Record of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JISPA) Board Meeting of 14 June 2008, at the Convention Center, as recorded by Steven Y. Newell, Secretary, Jekyll Island Citizens Association
(Note: IPJI has placed some text in “bold” type for emphasis)
Chairman Porter brought the meeting to order at 9:33 AM. Board members present were Ed Boshears, Steve Croy, Mike Hodges, Sam Kellett, Becky Kelley, Bob Krueger, and Sybil Lynn. Counsel George Zier and Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks were also present, and the audience numbered about 35 persons. State Representative Jerry Keen of the Park Authority’s Legislative Oversight Committee also sat at the Board table.
Chairman Porter welcomed Director Hooks on his first day on the job. Hooks proclaimed his happiness at being a part of the Park Authority team, and his readiness to face the challenges of directing the Park’s operation. Porter expressed delight at having Hooks on board, and looked forward to great things happening in the Park “soon and quickly”.
Chairman Porter congratulated Norman Haft on his selection as Co-President of the Jekyll Island Citizens Association. He also thanked outgoing JICA President Frank Mirasola for his long and hard service, and he thanked JICA for its dedication to making the Park better.
CONSERVATION AND PRESERVATION COMMITTEE
Chairman Mike Hodges called upon Museum Director John Hunter to summarize his recent activities, and added that the Authority has received a $50,000 Coastal Incentive Grant. Hunter added that a $5,000 grant has also been received from the DNR Watchable Wildlife Program, for the purpose of building a viewing platform at the causeway Welcome Center. He credited Conservation Manager Christa Frangiamore for handling the proposal-submission process for these two grants. Hunter described his recent interactions with the DNR Historic Preservation Division (HPD); Museum staff have now fully responded to a request by the Georgia National Registry Review Committee, and have put together in one volume all available archeological data from Jekyll Island State Park. HPD has also given the go-ahead to the alterations (expansion) planned for the Club Hotel (see JICANet Update Vol. IX, #28, 23 May 2008). Hunter reported that contracted refurbishments have begun at Indian Mound Cottage. Ed Boshears inquired about the money set aside for the Indian Mound work? Answer: $150,000. Ed asked whether this was sufficient for rehabilitation of the Cottage? Answer: The exterior and interior needs will be covered; only the roof replacement will be left for later.
Dory Ingram wondered about the status of the Park Conservation Plan? Answer: It is currently with the Attorney General’s Office. Counsel Zier added that only a couple of chapters are left to review, so the Plan should be ready for adoption by the end of July. Ingram further inquired whether there would be public input allowed for the legally reviewed and revised Plan? Answer: Yes, and this would normally take place after introduction of the revised Plan at a Board meeting. Then the Plan would be adopted at the next Board meeting, following public hearings.
Frank Mirasola reported that as of that morning, the Park had 64 loggerhead nests on its beaches. In the previous entire nesting season (May-October), there were only 37 nests in total. Mirasola projected that there may be 150 loggerhead nests in the Park in 2008. He also noted that 18 of the current 64 nests were located between Blackbeard’s Restaurant and the Canopy Bluff site.
Chairman Bob Krueger thanked Marjorie Johnson, Jim Broadwell, Eric Garvey, and Ronny Smith for the work that they did in working with Mike Hodges and himself and reviewing the Park budget for fiscal 2009, which has now also been reviewed by the Authority Finance Committee. Revenues for 2009 are projected to be up by $1 million, partly due to fee increases (e.g., annual parking fees up $5, water-usage fees increased as a result of the water-conservation plan, and golfing fees to be increased). Expenses are also projected to be up by about $1 million, so the Park is expected to essentially run in place. After taking out costs of capital projects, and taking out debt service, there will be about $250,000 left, much as in previous fiscal years. On the personnel side, four new positions for workers have been created, nine positions have been eliminated, and three requests for new positions have been denied. Chairman Porter congratulated the Authority Staff Leadership Team on their control of costs during the revenue-down period due to hotel closings. Krueger noted that capital projects are not included in the operating budget that is being considered for approval now. The capital projects will be reviewed during the course of fiscal 2009 for potential funding.
Ed Boshears wondered about comparison of expenditures for the Historic District projected for fiscal 2009 relative to fiscal 2008? Answer: Approximately $40,000 is budgeted for routine maintenance in the Historic District, resulting in about a $40,000 decrease in Museum costs from fiscal 2008. Boshears then asked the location in the budget of the money to be spent on the activities of GCI’s rebranding operations? Answer: That falls under advertising and sales. Boshears followed by asking the total to be spent on GCI? Answer: $35,000 is now budgeted in FY09, and the total for destination marketing is $108,000, to come out of hotel bed taxes.
Ed Boshears inquired about budgeting of monies for beach renourishment in the Park? Bob Krueger responded that beach renourishment is being considered as a capital project, and so is not included in the FY09 operating budget. Chairman Porter added that the question is moot, since there are no funding sources currently available for beach renourishment. Krueger reminded the Board that the cost of beach renourishment in the Park is now projected to be $12 million, much greater than can be wrought out of the Park’s current revenues. Boshears asked for clarification: no money is now budgeted for assessment of cost of beach renourishment or any other beach-renourishment items? Answer: That is correct. Porter noted that if State or County funds were to become available for beach renourishment, the Board would jump at the chance to use them, and possibly add to them.
