Record of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JISPA) Board Meeting of 21 February 2012, in Morgan 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 Steve Croy, Mike Hodges, Al Ike, and Sybil Lynn. Buddy DeLoach, Richard Royal, and Mark Williams were on conference telephone. Also present was Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks. The audience numbered about 50 persons.
CONSERVATION AND PRESERVATION
Dr. Terry Norton of the Sea Turtle Center gave a presentation describing the Center’s ornithological programs. The Center deals with marine and shore birds, birds of prey, and threatened and endangered species of birds. Necropsies of dead birds on the beach are performed, and shorebird health is monitored. American oystercatchers are used as bioindicators of marine-ecosystem health. A cannon net is used to catch the birds for tagging and examination. The health of pelican chicks is monitored. The Center also rehabilitates sick and injured birds, when no other facility is able to take them; since 2008, 203 birds have been treated.
Historic Preservation Director John Hunter described the Park’s programs for Black History Month. A series of four public programs were held, and school programs were presented. One of the shows put on at the Museum’s theatre was presented to a standing-room-only audience, and this was only the second time in Hunter’s experience to see the theatre so full. The last of the programs involved description of a search for ancestors of survivors of the Wanderer slaving ship.
Hunter also described a planned Tree Tour of the Historic District, which is being put together in conjunction with Landscape Director Cliff Gawron. The focus will be on legacy and specimen trees.
Chairman Hodges reported that for the month of January, net operating cash income was minus $360 thousand, 15% better than expected. For the fiscal year to date, net income was $536 thousand, 39% over budget, but 24% less than at the same point in the previous fiscal year. Director Hooks reminded the group that in mid-summer, low visitation rates at usual times of high rates had provided a financial scare, but mild winter weather for Park exploration has provided the proper antidote for the low summer visitation.
Hodges summarized the recent audit report for the Park from State auditors – the audit was a clean one, with no questionable findings. Hodges complimented Director Hooks and Accounting Director Marjorie Johnson for their careful work with the Park’s finances.
Hodges relayed a staff request to spend $12,861 on a new air-conditioning unit for Fins Restaurant. The old AC unit has been nursed along long enough. The Board approved this request.
Legal Associate Chris O’Donnell announced three lease requests for new cell-phone relay placements. T-Mobile would upgrade their equipment on Water Tower 3 (on Bond Avenue). Verizon would upgrade on Water Tower 4 (north end of the Park) and Tower 5 (south end of the Park). These leases were approved by the Board.
Director Hooks announced that Ben Carswell will be the new Conservation Director for the Park Authority as of 1 March 2012. (See http://blog.jekyllisland.com/uncategorized/allyson-jackson-returns-home-to-manage-jekyll-island-convention-center/). The selection of Carswell by the Review Committee was unanimous. Hooks and Dr. Norton described Carswell as a lover of the Park and an enthusiastic conservationist.
Hooks remarked that the monthly staff newsletter (“The Connection”) has been very effective in bringing the various divisions of the Authority Staff together, and he complimented Human Resources leaders Cornell Harvey and Jenna Frost on this development.
Communications Director Eric Garvey introduced Dr. Walter Young, the head of Young International, a firm that is working with the Park Authority in its marketing efforts through a restaurant business (under the Global Concessions Division) at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport, and through a beverage business involving labeling with Jekyll Island designs. Other executives of the firm followed Young and described the Jekyll-themed restaurant that will be put together along with Young International’s several other airport stores. Young International’s Jekyll Island Wines will be served at the airport Jekyll-themed restaurant.
Garvey reported that advertising billboards, each in partnership with a Park business, on I95 facing north, have been having a positive effect on Park visitation. The board recommending the Park’s campground has apparently been a factor in the campground having a record January registration recently.
Garvey observed that he now has eight hotels off-island that have agreed to serve as partners in the Park’s Housing Bureau, so that the room shortage that will develop when the new Convention Center begins functioning can be remedied.
Garvey presented some information from the Georgia Tourism Visitor Report recently released. Jekyll Island State Park is the fourth most popular thematic-attraction destination for tourism within the State.
Garvey concluded by introducing Anna Hall, the Park’s new Communications Specialist, replacing Erica England. Anna comes to the Park from her former position as a reporter for the Brunswick News.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chairman Krueger introduced SMG Senior VP for Strategic Development Greg Caren. SMG is the firm that will serve as the operator of the new Convention Center. Caren introduced the new General Manager of the Convention Center, Alysson Jackson. Caren gave Jackson substantial credit for SMG’s success in capturing the Convention Center contract, because Jackson is a coastal Georgia native. Jackson comes to Jekyll from Salt Lake City, where she managed one of the largest convention centers in the nation. Caren also introduced Freda Brady, a national regional sales manager for SMG, based in Savannah. SMG will not only provide operational support for the Park’s Convention Center, but also sales and marketing assistance.
