Record of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JISPA) Board Meeting of 15 September 2008, as recorded by Steven Y. Newell, Secretary, Jekyll Island Citizens Association
(Note: IPJI has placed some text in “bold” type for emphasis)
Chairman Bob Krueger brought the meeting to order at 9:38 AM. Board members present were Ed Boshears, Steve Croy, Buddy DeLoach, Mike Hodges, Bob Krueger, and Sybil Lynn. Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks,legal counsel George Zier, Legislative Oversight Committee member Senator Eric Johnson, and local Senator Jeff Chapman were also present. Board member Becky Kelley was on a conference telephone line. The audience numbered about 65 persons.
Chairman Krueger announced new rules regarding public comments. These must be offered following each committee session, and are limited to three minutes duration. Each speaker must initiate commentary by stating his/her name. Finance Chairman Porter will be the commentary timekeeper. No comments will be accepted at the Board meeting (which follows the close of the committee sessions, after a 10-minute break).
CONSERVATION & PRESERVATION COMMITTEE
Chairman Ben Porter asked Counsel Zier to speak to the status of the Jekyll Island State Park Conservation Plan. Zier reported that he is still working on the Plan, but expects to have it ready for presentation to the Board at the next Board meeting. Becky Kelley asked for clarification – will the Conservation Plan be ready for the next (October) Board meeting? Answer: that is the target date.
Chairman Mike Hodges reported that the income for the first month of Fiscal 08/09 was basically flat with 07/08 (only -$8,000). Expenses were about $20,000 over budget (Human Resources expenses were over by about $37,000). Net operating income was 2% under budget. Hotel-room occupancy was unchanged from August 2008 (about 48%).
Hodges announced some capital-project budget requests. The list included about $29,000 for improvements at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, about $200,000 for Summer Waves maintenance jobs, $144,000 for water/wastewater projects, $221,000 for parking projects, and $284,000 for other capital projects and equipment. The original list totaled about $1.8 million, but staff did a good job of paring the list down to the $888,000 now requested. Director Hooks noted that he and staff had cut an additional $180,000 from an earlier total, in view of the rather poor business month (due mostly to weather) that the Park had suffered in August. Becky Kelley inquired about the nature of the capital projects which had been pared from the original list? Answer: under water/wastewater, a backflow-valve installation was removed ($110,000), and a valve-hydrant was removed ($46,000); under parking projects, $25,000 was removed. Director Hooks clarified the situation: these projects have been deferred, not deleted. Ben Porter asserted that three factors have depressed Park income (weather, oil prices, and the national economy). He praised Hodges, Marjorie Johnson and the Authority staff for making sure that Park expenditures are kept in tune with income.
Hodges announced that the lease for the Days Inn will need to be routinely updated, because it is being refinanced by Budget Motels, which operates the Inn. The lease for the Post Office is also in need of attention, since it must be renewed two years in advance of scheduled termination. A five-year extension with current terms has been requested. Chairman Krueger wondered whether the new lease would contain recognition of the possibility that the current Shopping Center might be substantially modified? Answer: yes, including the possibility of relocation to a temporary facility.
Hodges called upon the Finance Committee membership to approve a resolution to the effect that the Authority Board should accept the State’s offer of a $25 million bond issuance to support infrastructure work in the Park. Counsel Zier explained that this type of resolution generally involves agreement to use the bond proceeds for the types of projects specified, and the State’s agreement to provide the promised funds. Becky Kelley asked whether there would be specific descriptions of the infrastructure projects to be funded? Counsel Zier explained that the monies must be used for capital improvements on State or Authority properties.
Authority Accountant Marjorie Johnson reported that the Authority is close to finalizing an agreement for the planned new Verizon mobile-telephone tower. The Verizon people have conducted a balloon test, and discovered that the new tower (to be behind the Fire Station) will be visible in the Historic District only from the turret at the Club Hotel. Also, the empty Comcast building on the south end (south of the HB214 development-protective line) will be razed. Jekyll Harbor has put in the improvements to their property that the Authority had
requested, so their lease extension will now be negotiated. Counsel Zier corrected this statement: the Harbor will get a rent-amendment provision, not a lease extension (a bone of contention is that the proposed amendment would include an inflation-index factor).