Chairwoman Sybil Lynn called upon JISPA Human Resources Director Cornell Harvey to announce some staff awards. Harvey asked Frank Banks to come forward to present the awards. Banks introduced himself as a representative of the Georgia Association of Work Professionals. He proceeded to present to the Park Water Department a Platinum Award for perfect operation of the water-treatment plant over a five-year period. He also commended the Water Department for their fine operation of the Park sewage-treatment plant. He presented another award for the sewage-treatment facility, as the best operated facility of its kind in the State of Georgia. Chairman Porter joked that if the Water Department keeps winning awards, he would start bottling the Park’s water and selling it! Ed Boshears remarked that the Park is lucky to have the quality of personnel to run the Water Department so well.
Director Harvey called upon Marketing Director Eric Garvey to recognize other deserving personnel. Garvey reported a recent incident that he witnessed at Summer Waves. He happened to be attending the water park when a 12-year-old girl got into trouble in the Wave Pool (she was not breathing). He commended the lifeguards and the EMT attendant at the Park, who saved the life of the girl. By the time that the ambulance arrived to transport the girl to the hospital, she was breathing normally. The personnel responsible for this excellent rescue were Chad Strickland, Tyler Croft, Kennesaw Ratteree (lifeguards), Ben Taylor (EMT), and Summer Waves Director Steve Sharpe and Operations Manager Chris Brown, who were responsible for the decision to have a paramedic on hand at all times during operation of the water park, and to acquire the rescue device used to save the girl. Garvey noted that the Summer Waves personnel not involved in the rescue maintained their watches (they were not distracted), and Summer Waves took in $30,000 on that day.
Chairman Sam Kellett called upon Marketing Director Eric Garvey to give a report. Garvey reported that a business recovery has occurred, with a 2.6% increase in revenue from May 2007, in spite of the fact that the Buccaneer was operating in May 2007. The hotels are reporting strong reservations for June and especially July. The marketing website has experienced its strongest visitorship ever. The sea-turtle license tag now has 498 reservations logged (the goal is 1000). Garvey announced that Good Morning America will cover the release of sea turtle Dylan, and that Georgia Aquarium personnel and regional TV reporters will also be involved. He credited Walter Woods of GCI with pulling together this public-relations coup. Garvey reminded the Board that GCI would be having a rebranding-input session for hoteliers on that afternoon in the Convention Center.
PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP COMMITTEE
Chairman Ben Porter announced that Linger Longer Communities (LLC) has been working hard on its new plan for its condominium village (the “revitalization plan”), ingesting a large amount of public input. He tentatively gave the date of the August Board meeting as the time of announcement of the new plan.
David Kyler of the Center for a Sustainable Coast stated that it was not clear to him whether the announcement of a new “revitalization” plan would include the announcement of the form of the public/private contract agreement? Answer: The selection of the Private Revitalization Partner still depends upon the submission of an acceptable plan for a condominium village with a new convention center, and LLC will submit its new plan as soon as the new plan is available. Kyler asked to be allowed to say a few words about privatization agreements such as the forthcoming LLC/JISPA agreement. Kyler noted that privatization is not always a “magic bullet” for resolving problems. Kyler set forth a list of questions that need answering, if a privatization agreement is to be successful, based on his thirty years of working as a planner in the public sector. The key to having privatization be effective is to have a very tight agreement between the public and private entities. Among Kyler’s questions that he felt the Board should answer for themselves were the following.
How will it be determined whether LLC is meeting its obligations to provide services under the forthcoming agreement?
How will it be determined whether LLC is using public monies properly and efficiently to meet public objectives?
What are the specific and measurable objectives that LLC is expected to meet?
How often will LLC be required to report to JISPA and what format will be required for that reporting?
How will JISPA evaluate the adequacy of LLC’s performance reports, and how will corrective measures be executed if needed?
How will JISPA keep the public informed about LLC’s performance and JISPA’s assessment of it?
What control devices will be used to hold LLC to the agreement, such as performance bonding?
Chairman Porter called upon Counsel Zier to respond to David Kyler. Zier suggested to Kyler that Kyler was confusing two types of privatization. In Zier’s opinion, Kyler was referring to outsourcing of a service to an outside contractor. Zier stated that the Park Authority was not giving public money to LLC. The Park has always been a privatized entity, in that private persons and hoteliers have been able to build homes and businesses in the Park. However, Zier agreed with Kyler regarding the necessity for a clearly written contract, with guarantees of performance and clearly stated consequences of non-performance, and he assured Kyler that such clarity of wording will be in the contract.
Ed Boshears noted that JISPA had hired RLC to do an environmental study of the marsh, freshwater swamp, and woodland areas west of the central beachfront of the Park. This prompted him to ask whether this ecosystem survey was an indication that LLC was thinking of including some part of those ecosystems in its new condominium-village plan? Chairman Porter responded that the Board’s role was to receive a firm, new proposal from LLC whenever it is ready. In the meantime, a lot of discussion has taken place, but no conclusion has been reached regarding the placement of the condominium village, or its size. The final plan will be presented to the Board and to the public simultaneously. Boshears also noted that there has been some speculation about LLC placing its condominium village on one or more of the Park’s golf courses, and he asked whether this might be in the new LLC plan? Porter repeated that the Board and the public will learn of the new plan simultaneously, and that no information will be released in the interim. Boshears then pressed again for information on the site on which it is planned to put the condominium village? Answer: Because there is no firm plan, no information can be released.
Chairman Porter closed the Committee Session at 10:15 AM by announcing that he has asked Director Hooks and Shanna Brain to change the format of the Board meetings so that in the future, there will not be so much dead time between the Committee and the Action Sessions.