The Jekyll Island Authority heard during its Monday board meeting that, according to a feasibility study conducted by the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government, an island-wide transportation system is not feasible at this time.
The goal of the study was to examine employee and visitor transportation needs and explore options that would ease traffic congestion and free up parking spaces for visitors.
Langford Holbrook, public service associate, with University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government, presented his findings to the Jekyll Island Board saying funding the system would be the authority’s primary obstacle.
Holbrook also cited the cost for start-up, maintenance, operations and the lack of consistent ridership as to why an island-wide system is not feasible at this time.
So getting employees from Brunswick to the island remains an issue, Holbrook said, adding that the Coastal Regional Commission does contract with some Jekyll Island businesses to shuttle some employees.
The Coastal Regional Commission is interested in working with the authority on a more comprehensive solution, Holbrook said.
Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey told The News on Monday that he is currently in talks with the Coastal Regional Commission regarding a partnership for a small-scale public transit system for Brunswick.
Asked if partnering with Jekyll Island on that transit system would be something he would consider, Harvey said he would need more details before giving an answer.
“They’ve been trying for a long time to get Brunswick employees to the island,” Harvey said. “A number of Jekyll Island employees also live in outlying counties, like Brantley and Camden. I would have to view the entire feasibility study and see all the details before I can answer that question.”
The same question was posed to the Jekyll Island Authority regarding partnering with Brunswick, but Executive Director Jones Hooks was not available for comment Monday afternoon.
As for other methods of easing traffic congestion, one suggestion was a more coordinated effort during big conferences.
“Getting people to leave their cars behind and take a shuttle is a significant challenge,” Holbrook said.
In other business, Hooks and Noel Jensen, senior director of Facilities & Public Services, recapped the island’s disaster prepardness plan and cleanup effort following Hurricane Matthew, stating people worked around the clock and reiterated the more than 90 percent island evacuation participation which allowed for the recovery efforts to get underway sooner. According to Jensen, more than 5,000 cubic yards — totaling 517 truckloads — of debris was cleared in one week with the help of JIA staff, the Georgia National Guard and other support.
“We made great gains, but we still have a long way to go,” Jensen said as he thanked everyone involved with the cleanup for their efforts.
The sea turtles that were evacuated to Zoo Atlanta and the Georgia Aquarium were brought back to Jekyll Island on Monday.
Board approvals during Monday’s meeting include:
• A Letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking for their assistance in addressing the lack of waterway maintenance in the Jekyll Creek section of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
• A contract between the Coastal Regional Commission and the Jekyll Island Authority regarding a $17,800 state grant to support implementation of the Coastal Georgia Greenway, 155-mile trail system that will connect South Carolina to Florida through Georgia’s six coastal counties to join with the bigger East Coast Greenway trail project.
• An upgrade the Convention Center’s wireless system for at a $77,514.29 estimated cost.
• Lease assignment for Latitude 31 Restaurant. NV LNWA JIC Hotel, operator of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, is currently under contract with Crossover, Inc. for the purchase of the Latitude 31 Restaurant. Following closure of the transaction, NV LNWA intends to fully renovate and update the restaurant, however the transaction is contingent upon NV LNWA negotiating the assignment of the lease of the property with the Jekyll Authority. The term of the lease is set to expire Jan. 7, 2089 and is based on a percentage of revenue.
• A University of Georgia Selig Center for Economic Growth Study to Assess the Economic Impact of Jekyll Island on the State of Georgia and Glynn County.
• A resolution authorizing Jekyll Island and the Georgia Department of Transportation to contract for funding under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.
The Board also approved Jekyll Club Residences, LLC, Ocean Oaks Design Development Plan with contingencies.
Meggan Hood, senior director of marketing, presented information on the annual Shrimp and Grits Festival held in September, stating an estimated 43,000 people were in attendance, revenue was up 28 percent and that people came from as far away as Alaska.
Andrew Smith, owner of the West Egg Cafe in Atlanta, was the winner of the Shrimp and Grits Festival cooking competition, beating nine other chefs from throughout Georgia, to take home the title of “Georgia’s Best Shrimp and Grits.”
For more information on the Jekyll Island Authority board meeting, visit jekyllisland.com.