Record of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JISPA) Board Meeting of 9 March 2009, in the Convention Center, as recorded for JICA
(Note: IPJI has placed some text in "bold" type for emphasis and has clarified some statements)
Tthe meeting to order at 9:35 AM. Board members present were Steve Croy, Buddy DeLoach, Mike Hodges, Sybil Lynn, Ben Porter, and Richard Royal. Becky Kelley, legal counsel George Zier, and legal counsel Brooks Stillwell were on a conference telephone line. Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks was also present. The audience numbered about 30 persons. Krueger welcomed a new Board member, Richard Royal, from Camilla, Georgia. Royal has just retired from 25 years of service in the Georgia Legislature. Krueger thanked Tom Lewis for serving in the interim between the exit of Ed Boshears and the swearing-in of Royal. He appreciated the dedication of Lewis to Jekyll Island State Park.
CONSERVATION & PRESERVATION
Chairman Ben Porter called upon Museum Director John Hunter to present a report. Hunter announced that he had hosted an Archeology Day on 26 February as part of the Phase 2 Archeology Survey. With the archeologists from Brockington and Associates, he put together a public program to permit the public to observe the methods used in archeological surveying of the Park, and have an opportunity to ask questions about the Park’s history. About 100 persons attended, and observed for two hours. Hunter announced that Conservation Manager Christa Frangiamore would host an event as part of her Coastal Incentive Grant (from DNR/CRD) involving Dr. Shepherd Krech of Brown University’s Museum of Anthropology. Dr. Krech will discuss material from his book, Spirits in the Air, about the relationships of southeastern USA Indians to birds. Of note is the fact that Dr. Krech’s great grandfather, Alvin Krech, was a member of the Jekyll Island Club. Hunter updated the situation with Indian Mound Cottage: the Cottage will reopen on Mothers’ Day, 10 May.
Turtle Center Director Terry Norton described the Center’s work with diamondback terrapins. Since 2006, terrapin mortality has been monitored on the Jekyll Causeway. Two to three hundred adult female terrapins are hit annually. They come onto the Causeway to find nesting sites. All terrapins found on the Causeway, alive or dead, are located by GPS and recorded. All living terrapins recorded were tagged; some of these were rescued and rehabilitated. During summer 2008, a student monitored nests and learned that there is heavy raccoon predation on the nests. Over 75 injured terrapins have been successfully rehabilitated. Last year, about 100 eggs were taken from dead terrapins and hatched and raised. Seventy of these were released, and 30 are being used in educational exhibits. The Center is also attempting to educate the public regarding the drowning of terrapins in crab traps. Based on a workshop held last January, the Center will begin some management efforts on the Causeway. One goal will be to set up caged nest mounds within which terrapins can nest without subsequent raccoon predation (there is an example setup viewable at the Welcome Center). Norton recently visited the Wetlands Center in New Jersey to learn more about their long-term terrapin-conservation program. The Wetlands Center has done some fencing-off of roadways on which terrapins had been suffering high mortality rates, but the Georgia Center will not yet begin any fencing. Rather, several raccoon-proof nest mounds will be erected, along with interpretive signage. Chairman Porter asked about turtle-crossing warnings? Answer: both signs and banners (larger than last year) will go up in April (preceding the initiation of nesting in May).
Chairman Hodges compared traffic revenues from February 09 and 08 – Feb 09 was down 4% from last year. Total revenues for February were $119,000 (9%) under budget. Amenity revenues were under budget by 17%. For the eight months of the fiscal year, total revenues are $860,000 (7%) under budget. Expenses were $893,000 ($387,000 under budget). Year-to-date, net operating income is $319,000, $430,000 less than budgeted. Director Hooks added that some of the financial shortcoming is due to the nation’s financial situation. Because of this situation, he and his staff are watching expenditures very carefully.
Chairman Hodges announced that Russell Hinton, the State Auditor, has given the Park Authority a clean audit – no corrective actions were required. Director Hooks commended Accounting Director Marjorie Johnson for her work resulting in the clean audit. Chairman Krueger and Buddy DeLoach also commended Johnson; DeLoach reminded the audience that Hinton is independent of the Executive Branch (he is elected by the General Assembly).
Pat Overholt expressed her enjoyment at having the Ultimate (frisbee) players renting in her neighborhood. She felt that they were a wonderful group of kids, and hoped that they would contribute to a good economic month for the Park.
David Egan inquired about the $45,000 that is to be paid to Linger Longer Jekyll (beginning retroactively) – is that amount reflected in one of the February budget categories? Director Hooks replied that those payments are not a part of the operational budget. At present, the payments are being accrued rather than paid out.
Tise Eyler welcomed Richard Royal to the Board, and reminded the audience that Royal had worked with him years earlier in the successful campaign to obtain SPLOST monies for Jekyll Island State Park (for the previous 15 years, these monies had been unfairly taken by the County – after SPLOST 5, the total amount retrieved will be $6.2 million). Eyler called attention to an editorial-page cartoon that had appeared in the Brunswick News that morning. The cartoon showed the entrance to Jekyll Island State Park with a banner across it, reading “Ghost Town of the Year 2015”. Eyler expressed extreme concern at such material appearing in Glynn’s own local newspaper. He sees lots of activity in the Park just now, and no excuse for such an editorial item. He called for loud and clear answers to such material.
