven Y. Newell, Jekyll Island Citizens Association