shrimp and grits

The Shrimp & Grits Festival brought a large crowd to Jekyll Island in September.

It’s going to cost a little more to drive onto Jekyll Island, and for those with housing or businesses on the island, water and sewer costs are going up as well.

“Adjustments in parking fees, which have not increased in seven years, are necessary to continue providing the high-quality experiences our visitors have come to expect and to fulfill our responsibility to protect the island’s vibrant natural habitats,” Jekyll Island Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks said in a statement. “For instance, we have expanded our protection and conservation efforts, which are fully funded from the parking fee.”

Hooks pointed out the JIA’s Conservation Department had a budget increase over five years from $190,000, to where it is now in the Fiscal Year 2020 proposed budget, $483,000. He also said that the JIA’s landscaping, roads and grounds operations come entirely from parking fees. The proposed budget also includes increases for landscaping, roads and grounds operations as Jekyll has added more amenities that have to be maintained.

Those parking fees, with approval of the full JIA board at its meeting Tuesday, will increase from $6 to $8, and the annual parking renewal fee will rise from $45 to $55. The daily fee hasn’t seen an increase in seven years, with the exception of four special event days, while the annual fee hasn’t increased in the past 10 years.

The proposed water and sewer rate increases are 13.6 percent.

The driving force behind the moves is the 2018 carrying capacity study that suggested Jekyll is moving from a phase of improvements to a phase of management, in order to keep the island at the quality preferred by visitors and residents.

Jim Sipes, principal for Sand County Studios — the company that conducted the carrying capacity study, said as much at the JIA board meeting in August 2018.

“You guys have done a great job over the last 10 years encouraging a lot of people to come here and provided a lot of amenities for people to see, so now a lot of what you need to do is look into how you can control that growth, so that when people come here, they still have that kind of experience that they’re expecting to find,” Sipes said.

The entrance gate to Jekyll will also be updated with new technology. Discussed at the November 2018 board meeting were aspects including digital lane displays and license plate scanners. The scanners will remove the need for windshield-based microchips for annual pass-holders, and will assist the JIA in building better data as to when people are coming on the island and from where they’re coming.

There’s also to be a dedicated lane for annual pass-holders, a much-debated and requested option over the years.

Revenue raised from water and sewer fee increases is earmarked to handle maintenance and replacement of the infrastructure, like older clay pipes.

Tuesday’s JIA board meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the Morgan Center.

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