By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Legislators yesterday dropped plans to immediately request proposals (RFP) for a nonprofit tourism agency to handle the county’s tourism marketing.
The change won’t be official until voted upon at the full Legislature meeting on February 16, but Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson indicated yesterday that most, if not all, of the nine legislators are in agreement.
“We resolved everything while we were up in Albany,” he told the Democrat, referring to a three-day trip earlier this week that new legislators took to become familiar with state government.
“The resolution came about because the legislators heard the public and wanted to respond,” said Legislator Ira Steingart at the Community and Economic Development Committee meeting yesterday, which he chairs and where the initial vote occurred.
The move spares the Sullivan County Visitors Association (SCVA) from having to hastily put together an RFP to compete for the contract it currently holds with the county. Members and leaders of the SCVA had decried the Legislature majority’s intent to RFP the contract by March 31, just revealed last week after closed-door meetings, then enacted by a 5-4 vote last Thursday.
Pending the official vote on February 16, the SCVA will keep its contract till the end of this year but will have to compete with any other interested non-profits when the Legislature does issue an RFP, now set to be done by August 31.
However, the 2012 contract only gives the SCVA 85 percent of the estimated $700,000 in room tax revenues, the minimum proscribed by state law. The county has discretion over the remaining 15 percent, though it has to be used for either the SCVA or for administrative costs on the county’s end.
In recent years, the SCVA has been given the entire 100 percent, but legislators seem interested in putting the discretionary 15 percent to other uses.
“That’s still on the table,” remarked Steingart.
The county has also reserved the right to agree to a single-year or multi-year contract for 2013 and beyond.
During yesterday’s committee meeting, Legislator Gene Benson demanded detailed expense reports from the SCVA.
“I would like to see a copy of your expense records so taxpayers know where their money is going,” he told SCVA Executive Director Roberta Byron-Lockwood.
Byron-Lockwood said that information is already on file with the county, and she’s willing to provide whatever else the Legislature seeks.
“Thank you for the passage of this resolution,” she told legislators.