Gloria Zocchi replied to Pat Overholt’s remarks about the Ultimate players now renting in the Park. She has heard from residents living near to a couple of houses being used by the young people as party houses. There is a lot of alcohol consumption, beer-can throwing, rude language, exposure of buttocks, and loud music until late at night at these particular rental houses. The State Patrol has had to respond several times. She called for enforcement of guidelines if spring-break kids are going to be encouraged to come to the Park. Chairman Krueger requested that this matter be taken up with Director Hooks. His opinion was that many of those around the Board table and in the audience had done similar hijinks when they were on spring break from college. Ben Porter added that the revitalization of Jekyll should have occurred back when he was in JC, and he tore the place up.
Chairman Lynn called upon Human Resources Director Cornell Harvey to present the report. Harvey announced four Faithful Service Awards. Three awardees were not present: Pam Cook (Morgan’s Grill, ten years), Shirley Martin (Museum, ten years), Sandra Davis (Welcome Center, ten years). The fourth was Timmy Head, who has worked in golf course maintenance for twenty years, having been promoted to Assistant Superintendent presently. Harvey gave Head much of the credit for the great shape that the Park’s golf courses are in now. Mindy Egan gave a testimonial for Timmy Head. She joked that her bad foot was a consequence of so much golf play since she began coming to the Park in 1983 (she walked 54 holes or more per day). She became well acquainted with the golf workers, and she testified that the Park’s golf employees are exceptionally friendly to the golf players, so that Head well deserves the Award that he received. Chairman Krueger seconded Egan’s testimonial: the golf course employees are a real asset for the Park.
Chairman Croy reminded the group of the bill introduced by Senator Pearson regarding the leasing rates in Jekyll Island State Park. That bill is working its way through the process, and otherwise the legislature has been pretty much quiet with respect to the Park. Croy asserted that “everybody in the legislature wishes us well and continues to be confident in what we’re doing down here”.
Marketing Director Eric Garvey announced that the details for the Easter Egg Stroll (Saturday 11 April) and the Mother Nature Festival (the Park’s Earth Day celebration) have been finalized. The Stroll will be a downsized version of the former Egg Hunt, and will be targeted to families with younger children. Garvey gave credit to Park volunteers for help in reformatting this event. The Mother Nature Festival will be focused on the Sea Turtle Center, and will radiate out to other parts of the Park where visitors can engage in eco-friendly crafts and excursions. It is anticipated that this event will become a large annual celebration, fitting well with the Park’s goal of being an environmentally friendly destination. New business for the Park is now scheduled: the Ultimate frisbee contests through March; a large, annual high-school soccer tournament; a lacrosse tournament; a rugby tournament in December. Garvey is working with Harry Kicklighter at the Golf Complex to stimulate business. One aspect of this effort has been price-cutting to improve competitiveness with other nearby golf courses. Park-residential volunteers have participated in this exercise.
Mindy Egan inquired about the coming rebranding (of the Park) meeting? Answer: it is not yet scheduled. Timing and cost are now being considered. The meeting to discuss brand positioning will come in the next 30-50 days.
PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP COMMITTEE
Chairman Krueger reported that the first condominium units have been sold at the Oceanfront Resort. Trammell Crow has taken over the active lead at Canopy Bluff. Jekyll Ocean Oaks is making good progress with the erection of the Hampton Inn and Suites. Krueger has talked with members of the Convention and Visitors Bureau which recently met in Jekyll Island State Park – they are all quite excited about the revitalization activities.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chairman Krueger called upon Director Hooks to discuss the recent review of the bids for the architectural and engineering services needed for the renovation of the Convention Center and parts of the Beach Village. Hooks referred to the results of the exhaustive study by the review committee at each Board member’s place. Thirty-three firms had bid. Project Manager Jim Broadwell was the coordinator of the effort, and he presented the results of the RFQC (Request for Qualified Contractors). Broadwell introduced the other team members: Jones Hooks, Ronny Smith, John Hunter, Cliff Gawron, and Jack Elkins of Linger Longer Jekyll. The list of 33 firms had been whittled down to a list of three ranked firms. In early March, the top three firms were interviewed. A clear lead candidate emerged: HHCP. The Authority would like to enter into a contract by the end of March. A scope of work must be put together. It will include locating of the five or six main assets within the Beach Village area. Once approval is received to begin negotiations, a program will be devised, and a fee schedule settled upon. The other two companies short-listed were Jacobs Engineering and Cooper Carry. The second-rated firm would come into play in case there was a breakdown in the negotiations with the top-rated firm. Ben Porter asked for information about HHCP? Answer: the descriptive books are voluminous, and you are welcome to look at them at your convenience. HHCP has done several remodelings of convention centers in the southeastern USA. They have an extensive planning division headquartered in Atlanta, and this factor impressed the search committee greatly. It is anticipated that HHCP could also serve Linger Longer Jekyll with the private portions of the Beach Village. The eagerness of HHCP to get going on the project within the next 30 days was also a factor in their selection as the top-rated firm. Director Hooks added that the search committee was very impressed with the potential project team that HHCP had put together, especially the project manager, the architect, and the land-planning group. Another plus was the fact that HHCP plans to use Thomas & Hutton as a partner; T & H has experience working with landscape engineering in the Park. Ben Porter noted that if HHCP had stood out over Cooper Carry, which has done several projects for the Authority, then HHCP must be quite a strong firm.
