Record of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JISPA) Board Meeting of 18 July 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.
Chairman Bob Krueger brought the meeting to order at 9:30 AM. Board members present were Steve Croy, Mike Hodges, Al Ike, Laura Lanier, Sybil Lynn, and Richard Royal. Mark Williams was on conference telephone. Also present were Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks and Nancy Gallagher (AG’s Office). The audience numbered about 33 persons.
Chairman Krueger congratulated Mike Hodges and Buddy DeLoach on their reappointments to the Board, and welcomed Al Ike, who had just been appointed to the Board as a new member.
CONSERVATION AND PRESERVATION
Dr. Terry Norton provided a brief history of the development of the current, new Jekyll Island State Park Conservation Plan. Norton observed that the 2006 version of the Park’s Conservation Plan was unwieldy and lacked a management plan. The 2006 Plan was used by the current Conservation Planning Committee (CPC) as a reference as they drew up the new Plan. Norton described the Georgia Sea Turtle Center as the primary conservation department of the Park Authority, and it undertakes island-wide conservation efforts. The Center has been heavily involved in the preparation of the 2011 Conservation Plan; Norton chaired the CPC and Dr. Kimberly Andrews, GSTC Research Coordinator, served on the CPC. Other members of the CPC included staff of Georgia DNR/CRD, Georgia Conservancy, Nature Conservancy, Ecologists from Little St. Simons Island, and Park Authority staff, along with two ecologically oriented representatives of the public (Al Tate of Fernbank Science Center and Steve Newell, retired from UGA). Jay Exum and Randy Mejeur of AECOM Consultants, who along with Norton, organized the efforts of the CPC and did the drafting of the Conservation Plan, then presented a summary of the final draft of the Plan to the JISPA Board (see <http://www.jekyllisland.com/Conservation.aspx>). Exum noted during his presentation that well defined and dependable funding needed to be secured for the CP to be effective. Exum concluded by thanking the Board for the opportunity to work on developing the Plan, and by stating his hope that the Board would be able to adopt the Plan at its August meeting. Chairman Krueger stated that the Board would review the Plan and forward any questions to Norton. Krueger made the August Board meeting the target date for approving the Plan.
David Egan regretted that his wife Mindy (co-Director of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, IPJI) could not be present, since she headed up the effort by IPJI to provide input to the Plan’s developers. Egan remarked that 350 members of IPJI sent written input to the Conservation Planning Committee through the three stages of the Plan’s drafting. Egan noted that IPJI had consulted with experts in public land planning, recreation management, environmental education, ecology, etc., to try to provide useful input for the Committee. Egan complimented the fact that the public was able to bring about valuable changes in the drafts of the Plan, along with input from the Center for a Sustainable Coast, Altamaha Riverkeeper, Glynn Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club, and Environment Georgia. Egan had been pleased to see that a good number of recommendations made by the public and environmental-societal input resulted in positive changes to the CP. Egan felt that this has given the public a sense of ownership in the Plan, which is likely to lead to the public’s support for those who will implement the Plan. He thanked the Conservation Planning Committee for a job well done.
David Kyler (Center for a Sustainable Coast) seconded Egan’s comments about public involvement in development of the Conservation Plan. Kyler observed that a missing component of the Plan was a description of the methods to be used in tracking of movement toward the objectives set forth, without which control of Park conservation efforts could not be accomplished. He proposed that a set of procedures for obtaining information about Park natural resources be included, so that potential problems that might arise could be detected and controlled. Without this addition, Kyler felt that not much management of conservation and assessment of achievements could be accomplished. Kyler also felt that clear prioritization of all objectives should have been included in the Plan. Kyler concluded by hoping that his critique could be kept in mind as the Park’s Master Plan is updated.
Chairman Hodges stated that all financial figures for June are preliminary, since June ends the fiscal year, and more work is needed to find the final figures. Director Hooks observed that one reason for the preliminary nature of the financial figures is that the Park Authority received the shock of finding that hotel occupancy for June was down 18% from June, 2010. These occupancy figures contrasted with increases in leisure services activities (e.g. golf, Summer Waves). Preliminary estimates of net income for June and for the last fiscal year suggest that only a portion of the capital expenditures discussed during June’s Board meeting will be affordable. Hodges remarked that hotels in Glynn County outside of the Park also had low occupancy in June – it is speculated that this is due to the late release of grade-school students because of the unusually large number of snow days during last winter; this late release may have caused postponement of June vacations.
