Record of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JISPA) Board Meeting of 15 August 2011, in the Morgan Center of the Interim Convention Center, as recorded for JICA
Note: IPJI has placed some text in "bold" type for emphasis and has clarified some statements in blue.
Chairman Bob Krueger brought the meeting to order at 9:30 AM. Board members present were Buddy DeLoach, Mike Hodges, Al Ike, Laura Lanier, Sybil Lynn, and Richard Royal. Mark Williams was on conference telephone. Also present was Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks. The audience numbered about 28 persons.
Chairman Krueger reported that the Park is now number five in the top-ten list in the national contest being held by Coca Cola for favorite USA park (website:<http://livepositively.com/en_us/americasparks/vote/#/americasparks/vote> ). Krueger asked for a show of hands from those in the audience who have not yet voted in the contest. Only one person admitted to not having voted – Krueger jokingly admonished her, and gave her the assignment of voting 200 times on that day (voters may vote in the contest as many times as they wish).
CONSERVATION AND PRESERVATION
Director Hooks introduced the final draft of the Jekyll Island State Park Conservation Plan, and complimented Dr. Terry Norton and the Conservation Planning Committee, which Norton chaired, for their hard work along with Jay Exum and Randy Mejeur of AECOM, the consultant hired to organize the Plan’s preparation. Mike Hodges commented that the Authority Board has demonstrated their support for the Plan, by paying some $134,000 for the Plan’s preparation costs, and by putting the Plan’s Director of Conservation as a line item in the Park’s budget. Hodges pointed out that the Plan called for its Conservation Fund to be administered by the Jekyll Island Foundation. Since the Park Authority is not in a position to give orders to the Foundation, Hodges suggested appropriate wording changes to that section of the Plan. After a couple of other suggestions for minor wording corrections (including the title for the staff conservation leader as Director of Conservation, rather than Director of Natural Resources), the Board adopted the Plan.
Chairman Hodges reported that total revenues for the previous fiscal year were $368,000 over budget, at $17.3 million. Net operating cash income was $1.077 million, 33% over budget, but 12% less than for the former fiscal year. The funds left for the reserve account amounted to $138,000.
For the month of July, total revenues were $3.049 million, $3,000 over budget. Net operating cash income was $1.291 million, 4% over budget. Hodges complimented Marjorie Johnson (Accounting Director) and Hooks for their work in keeping revenues somewhat above expenses. Director Hooks expressed concern that hotel occupancy in June, and July revenues, have been disappointing relative to expectations (July usually brings in the largest revenues of the year; e.g. minigolf revenues were down $13,000), and stated that he has asked staff to check with Marjorie Johnson when considering expenditures over $1,000. Johnson reported that traffic count for July was down 13% relative to July, 2010. Hodges added that greeting-station income was down $39,000 relative to July, 2010, and suggested that the Park Authority needs to carefully watch this area for trends. Mark Williams inquired whether there had been several years of traffic decline, but Johnson responded that there was a traffic increase in July of 2010 relative to July, 2009. Williams noted that non-synchronized school calendars may figure into the summer financial surprises. He noted that at other State parks, there have also been summer declines, possibly due to early returns to the classroom by school kids. Chairman Krueger observed that general economic slumping is a likely contributor.
Matt Maynor, VP of First Guaranty Bank (Jacksonville), presented information about the situation at the currently closed Jekyll Oceanfront Resort. Maynor stated that Leslie Lurkin, the owner of the Resort, opted to close the Resort in January, 2011. Lurkin had agreed to maintain the closed property, but did not do so. Therefore, the Bank petitioned the court to assign a receiver to maintain the property. The receiver is Ron Johnson, who is a seasoned hotelier. Johnson accomplished a real turnaround at the property, including removing unauthorized occupants. Lurkin hired a hotel marketer, and now three offers for purchase have been obtained, of which the Bank considers two very credible. After the receivership was in place, foreclosure proceedings were begun with local counselor Tom Whelchel. The Bank intends to sell the Resort when the foreclosure process is complete. The Bank plans to work with those who made the two credible purchase offers and they hope to achieve a quick turnaround of the hotel property. Whelchel stated that it is hoped that the foreclosure will take place by late September or October, making a sale possible in November. Whelchel noted that the receiver is believed to be already speaking to the potential buyers.
Director Hooks discussed the proposed new contract with Comcast for improved reception of HD and basic channels offered at the Park’s Campground. The total charge would be $10 per month per camping space ($1,910 per month). A caveat is that internet-usage problems at the Campground will not be solved by this Comcast agreement. Hooks remarked that the internet problems must also be addressed prior to arrival of the Campground’s winter guests. The Board approved the proposed agreement.