Mike Hodges asked about the location of HHCP, and the sites on which they have worked? Answer: they are based in Orlando, FL, and have done projects in Orlando, St. Augustine, Panama City, Destin, Atlanta, and cities in SC, but it was their coastal experience that was most impressive. The Board voted to approve the contract negotiations with HHCP, and Chairman Krueger thanked the search committee for their work.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S UPDATE
Director Hooks announced that the Jekyll Island Foundation will be having an Atlanta event, in conjunction with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on 21 May at the Georgia Aquarium. It is hoped that the event will generate some donations. It is a part of the joint activity program between the Aquarium and the Center. Hooks reminded the audience that the Center is continuing to receive grants from the Aquarium.
The Foundation Weekend will be held in 2009 in September (18th through 20th) to coincide with the Shrimp & Grits Festival.
The 10-year lease renewals for the residential properties will take place this year, and the Authority is working diligently to avoid any difficulties with the renewals. Accounting Director Johnson is almost ready to send out the first verification notices to the Park residents (no later than mid-April). With the returned verification forms, the Authority will be able to file the renewals with Glynn County by mid-July. All of the filings will take place in one large batch. The cost to each resident is estimated to come to $15 or less.
The construction documents and signed contract are expected back from Verizon this week, enabling initiation of the erection of the new Verizon cellphone tower.
The beach crossovers have now all been labeled with an identity tag (a yellow number), so that visitors in distress can, if needed, call for emergency help with a definite location.
The April meeting of the Board will be held on 20 April, to avoid conflict with Easter week.
Chairman Krueger announced the passing of Park resident Len Poleszak. Poleszak was a tireless worker for the Jekyll Island Arts Association. Krueger offered the Board’s condolences to the Poleszak family, and recognized Poleszak’s work.
Krueger concluded by joking that Ben Porter was now confessing to his misspent youth and its effects upon Jekyll Island. He declared that it is fitting that he now is a part of the Park’s revitalization. Porter confessed one more thing indirectly, by noting that if one drives a motorcycle into the swimming pool at the Wanderer, the motorcycle will no longer run. Mike Hodges chimed in, asserting that he also was acting similarly wildly at the time. Krueger cut off any further confessing.
Porter observed that new Board member Richard Royal had been a friend of Jekyll Island State Park since before most of the current Board knew much about Jekyll Island. He was pleased to have Royal on the Board.
Jeff Catlett from Knoxville, TN, commented that he had first come to Jekyll Island State Park forty years ago, and with his wife Karen has been coming to the Park once or twice a year for the last 12 years. They consider the Park a very special place. Catlett asked if it is true that the Bleakly Group used an acreage figure of 9,000 acres (including the marshlands and the causeway west to Rt. 17) in their estimates of future density of development in the Park? Krueger felt that the 9,000 figure was incorrect, but Director Hooks stated that 9,000+ acres is the figure used by Bleakly, because the consultants had used Census Bureau figures as a uniform base for all of the island destinations that they had compared. The Bleakly people have now added a page to their report, citing figures for the restricted areas of the islands compared. Catlett hoped that the Park would remain a very special place, to which he and his wife would want to return for many years. (Note: IPJI is reviewing the additional information and will be reporting on the findings)
Norman Haft commended Director Hooks and Accounting Director Johnson for their assistance to the Park residents in the matter of the 10-year lease renewals. He remarked that during the 1999 renewals, each resident had been required to obtain individual notarizations and appear at the County offices, making the whole process much more difficult than it needed to be. Haft also commended Hooks for his holding of Town Hall Meetings, which allow resident input to the Authority, and serve as a learning experience for the residents regarding Park operations.
Vance Hughes wondered whether the Authority has been able to identify any of the federal stimulus money that could be put to good use in the Park (he offered assistance from JICA and the Park’s business community in lobbying)? Director Hooks noted that he had recently had discussions with the Park’s Fire Chief about this possibility, and each of the Park’s department heads is looking at this possibility. Ben Porter added that he is considering recommending that some of the second $25 million in State bond money scheduled for the Park be used for rebuilding parts of the Park’s Historic District. Hughes observed that during the Great Depression, federal money was used to make Key West into the bustling vacation destination that it is now.
David Egan requested that the amended version of the Bleakly development-density report be made available on the Authority’s website? Answer: it will soon be posted.
Chairman Krueger adjourned the Committee Session at 10:37 AM.
CORRECTION to the record of the 9 March Finance Committee meeting (JICANet Update Vol X, No. 16, 16 Mar 09): Frank Zagami’s tenure in Jekyll Island State Park is 28 years, not 48 years.
Steven Y. Newell, Secretary, Jekyll Island Citizens Association