Frank Mirasola brought up the proposal to build a new 2.5-acre corral for the horse-riding business located in the Clam Creek area. He asked why this was needed, why the old dairy barn area was chosen as the proposed site, and whether any consideration was given to potential degradation of that area? Answer: the horse-riding business needs an overnight facility for its horses, and the dairy-barn area was chosen because it is relatively secluded. The vendor needs help to be able to keep his business going, with insurance and fuel costs escalating. The vendor plans to use the proposed corral area during the fall and winter only. The dairy-barn area and the landfill were the only two suitable, offthe- road, open areas for the corral. Mirasola asked that the residents with homes near the old dairy-barn area (near Jennings and the Methodist Church) be consulted regarding their feelings about the proposed corral, in view of potential odor and horsefly problems. Chairman Krueger noted Mirasola’s points, and directed staff to have further discussions regarding the potential new corral.
David Kyler of the Center for a Sustainable Coast expressed concern about the $25 million State bond issue that would be used for generically described capital improvement projects in the Park, without enforceable criteria to ensure responsible expenditures. Kyler found this particularly disturbing in view of the fact that the State is enduring a budget shortfall that may cause the closure of some State parks.
Richard Van Iderstyne put forward an idea: electric vehicles would be more efficient as mail-carrier vehicles than the currently used gasoline vehicles. He brushed aside the joking suggestion that his Red Bug business would benefit by this change. Counsel Zier noted that the United States Post Office has a regular suggestion-input system for money-saving ideas, and those who suggest ideas that are eventually adopted can benefit financially.
Senator Jeff Chapman complimented the Authority Board for making sure that the audience is able to hear all comments. He described the procedure that was used when he was on the County Commission: all meetings were aired on the local cable channel, and the public had expressed its appreciation for this. He recommended to the Authority Board that they audiotape their meetings, and make the recording available on the Authority website. Chairman Krueger asserted that he would certainly entertain Senator Chapman’s suggestion.
Chairman Lynn announced the hiring of Lee Branch as the Park’s new Lease Coordinator. Human Resources Director Cornell Harvey noted that Marcie Clark was being nominated for the Governor’s Public Service Excellence Award, in the slot for Employee of the Year. For the Team Award, the Summer Waves employees were nominated (core staff: Steve Sharpe, Debbie Minick, and Chris Brown). Dr. Terry Norton has officially come on board as the Director of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.
Chairman Croy reported that he and Senator Johnson had met with the Governor and Lt. Governor to recommend that the $25 million in bond-funding for the Park stay in the budget. He had received assurance that the bond issuance would go forward. Senator Johnson noted that in spite of the 1.5 to 2 billion dollar budget deficit, the bond issuance would go forward, because the capital projects funded would keep people working. Chairman Krueger added that the issuance would be in December, 2008, and the bonds would be repaid with income from Park revenue, not from State taxpayers. Ben Porter and Steve Croy emphasized that
the bonds are Jekyll Island State Park bonds, to be paid back by Park income, and that Jekyll Island State Park is required by law to be financially self-sustaining. Krueger noted that Jekyll Island State Park, because of its financial self-sufficiency, is avoiding the threat of severe cutbacks or closure currently faced by some Georgia State parks. Becky Kelley added that no final decisions have yet been made on closures; financial figures are still being examined.
Chairman Krueger called upon Director Hooks to make the marketing report in Chairman Kellett’s absence. Hooks reported that the contract of public-relations consultant GCI was not renewed.
PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP COMMITTEE
Chairman Krueger reported that redesigns and negotiations are ongoing with the Private Revitalization Partner (Linger Longer Communities, LLC). No new final proposals are ready for announcement. Legal questions are being passed back and forth; these must be resolved before a new proposal can be brought forward.