Chairman DeLoach complimented Communications Director Eric Garvey on his development of a fine marketing division, and noted evidence from the financial discussions of the morning, that this is a very important division for a park like Jekyll. Spokesperson Erica England observed that Facebook is the strongest social-medium platform for the Park. There are about 16,500 fans of the Park listed on Facebook. The $74,000 Dream Wedding Giveaway and the Coca-Cola Favorite Park promotion have contributed to a recent surge in Facebook activity regarding Jekyll Island State Park. As of now, there are about 500 entries in the wedding contest, and 20 sponsors. Terrica Skaggs, a local destination wedding planner, is working with the Authority on the promotion. England described her efforts to encourage voting in the Favorite Parks contest, and thanked community participants, especially the critical help of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, along with the Jekyll Island Foundation and the Glynn County Chamber of Commerce. England reminded the audience that multiple votes are permitted in the contest.
Garvey called upon Campground Manager Ronnie Douglas to describe his participation in RV trade shows. Douglas explained that he has traveled to the shows and worked at the shows with other participants who are devoted users of the Campground, to display the attractions of the Campground and the Park to other potential visitors. Douglas noted jokingly that his last show, in Vermont, was the point farthest north to which he had ever traveled, way across the Mason-Dixon Line. From that one show, Douglas and his assistants convinced five attendees to reserve space at the Jekyll Campground.
Garvey distributed bottles of Sea Turtle Honey to Board members. This honey is produced by the Savannah Bee Company, and it provides another method of publicizing the Park. (Note that Dr. Terry Norton uses honey in treatment of wounds of sea turtles at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.)
Garvey remarked that a Georgia Lottery Sales meeting will soon be held at the Club Hotel, and there will be a statewide Lottery promotion offering opportunities to win trips to Jekyll Island State Park.
Garvey put the number of conventions sought by 2015 for the Park at 120. He thanked the Board for its help in securing some recent commitments for the new Convention Center, and made the Board members “120 Ambassadors” in thanks for their help.
Garvey announced that celebrity journalists will be serving as judges during the Shrimp & Grits Festival in September, and that the Music and Merlot series will provide A Songwriters’ Evening in November (featuring Richard Lee and Archie Jordan, renowned songwriters from this region).
Director Hooks thanked the support received from local shag clubs at the Beach Music Festival, and thanked Rob and Dilys Jagger for their help in organizing the shag-club participation. He recognized Park Authority Events Coordinator Beth Burnsed and her team for their dedication to producing a well-run, fun Festival. He also complimented Operations Director Ronny Smith and his team, and the State Highway Patrol, for making the logistics for the Festival work smoothly.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chairman Krueger opened with Committee Assignments. Governor Deal has reappointed Krueger Chairman of the Park Authority Board, and reappointed Steve Croy as Vice Chairman and Mike Hodges as Secretary. The Committee chairs are as follows: Conservation/Preservation, Richard Royal; Finance, Mike Hodges; Marketing, Buddy DeLoach; Personnel, Sybil Lynn; Legislative, Steve Croy; Executive Review and Compensation, Bob Krueger; Committee of the Whole, Bob Krueger.
Director Hooks described the current state of planning for the next Master Plan Update. The Conservation Planning Committee had strongly recommended that the Conservation Plan be finalized and adopted prior to the beginning of deliberations regarding the wording of the updated Master Plan. The Authority has watched the production of the Conservation Plan, and felt that one very important element in that production was the involvement of the public through various input activities. (IPJI would like to thank all those who participated in the public process with their comments.) Last summer, a request for information was released to the public, asking for advice regarding the Master Plan Update. The Coastal Regional Commission was hired to organize, index, and summarize the input that was received. That effort will be the stepping-off point for the Update. The Authority has named task forces (Land Use, Transportation & Infrastructure, Environmental Planning, Historic & Cultural Resources, and Sustainability; others may be named) to work on specific portions of the Update. There will also be a steering committee, similar to the Conservation Planning Committee. After discussing several options, it was decided to propose that the Fanning Institute at the University of Georgia (http://www.fanning.uga.edu/about.html) handle development of the Update, because of the similar work that the Institute has done, including assisting in development of previous master plans for JISP, and design of the Altama Corridor in front of the Coastal College in Brunswick. The Institute has stated that they support the Park Authority’s vision for the Island Park, and that the task forces named are appropriate. They would organize the engagement of the public in the updating process, including statewide surveys of public opinions regarding the future of Jekyll Island State Park. The Institute estimates that the updating process would take about 15 months. Langford Holbrook (http://www.fanning.uga.edu/directory/langford_holbrook.html) of the Institute would be the project manager. The cost proposed by the Institute is $100,000 plus expenses. Museum Director John Hunter has handled much of the interaction between the Park Authority and the Fanning Institute. Chairman Krueger asked whether the cost of the Updating has been considered in the current budget? Answer: the cost is included. Laura Lanier inquired about the frequency of updating of the Park’s Master Plan? Answer: the first Plan was developed in 1951, and it has been updated about every 10 to 12 years; the last comprehensive Update was in 1996. Buddy DeLoach asked for an estimate of the expense portion of the Updating’s cost? Answer: about $50,000 has been budgeted. The Board approved the proposal to engage the Fanning Institute to handle the Master Plan Update.
