Also formalizes finances for PARC preschool and Scenic Hudson grant
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
The Putnam County Legislature Wednesday night (Aug. 7) designated the Putnam County Visitors Bureau as its official tourism promotion agency and authorized it to establish a New York State-county-private partnership and oversee an anticipated $477,000 for a tourism campaign under a state program.
The Visitors Bureau, a quasi-county government non-profit corporation, is headed by Garrison resident Libby Pataki.
The Legislature also created a Transportation Advisory Council and in other action, largely procedural, formalized arrangements for $150,000 to keep the PARC Pre-school for disabled youngsters open this fall and for a $125,000 state grant for the West Point Foundry Preserve. The county had already committed itself to aiding PARC and merely acts as a conduit for the grant to Scenic Hudson, owner of the foundry preserve.
Likewise, the Legislature signed off on a bit of legal paperwork for the culvert replacement project on Snake Hill Road.
According to a resolution unanimously adopted by the Legislature, “the economic development of Putnam County can be stimulated by tourism promotion.” The resolution notes that the state offers matching “I Love New York” dollars “to counties and regions that fund a tourism promotion agency” and that to participate, Putnam County must submit a proposal this month.
“In order to receive Putnam County’s maximum entitlement of state matching money, it must propose a tourism commitment of $477,000, even though the actual cost of Putnam County will be less than one-third of that amount,” the Legislature declared.
Thus, the legislators agreed to a contract with the Visitors Bureau/Tourism Promotion Agency under which the bureau “commits to raise funds privately to augment the county and state funding in order to carry out the promotion plan embodied in the 2013-14 tourism budget and to make this program a three-way county, state, and private partnership.” Under an even three-way breakdown, Putnam’s share of $477,000 would be $159,000.
The measure further states that the county “has an abundance of beauty and natural and historical resources, lending itself” to travel and tourism and “is situated in the midst of a major tourism area close to major urban centers and can bring visitors to its borders by excellent road and rail transportation.”
It predicts that “tourism growth will produce increased sales tax revenue … and will help reduce reliance on real property tax[es]” and assist businesses and boost employment “through the well-known ‘multiplier effect’ of tourist dollars.”
“I feel we’re very fortunate to have Libby Pataki as our tourism director. She’s really bringing new life to the agency,” said District 1 Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra, who represents Philipstown, in urging the Legislature to approve the resolution.
Transportation Advisory Council
The seven-person Transportation Advisory Council is intended to “explore opportunities and make recommendations to the county executive and Legislature, exploring all facets of public transportation in order to improve efficiencies, better manage assets, leverage resources, and create partnerships to save dollars and improve transportation services,” according to the resolution establishing it.
The council will consist of a member of the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce, a real estate or other commercial professional, a representative of people with disabilities, a taxi-limousine business entrepreneur, a citizen at large, and two handicapped individuals, one with a mental and one with a physical impairment.
The county government runs the trolley service in the Cold Spring area, as well as regular city bus routes on the eastern side of Putnam. Tamagna has been overseeing efforts to revamp the various programs. “Vinny, you’re doing an A-plus job,” Legislature Chairman Richard Othmer assured him.
As the Legislature took up the proposal to use $150,000 in contingency funds for the PARC Preschool, District 8 Legislator Dini LoBue told her colleagues “this money needs to be released immediately. It’s well spent.” The other legislators concurred, approving the funds transfer on an 8-0 vote.
Othmer linked the PARC dilemma to the challenge of continued funding obligations imposed from above. “These are mandates that keep on coming from the state. The bubble’s going to burst” under the strain at some point, he said. “There are going to be some hard decisions to make.” And given the way the state Senate and Assembly conduct state business, “they should be ashamed of themselves,” he added.
Susan Limongello, executive director of Putnam ARC/PARC, which sponsors the Mahopac school and other programs, thanked the Legislators. “I’m working very hard to get the funding” from Albany going forward “and hopefully pay some of this back,” she said.
Scenic Hudson grant
In another resolution, the Legislature observed that the county acts as the state agent for $125,000 in waterfront revitalization grant money for Scenic Hudson and that no county funds are involved. The grant is for Scenic Hudson’s work at the West Point Foundry Preserve, currently being upgraded as a public historical park.
Scuccimarra described the foundry site, located in Cold Spring on a cove in the Hudson River, as “an amazing area. It’s a huge part of our history” and well worth efforts to enhance it. The foundry made the cannon credited with helping the Union win the Civil War but also manufactured railroad, agricultural, and household items during the 19th century. After it closed around 1911, the numerous buildings crumbled.
Othmer recalled a trip to the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Va., which produced armaments for the Confederacy during the Civil War. “We won the war and our place is in ruins still” while its southern counterpart has been restored, he observed.
Snake Hill Road
The Legislature completed a piece of paperwork in regard to the Snake Hill Road improvements and approved an easement agreement with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to allow the work to proceed. The work area includes a strip of Hudson Highlands State Park.