Friday, January 11, 2008

01/10 - Perdue backs Jekyll Plan

Date January 10, 2008
Section(s) Frontpage
The Brunswick News

Gov. Sonny Perdue told residents and community leaders during a pre-legislative session stop in Brunswick Wednesday that he is on board with plans to revitalize Jekyll Island.

Perdue commented on the redevelopment plan proposed by Linger Longer Communities and accepted by the Jekyll Island Authority but opposed by one of the island's own legislators, state Sen. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick.

Perdue spoke at the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport on the $441 million plan to revitalize Jekyll and on issues facing the upcoming session of the General Assembly with Lt. Gov.. Casey Cagle and House Majority Leader Jerry Keen.

"It's not the intent of anyone - certainly not mine - to limit anyone's access to public beaches," Perdue said, an obvious rebuff of Chapman and others who contend the proposal will cut off public beach access.

Access wasn't the only claim of opponents that Perdue rejected Wednesday. He also addressed affordability.

Foes of the plan, including Chapman, question whether proposed accommodations on the island will be affordable to average Georgians.

"Plans that I have seen will keep Jekyll Island affordable for the average Georgian," Perdue said.

Perdue, who appoints members to the Jekyll Island Authority, which approved the plan by Linger Longer Communities, said the project will be environmentally friendly.

"We don't plan to do anything to disturb the natural habitats and water resources of Jekyll Island," he said.

Perdue's visit to Glynn County was one of nine stops in a two-day tour of the state. Keen was filling in for Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, who was unable to attend because he was trying a case in his private law practice.

Perdue, Cagle and Keen said education, transportation and health care are three issues that will unify Georgia's leadership in the 2008 General Assembly, which begins the 40-day session next week.

"We're here to talk about the future of Georgia," Perdue said. "As a state we are very blessed. Georgia is one of the fastest growing states in the county. Last year we added more people to the population than any other state, with the exception of two larger states. That means there will be more opportunities and also more challenges.

We have to begin to plan better for right now and for the future."

One of the components for preparing for Georgia's future means making health care coverage more affordable and trauma care more readily available, the trio said.

"One concern I have is the lack of access to trauma care centers - particularly in this area of the state," Keen said. "We need to come up with a funding system for these trauma centers so that our residents have access to them. The state has never been positioned in a better place financially to meet those challenges."

The officials also stressed the key role education will play in Georgia's future. Cagle used the development of Golden Isles Career Academy, which he helped procure state funds for, as an example.

"We have to do things to ensure our future is bright - like focusing on education," he said. "I am very proud to have been a part of the Golden Isles Career Academy initiative. I want Georgia to continue things like the career academies to ensure that high school dropout rates go down - not up."

To ensure that Georgia's population and commerce continue to grow, existing road networks need to be strengthened - which means a heavier workload for the Georgia Department of Transportation, Cagle says.

"I am confident we can do 30 percent more projects on the same dime if we work efficiently," he said. "And right now, we have a new DOT commissioner who is focused on reorganizing the department to run more efficiently."

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