The Finance Committee approved the purchase of a laser for use in surgeries at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center ($33,790). The cost will be fronted by the Park Authority, and then repaid by the Jekyll Island Foundation. Dr. Norton explained that the laser facilitates treatment of fibropapilloma, a tumor-causing disease of sea turtles that he is seeing more often now at the Center.
Nancy Reed inquired about attendance figures for the Sea Turtle Center? Answer: data for attendance at the Center indicate that it has had a very good year (e.g. over 2,000 visitors toured the Center in June, 2011, yielding revenues of over $10,000). Reed also wondered about financial comparisons between the old Convention Center and the current Convention Campus? Answer: this is difficult, because it is new ground, but for example, the climate control has turned out to be surprisingly more expensive in the smaller Campus than at the old Center, due to lack of insulation in the Campus facilities.
Thorny Parker inquired about the effect of the change in residential lot-lease rates on the Park Authority’s income (his own lease rate has increased by X4, and after the first ten discounted years of the new lease, the rate will be X8 the old rate [not including any adjustments due to Glynn County lot appraisals])? Answer: year-to-date, there has been a $40,000 increase in lease-fee payments.
Communications Director Eric Garvey announced that he will be meeting with hotel representatives to discuss revenue projections in view of the slump in occupancy for June, 2011. Young International will soon be submitting its bid for the Jekyll Island-themed restaurant at the Atlanta airport, in consort with the Jekyll Island Foundation. Also at the airport, in August, HMS Host will be setting up Jekyll Island State Park promotional displays offering a Jekyll trip at the seven HMS lounges. Garvey announced a product registration for new beverages (two wines, and Loggerhead Ale) to be offered at the Jekyll-themed restaurant. Garvey participated in an updating of Delta Airlines in Atlanta regarding the new construction on Jekyll, with the goal of showing that there will be ongoing demand drivers for traffic on its ASA connector flights to Brunswick. Convention sales are proceeding well (e.g. ACCG [Association of County Commissioners of Georgia] has committed to returning to Jekyll in 2014).
David Egan passed along a suggestion from a Marietta member of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island who is an avid bicyclist. She suggested that a series of photos be taken of the most scenic parts of Jekyll’s bike paths. The photos would then be placed in clickable fashion on a map of the bike paths, on the Park’s website.
Joe Malbasa hoped that he would soon be able to taste the new loggerhead ale. He thanked Drs. Norton and Exum for their work, along with the public and the Conservation Planning Committee for their input, in developing the Park’s Conservation Plan, which he felt was top notch. He encouraged the Board and the Jekyll Island Citizens Association to use the Plan effectively for the good of future generations of Jekyll Islanders. He thanked Director Hooks and Accounting Director Marjorie Johnson for their “stellar” work on the Park’s finances during a down economy.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Director Hooks explained that a resolution was needed to enable the return of about 60 acres of land to the Park. In 2002, the DOT obtained the rights to the land for the purpose of mitigation of marsh reductions connected with harbor deepening. This mitigational activity never took place. Landscape Planning Director Cliff Gawron passed around to the Board members an aerial photo showing the land in question. Gawron explained that this plot of land is high marsh, and is just south of the old marina yacht basin (now filled in by saltmarsh), which in turn is just south of Summer Waves water park. Gawron stated that the plot consists of old dredge spoils, but does not contain upland vegetation; rather, the vegetation is a typical high-marsh flora. Hooks noted that there is no ulterior motive connected to the return of this plot of land. Mark Williams interjected that this plot would fall under the jurisdiction of the Marsh Protection Act. The Board approved the resolution.
The Board approved a resolution to authorize the spending of a Transportation Equity Act grant from the Georgia DOT for $200,000, largely for bike paths at the south end of the Park. The Authority’s match was $50,000, 80% of which has already been spent for engineering work.
Director Hooks listed the management companies that have been chosen as potential operators of the new Convention Center. The three firms were shortlisted after the qualifications review: Global Spectrum of Pennsylvania, SMG of Pennsylvania, and Venue Works of Iowa. Following receipt of formal proposals from these firms, they made presentations and their bids were reviewed by a 5-person team of Park administrators. SMG was the winning bidder (SMG operates 67 convention centers across the USA, from small centers to very large centers, and they have experience with operating LEED-certified centers). If a business agreement cannot be reached with SMG, then the Authority would begin negotiations with the 2nd- and 3rd-listed companies (viz. Venue Works and Global Spectrum). A 5-year agreement with SMG would run very roughly $475,000. The Board authorized the negotiations with SMG.