Director Hooks presented an update on the forthcoming new Guest Information Center (the new greeting station [sometimes referred to as the “toll booth”] to be built on the causeway in front of the current Welcome Center). Several issues have been discussed internally regarding effects of the new Center on current operations, safety situations, etc. It was decided to consolidate the welcoming and greeting functions into a new Guest Information Center. Decal entry will not be changed, but the welcoming function will be enhanced, for example, by enabling purchase of Summer Waves tickets at the Information Center. Parking space, including for RVs, will be expanded. The Highway Patrol has been kept informed regarding the plans. There will be three entry lanes. It is planned to offer online purchase of entry tickets and amenity tickets. The Park Authority is now prepared to move into final design, and expects to have the project complete by next March. Chairman Krueger expressed the opinion that traffic management would be facilitated by the new design, and Sergeant Davis agreed, especially since traffic will not be facing the entry gates just as they come over a bridge. The Board approved the final designing of the Guest Information Center.
Director Hooks noted that financing arrangements are still being sought by: A) the developers of the new Retail Center to be constructed alongside the new Convention Center; B) Landmark Associates, the developers of the full-service hotel be constructed along the beachfront near the new Convention Center; and C) Trammell Crow for their hospitality projects to be constructed on their current leasehold (the old Buccaneer and Georgia Coastal Inn sites). Amendments to the current Trammell Crow lease (especially regarding time frames for completions of projects) will be proposed to the Board at their September meeting. Hooks noted, using before/after photos, that several projects under the Park-revitalization heading have been accomplished despite the slumping USA economy (e.g. the Hampton Inn, Great Dunes Park, the new gas station/Flash Foods/Dairy Queen, and several more). Hooks noted that the Authority is trying to ensure that the projects included in the Beach Village and other Park revitalization projects will qualify for tax credits under the Georgia Tourism Act.
Rob Ellis, Jekyll Golf Pro, recounted some of the current activities of the Park’s golf-course staff. Ellis remarked that Harry Kicklighter had informed him that when he gave his first Board presentation, he must sing the whole thing, but he noticed that no one else had sung his/her presentation that morning, so he decided not to do that. Ellis expressed pleasure at having been invited to give a College of Coastal Georgia PE golf class in the Park, supported by a $50,000 grant from pro golfer Matt Kuchar that required a college heath class be given. Two more college golf classes will be offered this autumn. The College has also run intramural golf competition (for both faculty and students) on Jekyll. The golf team from the college has also competed in tournaments in the Park. Ellis is planning to offer a discount golf rate to students and faculty from the College. In conjunction with the Park’s Marketing Division, Ellis is planning a membership drive, to enhance use of the Park’s golf courses by local folks. Ellis hopes to offer more activities for those who choose to sign up for winter memberships, so that more of a club atmosphere is generated. Ellis has been trying to keep the courses in good shape during the area’s drought – two new wells have been drilled for irrigation of Oleander and Great Dunes Golf Courses. Director Hooks commented that Ellis brings a great deal of welcome enthusiasm to his work, and that his wife Stephanie has observed that Ellis is a great teacher.
Hooks reminded the audience that the new law covering streetworthiness of golf carts will go into effect in January, 2012. Authority Legal Counsel Chris O’Donnell remarked that an educational effort will be required, to notify Park residents that they must make sure that their golf carts are in compliance with the new law, before they put the carts on the street in 2012 (requirements include headlights, rear back-up lights, seat belts, etc., so many of the Park’s carts will probably need to be retrofitted). Sergeant Davis added that he welcomes the Park Authority’s support in the Patrol’s efforts to protect the safety of children on golf carts operated on the streets of the Park. In answer to a question, Davis pointed out that the new law will supersede the provisions of any local ordinances.
Director Hooks thanked the Jekyll Island Arts Association and Alice Jarrett for their work in bringing the seventh annual Franklin Pond performances to the Park, and noted that the Atlanta Symphony’s Chamber Ensemble will perform in January as part of the Music & Merlot Series.
Hooks stated that the Authority will offer hard-hat tours of the new Convention Center to Park residents on 17 and 18 August, and on one more day to be determined.
Counsel O’Donnell explained that the formerly proposed draft Animal Control Ordinance has now been abandoned, because State law is adequate for this purpose. Enforcement in serious cases (e.g. dog bites) will be handled by the State Patrol. Minor offenses will be handled by the Park’s code-enforcement personnel, and not brought to the State Patrol unless the offender refuses to comply after receiving a stern letter. Director Hooks explained that if the Park Authority Board still wishes to go forward with an animal-control ordinance, then further crafting of such an ordinance will be done.
Chairman Krueger observed that Governor Deal’s recent visit to the Park was beneficial, since he was quite impressed with what he saw. Krueger thanked Mark Williams (Board member and DNR Commissioner) for escorting the Governor on his visit to the Park.
Chairman Krueger adjourned the meeting at 11:26 AM.
Respectfully submitted, Steven Y. Newell, Jekyll Island Citizens Association; produced after transcribing from a digital voice recorder