Faye Fennell from Dublin, Georgia, commented that she has been following the revitalization project for some time, because she has been coming to Jekyll Island State Park since the 1970s. She loves the serenity of the Park, a serenity that cannot be found in other coastal recreational spots. People with whom she has spoken have voiced the same opinion, and she felt that this view should be heard. She considered the Shopping Center a landmark, that should not be greatly changed. She objected to any plans to build tall buildings in the Park, and felt that using the tower at the Club Hotel as a height standard for new hotels was not reasonable. She described her many wonderful memories of enjoyable times in the Park (bike riding, horseback riding, fishing, Summer Waves fun). She spent her 50th wedding anniversary in 2006 in the Park (her husband passed away last year). She assembled an afghan from a photo of her grandson at Oceanside Inn, and it reminds her of all of her great memories. She decried any addition of glitter and glamour to the Park. Chairman Krueger thanked Fennell for her devotion to the Park, and assured the audience that the Board is listening to the comments from across the State, and that the Board has no intention of creating another Hilton Head or Panama City Beach. The Board recognizes the challenge facing them in trying to make the Park an economically viable entity.
David Kyler asked why the Conservation Plan and the Visitor-Impact Study were not mentioned as part of the reason that the new LLC proposal is currently being held back? Answer: the Conservation Plan and Impact Study are being considered during the redesign of LLC’s proposal.
Roddy Clark asked about the cash flow of the Park – was it positive in 2007? Answer: yes. Clark continued with a question about the repayment of the $25 million bond that will be issued in December, 2008 – with 20 years to repay, and a 5-year deferment of payments, it would cost $1 million plus per year – how can this money be paid? Answer: the capital projects completed with the bond money will themselves generate further monies. Chairman Krueger added that revenues from the new hotels replacing demolished hotels would soon begin to
provide funds to the Authority. Hodges asserted that we live in a deferred maintenance world, and as an example, asked the audience to look at the room in which they sat (NB: no obvious deterioration problems were visible in the room). Ed Boshears recommended that any new condominiums built in the Park should cost their new owners a substantial amount of money that would be designated for repayment of the $25 million bond debt, since it will be spent to provide the infrastructure that will support their new condominiums.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Jim Broadwell reminded the audience that the first reading of the Jekyll Island State Park draft Design Guidelines had occurred at the August meeting of the Authority Board. The first reading consisted of placing the draft document on the Authority website so that the public could review it. It had been planned to adopt the document at the September meeting, but there has been much good input, some of it just prior to the September meeting, so the draft Guidelines will now be
revised and replaced on the website for more public comment.
Buddy DeLoach spoke for the Nominating Committee (DeLoach, Sybil Lynn, and Becky Kelley). Two names were put forward: Steve Croy for Vice Chair, and Mike Hodges for Secretary, and these names were accepted.
Director Hooks reported that Conservation Manager Christa Frangiamore has obtained a Coastal Incentive Grant from the Georgia DNR in the amount of $50 thousand. The funds will be used to prepare a birding pocket guide, interpretive signage, educational exhibits, etc. Hooks described the first of the Jekyll Island State Park Town Hall Meetings (28 August), which drew well over 100 attendees. Several operational issues were discussed at the Meeting, including signage problems, bathroom problems, bike-path problems, recycling activities, etc. The Meeting was considered to have had a very positive tone. There will be a meeting between DNR and JISPA representatives on 24 September to discuss legal issues associated with the sales of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center auto tags. There are 1,300 preliminary reservations currently on the books for the
tags. A memo will soon be sent out to all Park homeowners to the effect that rental taxes must be submitted to the Park Authority, and not to Glynn County (it was discovered that some home-rental, hotel/motel tax has been sent incorrectly to the County). Hooks explained that the Parking-Fee Station has had its decal lane blocked, because the current decal reader is not functional and will be replaced soon. The changeover to a new decal reader will take some time (lots of data entry; target date for completion – 19 September). In the meantime, the decal lane must be blocked so that scofflaws do not scoot through without paying. Many of these scofflaws have been apprehended, and are now proud owners of entry decals.
