The board of the Jekyll Island Authority approved Tuesday a resolution opposing any effort to bring casino gambling to the island.
There is no plan to open casinos on Jekyll Island. The resolution is in opposition to House Resolution 30 now under consideration by the state legislature.
The resolution calls for a statewide referendum authorizing a limited number of casino resorts
The legislation does not call specifically for casino gambling on Jekyll. Instead, it seeks to require a vote from local jurisdictions that would be interested in creating casino gambling opportunities.
“I understand that there are three jurisdictions in Georgia that are interested,” said Jones Hooks, JIA executive director. “Nevertheless, there was just recently an editorial in The Brunswick News which expressed concern about casino gambling as it related to Jekyll Island, and as a result of that editorial there was social media discussion about expressing concerns, that is this something that’s being considered for Jekyll Island?”
In response to those concerns, Hooks and board members felt compelled to propose their own resolution making their opposition clear.
“We are proposing a resolution today that would confirm that Jekyll Island’s interest continues to be in quiet, open spaces, limited traffic, limited congestion, where people will experience healthy recreation,” Hooks said.
JIA has in past years expressed its opposition to bringing casino gambling to the island. As Jekyll has undergone significant revitalization efforts in recent years, the focus has been on the island’s family-friendly activities and natural attractions.
“It would be of concern from a management standpoint if in fact there were to be an effort to look at casino gambling on Jekyll,” Hooks said.
A state legislator from Savannah expressed an interest in Jekyll Island as a potential destination for a casino if the General Assembly approved legalized gambling in Georgia. Jekyll Island is owned by the state.
The JIA resolution reads, in part, that “the Jekyll Island State Park Authority Board of Directors expresses its strong opposition to any thought, discussion or action that would include Jekyll Island as a location for casino gambling; and … in light of Georgia House of Representatives Resolution 30 calling for a statewide referendum authorizing a limited number of casino resorts, that the Jekyll Island Authority Board has not, does not and will not support casino gambling on Jekyll Island.”
Board members also voted during the meeting to amend the language of the resolution to include clarification that the JIA does not oppose gambling in the state.
In other business, the board voted to revise and amend the 2021 fiscal year budget to allow for $130,000 for employee compensation/merit increases and $242,000 to include $150,000 for the new Public Safety Complex design, $65,000 for a Jekyll Island Master Plan update and $27,000 for replacement bicycles at the Bike Barn.
The budget, approved by the board in July, was revised from the originally discussed spending plan and took out $3 million worth of expenses. These cuts were made in response to the pandemic’s financial toll on the island.
“We did talk about the fact that since the future was so uncertain and unknown that we would like to bring forward the idea that, if in fact after six months or so we were making good progress, that there may be some items that we would like you to realign in the budget,” Hooks said. “Today that’s what we’re looking at.”
In early 2020, as the pandemic began affecting island operations, JIA made significant adjustments to decrease expenditures, including at one point the furloughing of 43 percent of its workforce. One of the changes proposed and approved Tuesday was a 2 percent merit pay increase for all full-time and part-time Jekyll staff based on the normal qualifications for merit increases.
The cost for the remainder of this fiscal year will be approximately $130,000, said Marjorie Johnson, JIA’s chief accounting officer.
“We’re not asking for any additional funds to be put into the budget at this point because our human resources expenses are $539,000 less than budget at this point” she said. “So we’ll be able to absorb the increase without asking for additional funds.”
Noel Jensen, chief operations officer on Jekyll, asked for consideration of a request for proposals for architectural and engineering services for the public safety complex, which is envisioned to be a 12,000- to 15,000-square-foot structure that will house Georgia State Patrol, Jekyll Island Fire Department and emergency service workers in one location. Hooks and board members recently met with Gov. Brian Kemp in Atlanta to discuss plans for the project, which will require funding from the state legislature.
The board approved the RFP to seek architectural and engineering services at a cost of up to $150,000.
The board also approved:
• A resolution endorsing the Glynn County 2021 SPLOST, through which Jekyll is set to receive $2.5 million of the $68.5 million collected if voters approve the three-year SPLOST during a referendum election March 16.
• Consideration of a University of Georgia proposal for a 2021 master plan update.
• A letter in support of the Brunswick Area Transportation Study (BATS) committee’s opposition to a proposal from the Federal MSA Standards Review Committee to raise the minimum metropolitan population from 50,000 to 100,000.
• An amendment to the fire alarm ordinance.
• Consideration of a contract renewal for Summer Waves management.
• Consideration of a lease agreement for Tribuzio’s Grille, LLC, to operate the restaurant currently known as McCormick’s Grill at the Jekyll Island Golf Club.