Record of the Jekyll Island State Park Authority (JISPA) Board Meeting of 8 June 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)
Chairman Bob Krueger brought the meeting to order at 9:35 AM. Board members present were Buddy DeLoach, Mike Hodges, Sybil Lynn, Ben Porter, and Richard Royal. Also present was Park Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks. On the telephone were Board members Chris Clark (DNR Commissioner), Steve Croy, and legal counsel George Zier representing Denise Whiting-Pack from the Office of the Attorney General. The audience numbered about 40 persons.
HISTORIC PRESERVATION/CONSERVATION COMMITTEE
Chairman Royal called upon Dr. June Hall McCash. Dr. McCash announced that Andre Steiner had passed away on 22 April 2009, at the age of 100. In the process of preparing an article about the State-owned period of Jekyll Island State Park, McCash had discovered that Steiner had been the designer of the original Master Plan for the State Park. [McCash noted that the article was published in a book entitled “Southern Journeys”, Alabama Press.] In November, 2008, McCash ran across an article about Steiner, citing his heroism in saving some 7,000 Slovakian Jewish lives during the Holocaust. McCash interviewed Steiner in Atlanta twice in early 2009, and the result has been an article published in “Georgia Backroads” magazine (the current issue). Before World War II, Steiner had been a well known architect living in Brno, Czechoslovakia. Steiner was arrested for being Jewish when the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia, but when the Nazis realized his value as an architect, they put him to work on partially-completed building complexes and later on resort edifices that they wanted to see finished. When the Nazis began deporting Slovakian Jews to concentration camps, Steiner was able to save many who would otherwise have been taken to Auschwitz, by convincing the invaders to keep them in Slovakia and use them in manufacturing work camps. Conditions eventually worsened, and Steiner and his family were forced to flee to the mountains, and hide in a woodcutter’s hut. When the war ended, the Steiners moved into one of the resorts that they had built for the Nazis, and used it as a center for reuniting of orphans with their families.
In 1948, the Steiners moved to Cuba. After two years, they were able to immigrate to Atlanta, where Steiner obtained a position with Robert & Company, the famous architectural firm which was eventually given the contract to design Jekyll Island State Park, in 1951. This project was Steiner’s favorite through the rest of his life (others included Callaway Gardens, the campus of Georgia State University, and buildings for Emory University). It was Steiner who made the decision to limit development to 35% of the upland acreage, because he felt that the natural beauty of the Park should never be compromised. His plan won out over a competing one, which included turning Jekyll Island into a little Daytona Beach, with auto racing on the beaches. Steiner had argued vehemently against overdevelopment, with houses and houses and houses (his words) like we have now along the Florida coast. He also intended for his plan to favor the use of the Park by the middle class, rather than the rich. He spent several months living in Villa Mariana, completing his plan. He was, in many respects, the creator of Jekyll Island State Park as we know it today. Dr. McCash called for Steiner to be paid tribute by the Park Authority, and regretted that he could not be present to accept the honor himself.
Chairman Royal offered the official recognition of Andre Steiner’s contribution to the formation of Jekyll Island State Park as an action item for the Authority Board. Chairman Krueger thanked Dr. McCash for her presentation.
Mindy Egan commended Dr. McCash for her interesting narrative, and thanked her for bringing it to the Board meeting.
Chairman Hodges gave total revenue for the eleven months ending 31 May, 2009, as $14,755,100, nine percent below the budgeted figure, and five percent below the figure for the same period in 2008. There were areas that produced revenues above or at the budgeted figures (parking fees, food and beverage, the Sea Turtle Center). Expenditures for the eleven months were $13,511,463, seven percent less than originally budgeted, and two percent below expenditures for the same period in 2008. Net operating income for the eleven months was $1,243,637, twenty-eight percent below the budgeted figure, and twenty-four percent below the same period for 2008. The largest items under budget were human resources and supplies. The largest item over budget was contracts (revitalization projects). Director Hooks noted that problematic weather in May had caused Summer Waves to fall behind in revenue production. Hooks also commended the Campground for its good financial standing, and was happy to see the Park’s restaurants do better than usual.
