Nothing is safe, not even tourism

Visitors association contract to be renegotiated

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 11/4/20

MONTICELLO, NY — Tourism isn’t a Sullivan County third rail when it comes to financial crises, but it can sure feel that way sometimes. Touch it and your career dies.

So, when the …

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Nothing is safe, not even tourism

Visitors association contract to be renegotiated

Posted

MONTICELLO, NY — Tourism isn’t a Sullivan County third rail when it comes to financial crises, but it can sure feel that way sometimes. Touch it and your career dies.

So, when the county started talking about a resolution to renegotiate the contract between Sullivan County and its visitors association, which promotes tourism throughout the county, it was, let’s say, a surprise to all. The resolution passed on October 22, 7-0. 

They don’t hate tourism, legislators have emphasized. They’re just doing what they can to solve lockdown-related fiscal problems. 

The visitors association, known as Sullivan County Catskills, provides other services besides promoting tourism. Businesses can join it for a fee; the association offers marketing solutions “to promote and grow your business,” search engine optimization for websites, educational seminars and exposure on the Sullivan Catskills’ website, and more, according to their website. 

Per the vote, the contract between the county and the visitors association will be modified to require a 60-day notice for termination of the contract (instead of the previous 90 days). The 60 days would include time to renegotiate the contract with county representatives.

The Visitors Association Board also agreed to modify the contract at a meeting on October 20. 

Discussion at the October 22 executive committee meeting highlighted what legislature chair Rob Doherty called a “lack of oversight” by the legislature over one of the county’s vendors. “If they don’t live up to their contract, we have no remedy, we have no oversight over them.” 

“We have the county manager,” said legislator Nadia Rajsz.

“There’s no oversight to fix anything,” Doherty said. 

Doherty and legislator Joe Perrello went back and forth about the way the resolution was shaped; it started out talking about terminating the visitors association agreement and was then re-phrased to its present form. But its brief life as what appeared to be a contract-ending proposition was just long enough to spark phone calls to legislators and some talk on social media. “We’re a body of nine, we should know what’s going on,” Perrello said.

“What kind of oversight are you looking at?” Rajsz asked again. “It’s its own entity. Josh is on their board... I don’t understand how you’re going to pry into their business, they’re doing a job for us.”

“They’re a vendor of ours,” Doherty said. They receive money from the county. “It’s our fiduciary responsibility.” 

Sullivan County sends the Visitors Association 85 percent of total room tax dollars and keeps 15 percent for its needs. The county budgeted $1.6 million for the SCVA in 2020. “[Room] tax is an investment,” said Doherty in a later interview. “It’s an investment in jobs, in sales tax.” 

Perrello asked if the 60 days was solely to the county’s benefit since that was the remaining time in the year. Doherty said that he believed it was also the time remaining before the SCVA “entered into contract for promoting the county.” 

Legislator Luis Alvarez abstained from the discussion/vote in the executive committee; his employer is a member of the SCVA board. He was absent for the final vote, as was Ira Steingart. The final vote passed 7-0.

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