Jekyll Island Authority executive director Jones Hooks announced on Tuesday that the authority is negotiating with Mercer University School of Medicine to open a clinic in the island’s seaside village.
The second-floor portion of one of the buildings had been purpose-built for a clinic, Hooks said, because the island has been largely devoid of non-emergency medical services since a pharmacy closed years ago.
He had approached Southeast Georgia Health System, but due to new federal laws and subsequent loss of revenue, SGHS was unable to fill the space, he said. he declares.
So in the years that followed, he pitched the idea to several medical agencies, returning to the SGHS more than once.
It was by serendipity that JIA Board Member Buster Evans mentioned that one of the members of the Authority Oversight Committee was the Director of the Mercer Medical School Foundation. and that he could get a meeting with the dean. It was an even happier accident that Hooks knew the Dean personally.
“Jean Sumner and I are going very far,” Hooks said. “I was at his wedding.”
A meeting later, Hooks had the start of a partnership underway.
The board gave Hooks its blessing to continue negotiations by approving a memorandum that sets out certain terms and conditions, including that the school will pay $10 a year in rent for the first three years.
The memo also says the clinic’s hours will be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week during the months of May through August and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. September through April, also seven days a week.
Hooks said the JIA will apply for a rural medical initiative grant from the state Department of Community Affairs to help renovate the space and provide assistance in other areas, but overall the university will be responsible for the management of the clinic.
The memo is not a formal contract, Jones noted, and he still works out the finer points with a formal lease agreement. He did not say when the clinic might open to the public.
In other matters, it was a banner year for the JIA at all levels.
Georgia’s record-breaking sea turtle nests made international headlines last week, but the state passed that milestone earlier this month. Georgia’s first outbreak of the season occurred on Jekyll last month.
Since then, Georgia Sea Turtle Center research program manager Davide Zailo said 238 nests have been recorded along the state’s 100 miles of coastline. More than 9,000 eggs will hatch, but only about 1 in 1,000 turtle hatchlings will survive to adulthood – 35 years for sea turtles.
“We expect to see a total of nine people reach adulthood,” Zailo said. “So a very small increase.”
The numbers are approaching, but still fall short of nesting and hatching statistics from the 1950s. A crash in turtle nesting occurred around this time, which Zailo says likely had something to do with the shrimp fishing.
Several factors have contributed to this comeback, including federal legislation, an endangered species designation, innovations in shrimp technology, and a state-level centralization of sea turtle conservation efforts.
Currently, annual nesting growth is about 1.3%. To see a measurable population increase, that number would have to be 2% or more, Zailo said.
The island’s convention center is also breaking records. The group’s business is on the rise and should already continue to break records over the next two years, said Kevin Udell, the center’s senior sales manager.
About 70% of the groups are repeaters and 30% are new blood, which is a very good balance, he said.
The Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference will be back next year, said Brian Lee, digital content manager.
Allyson Jackson, outgoing general manager of convention center operations, said that since its opening 10 years ago, the new conference center has hosted more than 3,500 events and generated a profit of $5.3 million.
“We paid our part and I’m so proud of everything we’ve done,” she said.
Director of Historic Resources Tom Alexander said the island’s historic district also saw record revenues last year and was once again on track to exceed expectations.
Board members also voted to approve a capital and equipment projects request for $3.1 million, with just over $2.4 million coming from the $4.4 million profit. The remaining $2 million would go to JIA reserves.
Another $583,728 would come from the State Authority Improvement Fund, $61,353 from the Fire Equipment Fund, and $54,000 from water and sewage supplies.
Expenditures range from firefighter gear to convention center kitchen equipment to street paving, all to improve services and the island’s quality of life, chief accounting officer Marjorie Johnson said. .
Hooks said most of the expenses fall into the “deferred maintenance” category and that the JIA will have to deal with these things sooner or later. Better to do it now than when it becomes necessary, he said.
• Voted to issue requests for proposals for a POS and ticketing system and a new public safety complex, which will house the island’s firefighting force, emergency medical services, patrol of the State of Georgia and code enforcement, among others.
• Heard an update on rental inspections from Director of Public Safety Dennis Gailey.
• Received June and July financial reports from JIA Board Chairman Bill Gross and Johnson’s 2021 year-end financial reports.
• Heard an update on countywide emergency preparedness from Glynn County Director of Emergency Management, Andrew Leanza.