Hodges and Hooks discussed the projected budget for fiscal 2009/10. It will be a relatively flat budget in revenues from 2008/09, and a much lower budget in income (63% reduction in projected operating cash income from FY09). One item that will impact it will be a large increase in workers’ comp and health insurance costs. Hooks remarked that the FY10 budget includes funds for jump-starting the sea-turtle auto-license tag production. The Park’s gas station will remain open only to 30 September, 2009. The State of Georgia will include removal of the current underground gas storage tanks in a currently operating contract for old gas-station cleanups. Plans are being put in place for handling emergency needs for fuel during the period between closure of the old gas station and opening of a new gas station. There will be signage at the beginning of the causeway notifying visitors that gasoline will not be available in the Park. Hooks reminded the Board that staff will be monitoring budget deviations that take place early in the next fiscal year, to permit appropriate adjustments. Capital projects will be impacted, since it is not expected that capital reserves will be increasing in FY10. Only $240,000 is projected to be available for capital improvements, considerably less that the amount needed. Hodges commended Hooks and his staff for their hard work in putting together the FY10 budget in these tough fiscal times. Hodges asked that the FY10 budget be brought before the Board as an action item, since the Finance Committee had already approved it.
Chairman Hodges informed the group that the scheduled update on the plan for dealing with the Park’s residential leases will be postponed until the July meeting, because Gary Mongeon of the Bleakly Group has been quite ill. He stated that a final resolution of the residential-lease questions will come in September, 2009.
Chairman Croy reported that things were quiet in the State Legislature, and that “all’s good”.
Chairman Porter called upon Marketing Director Eric Garvey. Garvey and Porter asked for critical comments on their ideas for improved signage on I95 and Rte. 17. Porter suggested two options for potential graphics on the directional signs: “Jekyll Island – the nearest faraway place” or a bird logo (painted bunting).
Garvey described his launching of a campaign to encourage summer travel, which has been suppressed by economic factors. The two factors that Garvey will emphasize are affordability and ease of access. Online trip journals will be encouraged by offering of discounts on Park costs. Garvey pointed out that Southern Living has put Jekyll Island State Park horseback riding as its number 6 item in a list of great things to do with kids. The Park’s revitalization has been featured in Georgia Trends and in Tradewinds (a newsletter of the Glynn County Development Authority), and ABC’s Good Morning America recently aired a piece about beach erosion and sea-level rise.
Garvey noted that there has been an increase in use of the golf courses by locals, which he attributed to reduction in pricing, but he also pointed out that rainy weather has hurt golf revenues. There will be a forthcoming “night golf” event, using glowing golf balls – this event has already sold out. (Golf Director Harry Kicklighter is planning another “night golf” event for July.) Garvey observed that the Park will be providing nature tours on closed golf courses, using the courses’ golf carts (this is a part of the Audubon certification that the Park is seeking). Other marketing items: local Special Olympics will be using the Park this summer, as well as a Junior Camp; Summer Waves is joining with Winn Dixie to offer coupons, and will be offering an aquatic aerobics program (following a suggestion made at a JICA Board meeting); Nest Fest, a week-long celebration of the beginning of nesting season at the Sea Turtle Center got underway this week.
Tise Eyler commented that although he was glad to hear about the plans for better directional signage to the Park, he is still concerned about the large number of signs at the causeway entrance. He called for consolidation of the signage at the causeway entrance. He also suggested that the logo for the directional signs should include sea turtles. Chairman Porter requested input from the audience regarding the most appropriate logo.
