Saturday, July 28, 2007

07/19 - Some disappointed with Jekyll committee

The Florida Times-Union

July 19, 2007

Some disappointed with Jekyll committee

By Vicky Eckenrode,
The Times-Union

ATLANTA - Jekyll Island residents did not get their top picks when three state senators were appointed to a legislative committee to keep an eye on the area's redevelopment.

And it does not appear they will gain more allies when House leaders choose their three committee members.

The new Jekyll Island Oversight Committee was formed out of legislation passed this year to address redevelopment on the state-owned island and the extension of leases for its residents.

The island's existing authority that governs the property would have to turn over details about major lease and contract agreements to the legislative monitoring group.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle this week selected Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams, R-Lyons; Senate Economic Development Committee Chairman Chip Pearson, R-Dawsonville; and Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ross Tolleson, R-Perry, to serve on the joint committee.

He also named Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, to serve as a nonvoting advisory member to the new Jekyll Island Authority.

The group will not include Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, who worked closely on this year's bill, pushing changes like protecting the south end of the island and representing Jekyll Island residents.

"I would have, of course, been honored to serve on the committee," he said. "However, it is in my district, so regardless of the fact that I haven't been officially appointed on the committee, I plan to be fully engaged in the process."

Jaillene Hunter, a spokeswoman for Cagle, said the island is an important resource for the entire state "and we wanted the committee to reflect that diversity."

"We are in close communication with Sen. Chapman and will continue to converse with him on this important issue," she said.

David Egan, co-director of the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, said members of his group sent e-mails and made phone calls to Cagle's office urging him to appoint Chapman.

They also asked the lieutenant governor to consider Sens. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, and Regina Thomas, D-Savannah.

"We went 0-for-3 on that," said Egan, a Jekyll Island resident. "I think the Senate version of the oversight committee does not appear to be one to likely check development on Jekyll Island."

Egan said he does not expect to fare much better when House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, announces his three picks for the board.

The grassroots group also contacted Richardson's office, lobbying for Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City, who initially proposed the measure to block development on the island's south end. They also pushed for Rep. Barbara Massey Reece, D-Menlo, a longtime advocate for Jekyll Island, and Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell, because of his stance on increasing marshland protection.

Egan said he does not think any of those legislators will make it onto the committee, based on a recent message from Richardson's office.,
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