Like Jennifer Hatcher, as another One Hundred Miles member, I too was disappointed by JIA Director Jones Hooks’ charge that OHM is leveraging the controversy over the Jekyll Island lighting ordinance to gin up donations. The temperate, measured letter I received from OHM about this matter didn’t mention donations beyond the inconspicuous “donate” button buried in the small print at the bottom of all their messages to members.
At the same time, I’m astonished that anybody is under the impression, like Sally Sumpter, that Jekyll Island is tax-supported. Since 1980, the JIA has had to cover its operating expenses from operating revenue. It has received state funds for capital projects like the Convention Center and the 4-H Camp, but no operating subsidies from the state. In fiscal year 2018, that meant that Jekyll Island operations had to generate $24,643,416 to break even. About half of that was salaries, wages and benefits for the hundreds of people who work on the island for the benefit of visitors.
What makes the lighting ordinance such a sensitive matter for the JIA is that one of its significant revenue streams is a cut of the island hotels’ earnings. I hope that the hotel operators will come to understand that if the sea turtles don’t thrive, neither do they.