Next Langford Holbrook of the Fanning Institute provided an update on the effort to revise the Park’s Master Plan (see http://www.fanning.uga.edu/jekyllmasterplan/). On the website are links to the previous Master Plans of Jekyll Island State Park. The Fanning Institute is a public service and outreach unit of the University of Georgia, and is presently charged with managing the updating of the Park’s Master Plan. Holbrook called for audience members to go to the Master Plan website and apply for task forces that will advise the Institute as it draws together a new Master Plan. The Authority Board will have the final decision regarding approval/disapproval of the Plan that Fanning produces. A Steering Committee (composed of Board members, key Task Force members, key Authority staff members) will finalize the process of updating the Plan. The work will start with the 65/35 Task Force, which will review the application of the 65/35 law (saving 65% of the Park’s uplands for conservation), and forward recommendations to the full Land Use Task Force. Other Task Forces will include Environmental Planning, Transportation and Infrastructure, Historical and Cultural Resources, Sustainability, and Recreation. It is planned to have three to four working sessions with the Task Forces; the sessions are planned to be held in the Park. Fanning will try to create a starting point for each Task Force. There is also a detailed public-engagement plan described on the Master Plan website. Application deadline for the Task Forces is 16 March. The week of 12 March is the target for the first meeting of the 65/35 Task Force. The week of 23 March, the full membership of the Task Forces will be announced. The Task Forces (other than the 65/35 Force) will meet together in one place, assisted by Fanning facilitators. Results of the meetings will be recorded and placed on the Master Plan website. The final goal will be the new Master Plan, completed during the first quarter of 2013.
Director Hooks announced that W.W. Gay has won the contract for an entrance-monitoring system for the new Convention Center. The system will be located in the area of the entrance lobby.
Legal Associate Chris O’Donnell presented the completed, updated version of the Park’s ordinances. The Board approved the form that the ordinances now take, and the ordinances will now be placed on the Park website for the public to access (see http://library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=15018).
Jekyll Island Foundation Director Mac DeVaughn described planned projects for the coming year. They include renovation of the Skeet House, construction of a wildlife-viewing tower on Driftwood Beach, and funding of two student internships at the Sea Turtle Center. The foci of study of the graduate assistantships will be American alligators and diamondback terrapins. Two fundraising memorial programs are now underway: bench-naming and adopt-a-tree.
Director Hooks observed that construction of the new Convention Center is now 99% complete. Now that Alysson Jackson is on site for SMG, the process of outfitting the Center will begin.
Winding Road Developments has not succeeded in obtaining funding for the Retail Center and its loft condominiums in the forthcoming Beach Village, in spite of their efforts of many months’ duration. Therefore, the Board decided to terminate the contract with Winding Road, according to the signed agreement deadlines chosen in July of 2010 and subsequently amended. Chairman Krueger directed Director Hooks to immediately begin seeking an alternative plan for the Retail Center. By contrast, the mid-priced hotel for the Village (the Hyatt Place) is on track, with loan commitments. Westin Hotels is now reviewing the design for the full-service hotel in the Village, and the formal financial commitment is expected soon.
Hooks announced that First Guaranty Bank of Jacksonville (which held the title to the closed Jekyll Oceanfront Resort) had been sold to Center State Bank by the FDIC. The new bank owner will continue to pursue a sale of the Oceanfront.
Hooks noted that some unauthorized trimming of live-oak trees has recently taken place in the Park, in violation of the Park’s tree ordinance. Chris O’Donnell and Landscape Director Cliff Gawron are revising the monitoring policies in hopes of ensuring that unauthorized trimming does not recur. Penalties for unauthorized trimming can include fines and mitigation requirements.
Hooks remarked that overhead signs at Exit 29 on I95 now list Jekyll Island as an Exit 29 destination. Further Jekyll-sign changes on I95 farther away from Exit 29 are expected.
MMI has hired a new restaurant manager for Fins: Jerry Bacon, who has an extensive background in restaurant operations. Fins will roll out a new menu on 12 March, when the restaurant returns to high-season hours.
Hooks announced that he and Chairman Krueger have been discussing the formulation of a Strategic Plan for the Park Authority. Some issues in the Park’s forthcoming new Master Plan will be related to the Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan has been under discussion since the last Authority Board retreat. The Board will be surveyed regarding their opinions of components of the proposed Plan. The State requires that its Authorities have updated Strategic Plans.
Chairman Krueger thanked the GA DOT for having the overhead Jekyll signs placed on I95. Krueger welcomed the new Authority staff and new business partners for the Park.
David Egan, on behalf of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, thanked Langford Holbrook for his initial work on managing the updating of the Park’s Master Plan, and expressed excitement about getting involved in the process. Egan then asked Director Hooks about new plans for the Beach Village’s Retail Center, now that Winding Road is out of the picture? Answer: staff will immediately begin discussing new directions for the Retail Center.
Joe Malbasa, on behalf of the Jekyll Island Citizens Association, thanked Young International and SMG for their partnering with the Park Authority. He also thanked Director Hooks and Accounting Director Marjorie Johnson for their work in yielding the clean State audit of the Park’s books. He thanked Eric Garvey for succeeding in therapy following his hip surgery.
Thorny Parker thanked Garvey for his recent informative presentation on developments in the Park at the Jekyll Presbyterian Church. Parker expressed concern regarding the absence of 4 July fireworks, and extensive December holiday lighting in the Park.
David Kyler of the Center for a Sustainable Coast thanked the Board and the Fanning Institute for ensuring that sustainability would be a matter of concern during the updating of the Park’s Master Plan.
Howard Sculthorpe announced that a Red Cross blood drive will be held in the Park on 15 March (Presbyterian Church, 1:00 – 6:00 PM). Appointments: 635-2866. Sculthorpe congratulated Park resident Jane Sarcona on the fact that she has now donated 12 gallons of blood to Park blood drives.
Chairman Krueger adjourned the Committee Meeting at 11:34 AM.
Respectfully submitted, Steven Y. Newell, Jekyll Island Citizens Association; produced after transcribing from a digital voice recorder