Frank Mirasola commended Director Hooks for his handling of the Town Hall Meeting. Mirasola invited the Board members to attend the next Town Hall Meeting. Mirasola then noted that fees for Park residents have increased recently. He asked that the Authority provide explanations of the procedures used to make decisions about fee increases. Hooks responded positively, and added that he could also provide comparisons of Park fees to fees required in other jurisdictions.
Chairman Krueger announced that he and Director Hooks are forming the Jekyll Advisory Forum. The Forum will include representatives of several types of stakeholders who will meet on a quarterly basis. The stakeholder types will include major investors, the Park’s business community, the Georgia DNR (which is working hard to make the Park a fishing destination), the Jekyll Island Citizens Association, the County Development Authority, the County Commission, the Coastal College, and others. Krueger felt that this would make the move to revitalize Jekyll Island State Park more open and responsive to all interested parties. [IPJI Note: For Chairman Krueger, apparently Jekyll’s visitors are not to be counted among “all interested parties,” as he rejected the suggestion, made by Senator Chapman after the meeting had adjourned, that a representative from IPJI be included in the “Jekyll Advisory Forum.”]
Jean Poleszak commended Chairman Krueger for his Forum project, and reminded him that there are already provisions for a Citizens Resource Council in legislation (which has been ignored for some years) regarding Jekyll Island State Park. Krueger responded that those would be appointments of the Governor, whereas the Forum will be assembled by the Authority Board. The new Forum will broaden the Authority Board’s communications to Glynn County folks regarding revitalization. Poleszak expressed her belief that the Forum will be far superior to the Citizens Council. Ed Boshears noted that he was in the Legislature when the Citizens Council was created. The primary reason for setting up the Council was the extremely adverse relationship between the Park residents and the then-Director of the Authority. Eventually, it became necessary for the Governor to fire the problematic Director, and that removed the primary basis for having the Council.
Norman Haft thanked the Board for the reasonable decision to table the adoption of the draft Design Guidelines, and he seconded Frank Mirasola’s commendation of Director Hooks for the excellent first Town Hall Meeting. Ron Willnow (Editor of the Jekyll Island Citizens Association website, http://www.jekyllcitizens.org) advised the Board members that it might be worthwhile to visit the website to view the event calendar, etc. He also offered a paper version of the Association’s website content to all of the Board members. Chairman Krueger adjourned the Committee Session at 10:45 AM.
Chairman Krueger opened the Board Meeting at 11:00 AM. The action items were voted upon positively (the capital projects budget request, modification of the l ease for Budget Motels (Days Inn), extension of the Post
Office lease, approval of the $25 million, general-obligation bond issue, and the nominations of Vice Chair and Secretary).
Chairman Krueger announced that Bleakly Advisory Group would finish the Board Meeting by next presenting a forecast of long-term impact of development in Jekyll Island State Park. Krueger reminded the audience that no questions would be taken from the audience. He informed the audience that a meeting for public input on the impact report would occur on 29 September, and a CD copy of the report would be available from Jim Broadwell. Ben Porter inquired whether the report would be available on the Authority website? Answer: possibly, but the report is quite sizable. Ed Boshears wondered what the relationship is between the Bleakly Group’s Park-capacity study and the long-term development-impact study? Ken Bleakly replied that the development-impact information goes directly toward learning more about Park capacity. Krueger added that he and other Board members had heard the report from Bleakly on 3 September, and learned that the report does address some aspects of Park capacity.
Ken Bleakly and his partner Gary Mongeon made their presentation of what they, along with Thomas and Hutton Engineers and Cooper Carry Consultants (data from the CCC Revitalization Plan), have calculated is necessary to keep the Park’s budget in balance over the years to 2023. (NB: residents who would like to hear this report in detail should attend the 29 September presentation by the Bleakly Group, and/or obtain a CD of the report from Authority Project Manager Jim Broadwell.) Mongeon noted as he began his presentation of forecast figures that Bleakly staff is still working on aspects of projection of Park capacity.
To read an IPJi analysis of the BAG reports and to read the reports click here