By Cindy Jackson
April 1, 2020
“Langley began by stating the budget for this fiscal year was based on $151 million in taxable lodging sales. Based on current projections, Langley believes that number will now be between $48 million and $54 million . . .”
What is the “new normal” for meetings of the Board of County Commissioners? It is a room with a capacity to seat just 35 that before the pandemic would hold easily three times as many. This reduced capacity is to ensure there is greater than six feet of separation.
Before now, it would be a rare occasion if even one commissioner was not in his assigned seat and typically, key staff would take up the remaining chairs around the U-shaped table. At this morning’s 10am meeting, it was just Commission Chair Daniel Leeper with the other four commissioners participating via telephone.
Tradition has that the BOCC meets the second and fourth Monday of each month at 6:00 pm and the third Wednesday of each month at 9:00 am. Added to that schedule is another weekly meeting that place each Wednesday at 10am. This “new” meeting is a result of the State of Emergency in which we find ourselves. The last State of Emergency was approved on March 25, 2020. By statute, however, a State of Emergency only lasts for seven days unless extended by resolution. From this point forward, the BOCC will meet on a weekly basis with the sole purpose of passing a resolution extending the State of Emergency in Nassau County due to COVID-19.
In addition to approving the resolution this morning, County Attorney/County Manager Mike Mullin led a discussion relating to upcoming BOCC agendas. Mullin explained that many public hearings needed to be rescheduled to ensure the public “can attend and be heard,” noting that it can be difficult to conduct hearings in any way other than the traditional format in large part due to capacity issues of the technological variety.
One such item, moved until May 21st, relates to a land use amendment regarding a parcel on Julia Street.
Gil Langley, President and CEO of the Amelia Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, (the only audience member present), was recognized by Commissioner Leeper to give a brief update on tourism and not surprising, the news was not good. Langley began by stating the budget for this fiscal year was based on $151 million in taxable lodging sales. Based on current projections, Langley believes that number will now be between $48 million and $54 million which translates into actual revenues collected from bed taxes going from $7.5 million to just $2.7 million.
Langley noted that the lodging and tourism industry “is in compliance with all orders and that there are not a lot of reservations in the pipeline but there are a few small meetings still booked for July and August.” He closed by stating, “we anticipate that the actual revenue coming in will be between 5% and 10% of the budgeted amount.” Leeper followed-up by saying that this is certainly unprecedented and thanked Langley and his team for their hard work.
When the floor was opened for individual commissioner comments, the common refrain was for everyone to keep a social distance of 6 feet, to not congregate in groups larger than 10 and to stay safe and to stay healthy.
The next meeting of the BOCC will take place on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 at 10am.
/Cindy-Jackson-150×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”119″ height=”119″ />Editor’s Note: Born in Hagerstown, Maryland, Cindy received her BA in Political Science from Dickinson College. Upon graduation, Cindy began her career on Capitol Hill working as a legislative aide and director. She later became a part of the public relations and lobbying team of the American Iron and Steel Institute and served as director of the office of state legislative affairs for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). Cindy was involved in economic development with the state of Maryland, and served as executive director of Leadership Washington County. As a community volunteer, Cindy participates in numerous volunteer activities serving as a member of Sunrise Rotary, and as board member of Cummer Amelia Board of Directors.