Director Hooks reported that construction on the new entry corridor should be well under way by the fall, so it should be complete before spring 2012. The new Convention Center is more than 50% complete. A applied-for waiver of the marsh buffer zone alongside the proposed bike path that would have followed Riverview Drive between the Stable Road intersection and the causeway entrance drive was not denied, but required additional steps that would have been costly. Therefore, the 230 feet in question will not be paved; rather, the surface there will be made pervious, avoiding the buffer-zone issue. Winding Road Developments is now contacting potential tenants of the Retail Center to be built alongside the new Convention Center, to determine their levels of interest in being included. Between now and the date of completion of construction on the Retail Center, Winding Road will be paying $1,500 per month to retain leasing rights. Phelps Development will also be paying a fee of $2,250 per month until their mid-priced hotel opens alongside the Retail Center. Trammell Crow has announced that they have no intention of abandoning development of their hospitality property, and will continue to pay a lease fee of $330,000 per year. The subject of a plan for their property is expected to be on the agenda for the Board meeting in August. First Guarantee Bank of Jacksonville has sent a letter to the Board detailing a chronology of events since the Jekyll Oceanfront Resort slipped into serious financial difficulty. A suit has been filed against the owner by the bank; the owner has 30 days to respond. Absence of a response will result in foreclosure, and possible transfer of ownership to a bidder who has offered fair market value. A temporary receiver has been appointed for the property to prevent it from deteriorating. Off-duty personnel from the Highway Patrol will reside at the property.
Hooks observed that discussions have been held with the Coastal Regional Council regarding the steps that they will be taking in the process of updating the Park’s Master Plan. Discussions have also been held with the Fanning Institute at the University of Georgia (an organization that was previously involved with updating of the Park’s Master Plan; see http://www.fanning.uga.edu/about.html ) regarding their involvement in the MP updating.
A Town Hall meeting has been scheduled for 4 August at 5:00 PM at McCormick’s Grill.
The $71 million SPLOST 6 (special sales tax proposal for Glynn County, to be voted up or down on 8 November) project list includes some for Jekyll Island State Park, including road resurfacing ($740,000), bike paths ($1,140,000), and pier improvements ($820,000).
A new Animal Control Ordinance was introduced in draft form (though it is not ready for its First Reading; review at this point will be by the JISPA Board). Director Hooks noted that one reason for producing a new animal-control ordinance is that there were insufficient penalty and enforcement provisions in the Pet Ordinance. The new ordinance would bring the Park up to the animal-control standards of Glynn County, except that animals will not be allowed on public property under “voice control”. The new ordinance is also expected to allow control of vicious dogs; this is believed to be needed now, because of recent reports of dangerous dogs in the Park. The ordinance will require owners of particular dogs to buy liability insurance for their pets. Enforcement would be through the Glynn County Magistrate Court, and a part-time enforcement officer (an off-duty police officer) would be hired for ordinance enforcement generally. Mark Williams inquired whether there is a national registry for classification of dogs as dangerous? Answer: there is no registry akin to that for sex offenders, but insurance companies do keep lists of dogs that are prone to be vicious.
Director Hooks observed that 2,716 college passes have been used year-to-date by students of the College of Coastal Georgia, and the college-pass program has been renewed for another year. He expressed pleasure at the growth of the interactions of the College with the Park Authority.
A meeting was held recently regarding interior-design plans for the new Convention Center. The major meeting room, the ballroom, at the Convention Center, will likely be able to accommodate in theatre style from four to six thousand patrons.
Chairman Krueger expressed pleasure at seeing the new Convention Center come together as well as it has, and at having a full complement of Board members.
Sandy Cerrato wondered why an additional animal-control ordinance would be needed, when her own observations indicate that the current Pet Ordinance is not being enforced with respect to frequency of unleashed dogs brought to the beaches of the Park, including the plover-nesting beaches at the south end, by day visitors? Answer: enforcement has indeed been a problem, and the new draft ordinance has an extensive section on enforcement.
Chairman Krueger adjourned the meeting at 11:38 AM.
Respectfully submitted, Steven Y. Newell, Jekyll Island Citizens Association; produced after transcribing from a digital voice recorder