I have a few ideas for the public and the Warren County Occupancy Tax Committee to consider.
First of all, the purchase of the Forum in Lake George is a horrible idea. The forum has little resemblance to a convention center. It is too small to attract major conventions; there is no hotel attached; and too few parking spots — a problem in Lake George.
The Tourism Department needs a presence on Route 9. The Tourism Department has operated for too long out of a cramped space, hosting maybe a dozen people a week.
A log cabin with a roaring fieldstone fireplace reminiscent of our Adirondack heritage should be built on county property, either on the south end or the north end of the property.
Tourism is a large part of our economy and it deserves the attention and investment necessary.
A special events coordinator for the Tourism Department is another good idea. Special event promotion is what makes Warren County unique. As far as I know, no other county in New York awards money to attract special events. An event coordinator could work with the towns which have adopted a greater share of the responsibility through a new plan developed by Supervisor Conover a few years ago.
Invasive species funding is a real stretch of the law. The Occupancy Tax Law was adopted to promote tourism — period. Our Occupancy Tax Committee funded the invasive species fight several years ago but neglected to do so in years since, and I don’t believe the occupancy tax should be used for this purpose.
Another idea worth discussing would be to take the Adirondack Balloon Festival and Americade out of the special events funding and put them in the tourism budget. The tourism budget would be increased to offset this action. Americade funding would be increased to $75,000 to $80,000 a year and the Balloon Festival would be increased to $50,000. Both events are signature events for the county, and I am sure the increased funding is needed and well-deserved for both events.
In exchange for this increased funding, Warren County would be named the primary sponsor of each of the events. The events would be required to sign a letter of commitment for five years, thus taking the threat of relocating out of the discussion. The ceiling on other event funding should be raised to $60,000.
As for extending the Occupancy Tax Law to cover the rental of private homes, Sen. Little worked tirelessly on the Warren County Occupancy Tax Law, and her only reservation was to exclude the rental of private homes from the law. That is how it was taken out of the proposed law — out of respect for Sen. Little.
I would suggest for as long as she is our representative in the state Senate, we exclude private homes from the law.
Finally, the committee should consider dedicating a meeting each year to discuss the way the towns spend their share of the occupancy tax. Fifteen years in a closet is long enough. Open, transparent government is always best, especially when it comes to spending tax dollars.