Letter: Putnam Tourism

As you reported (Who Do You Work For?, March 24), I was a member (and treasurer) of the Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau board of directors, but only for a short time. I decided to quit because I wanted to take a more active role at the bureau and applied to be its executive director, so it would have been a conflict of interest for me to remain on the board. I was of course disappointed when the board didn’t choose me for the position, although I didn’t expect it, and I knew the direction the rest of the board wanted to take.

I wish the board members the best and hope they will have the support of the county Legislature. It seems to me that some legislators are not playing fairly and certainly not helping the situation. The way the miniscule, stupid and totally unrelated infraction of the board chairman, Barney Molloy, who serves fairly and honestly, for no stipend, was brought up at the March 16 Economic Development Committee meeting demonstrated the legislators care more about appearance than substance. And the treatment by the legislators of interim Executive Director Frank Smith, who has tried to clean up the mess that the legislature made without any real help, demonstrates their ignorance and lack of discretion.

Tourism in Putnam County will never increase until the legislators show some progressive planning and initiative and look for ways for the county to make money rather than rely only on property taxes. They are supposed to be leaders.

Phil Tolmach, Carmel

One thought on “Letter: Putnam Tourism

  1. This is an amazing letter, not just for its substance, but for the fact that Mr. Tolmach had the audacity to publicly make the accusations that he does. As someone who has been trying to work with the County Tourism Agency — such as it is — to promote Cold Spring, which is the only real tourist attraction in Putnam, I am glad to finally get some inkling as to why the Visitors’ Bureau is such a disaster.

    Given Mr. Tolmach’s assertions, it is clear that he has no idea how county government works, let alone what its only tourism agency should be doing. For starters, he states that the county relies only on property taxes for its budget. In fact, the opposite is true. Most county funding comes from sales-tax revenue, including all the money that comes from tourist spending in Cold Spring.

    According to the budget presentation, sales tax is the largest revenue source and accounts for over 37 percent of revenue for 2017. That’s why the county portion is usually the smallest line on our property tax bill.

    Mr. Tolmach’s claims about Barney Molloy and interim director Frank Smith are also misplaced. In fact, there is every reason to believe that since Mr. Tolmach was a member of the board when Mr. Molloy took over, he was a part of the decision-making and guidance to Mr. Smith to shut off funding for Cold Spring’s tourism promotions. These promotions included shopping and dining brochures, radio ads and other initiatives that had been funded before the current board took the reins and decided to cut us off.

    Also, the whining about Mr. Smith’s lack of support is getting tiresome. By his own admission, Mr. Smith is pretty much a full-time law-school student. Thus he has been getting paid for what is demonstrably a no-show job. He was never in the office, never picked up the phone, did not return emails or messages and in short, did whatever he damn well pleased while raking in over 50 grand a year.

    Although he claims that it was left to him to clean up the mess in the Visitors’ Bureau, the fact is that Mr. Smith worked under Libby Pataki for years and he pretty much ran the bureau during the many months she was away on her husband’s failed presidential campaign. During that time, Mr. Smith continued Ms. Pataki’s generosity to Cold Spring, which enabled us to do a lot of good promoting. However, once the Molloy gang took over, that ended, and to this day we can only speculate as why Mr. Molloy instituted such a vendetta against his hometown.

    Finally, as far as funding the Visitors’ Bureau — the truth is that the county does need to spend a lot more money on tourism. The money it gets is under $300,000, so by the time you subtract salaries and other fixed costs, there is less than $100,000 to spend on the entire county, let alone Cold Spring.

    Tourism is the best investment the Legislature can make. The people who come to Cold Spring demand virtually no services, but their spending helps our businesses to prosper and keeps our taxes down. However, as long as our county is being run by a bunch of people who cannot understand this simple fact, there is no reason to increase funding for an agency that has failed to do what it’s supposed to be doing.