Chairman Krueger called upon Kevin Runner of Ocean Oaks (the operators of the Club Hotel). Runner announced that he has hired a general manager and a director of sales for the Hampton Inn & Suites (going up on the old Holiday Inn site). Offices for these people are being set up at the Club Hotel, and it will be possible to take local reservations by 1 August. The contractor is scheduled to hand over the building on 31 October. Furniture and staff will be put in place over the following two months, and the official opening is scheduled for 12 January, 2010. Two weeks later is the earliest that the Hilton people will allow the Jekyll Hampton to be in its worldwide reservation system. The Newcastle Hotels management group, which is an equity partner in the Jekyll Hampton, is very familiar with the process of making a franchise hotel suit the franchising company. Runner presented a slide show of the current construction status of the Hampton Inn. Vance Hughes of Ocean Oaks remarked that the Hampton will use solar power to heat the domestic hot water for the hotel (tax credits will be gained). Newcastle Hotels has brought to the project a laundry system that uses drier heat to warm the water for the washing machines.
Frank Mirasola congratulated Runner and Hughes for putting up a hotel building that does not negatively impact the beachfront. Mirasola hoped to see the remaining hotel developers provide products that live up to the Ocean Oaks standard.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chairman Krueger announced that the draft pet ordinance has received recent comments, and so will not be considered for adoption until the July Board meeting. Director Hooks remarked that he would be posting the current changes to the draft ordinance on the Authority website.
Director Hooks announced that HHCP is continuing to work on the plan for the signature park to go along with Linger Longer Jekyll’s Beach Village. He expects HHCP to provide a briefing to the Board in July.
Conservation Manager Christa Frangiamore and Landscape Superintendent Cliff Gawron will be holding a workshop in late June to receive input on the draft plans for management of the causeway borders.
Hooks has been consulting with retail owners and hoteliers in the Park who are concerned that it may take some time for tourism to pick up as the recession ends. He is planning to have a meeting with these business people and the Park’s marketing group to discuss options for dealing with the current difficult financial situation.
Hooks announced that ACCG (Association of County Commissioners of Georgia) has decided to return to the Park for its annual meeting in 2012. Their last Jekyll meeting was in 2003. This is a group that had met with the Park’s meeting-planning group to hear about plans for the Park’s future. Ben Porter commented that this was a landmark decision. ACCG will also come to the Park in 2014 for their centennial meeting.
Only 80 owners of residences in the Park have not yet returned their verification forms in connection with the 10-year renewals set to take place this year. Their deadline is 1 July, and the next stage of document mail-outs is now being prepared for mailing before the end of July.
Hooks announced that all registration for the Georgia/Florida golf tournament must be performed online.
Procedures are being set up for the renting of spaces for special events in the Historic District.
The next Town Hall meeting will be held on 16 July, from 5:00 – 6:30 PM.
On Friday, 12 June, an all-staff meeting will be held, and in conjunction with that meeting, a health fair will be held at the Convention Center, involving several healthcare vendors. This health fair will be open to the public from noon till 2:00 PM.
Hooks announced that Kevin Runner (Jekyll Ocean Oaks) has agreed to continue to represent the Park Authority on the Board of Directors of the Brunswick/Golden Isles Convention Visitors Bureau for an additional year.
Chairman Krueger announced that Pat and Jack Overholt have experienced a death in their family, and he sent condolences to the Overholt family from the Authority Board.
Howard Sculthorpe reported that Glynn County has been working on a reverse-911 system (outgoing telephone notifications regarding emergency warnings). Jekyll Island State Park will eventually be included, but for this season, the JICA Civil Defense Group will continue to operate (a meeting of the Group is scheduled for 12 June at 3:00 PM).
Frank Mirasola reported the nesting of a leatherback turtle during the previous week on the beach of Jekyll Island State Park. This was one of three leatherbacks that have nested in Georgia this year (the others were on Sea Island and Sapelo Island). Mirasola described the leatherback (which he witnessed) as an amazingly large animal (NB: it is the largest living reptile, according to some authorities, though others cite the Australian saltwater crocodile, or the Komodo dragon).
Chairman Krueger adjourned the Committee Session at 10:51 AM.
Steven Y. Newell, Jekyll Island Citizens Association