MONTICELLO, NY — It’s an ambitious plan. Last Thursday, Upper Delaware Scenic Byway (UDSB) Chair John Pizzolato pitched a new future for the group, which included a paid staff and the …
MONTICELLO, NY — It’s an ambitious plan. Last Thursday, Upper Delaware Scenic Byway (UDSB) Chair John Pizzolato pitched a new future for the group, which included a paid staff and the hiring of an agency to handle digital media and ad buys.
Granted, it’s an idea that would need a $275,700 budget to fund. At the county’s management and budget committee meeting, he asked Sullivan for a minimum three-year investment toward that end. He had discussed it with chairman Rob Doherty and came up with “the neighborhood request of $100,000. That would ignite our budget and get us to” the hoped-for total. The rest could be made up with grants and outside funding, he said.
Currently, they receive $25,000 from the county for their volunteer-based organization and annual contributions from the member towns.
This proposal, combined with an office at the new visitors center to be created in Callicoon, NY, would be a major change for the group, which currently operates with a $50,000 budget and shares space at the Upper Delaware Council’s facility on Bridge Street in Narrowsburg, NY.
The UDSB promotes the area along Route 97, which runs alongside the Delaware River. It has always included parts of Orange County (Port Jervis and the Town of Deerpark) and part of Delaware County (the Town of Hancock), but the majority of it passes through Sullivan.
The group also provides grants in support of vista enhancement (cutting back greenery to showcase a view), to create signage and to help pollinators.
The proposed changes would also expand those grant programs.
Nadia Rajsz expressed concern about whether the new plans would conflict with the mission of the Sullivan County Visitors Association (SCVA).
Pizzolato stressed that the UDSB worked alongside the SCVA, whose contract is currently being renegotiated. It didn’t want to supplant it. But “we feel the needs and ideals of the UDSB are much different than that of the SCVA. The byway marks the area and the Delaware River clearly. This is a geotourism-focused plan.”
He talked about the importance of investing in the river communities, reaching out to residents and second-home owners, and promoting “traditional uses of the area” like hunting, fishing and rafting.
Towns contribute $1,000 each. Pizzolato noted that the county receives room-tax dollars from visitors to the scenic byway. Towns only have property tax money to draw on, while the county has other revenue sources, Nick Salomone commented.
“The byway,” Doherty said, “offers huge value to the overall bed tax... at the end of the day, that’s what Sullivan County’s all about: It’s about tourism and agriculture.”
The prospect of room tax dollars for other tourist-focused groups in the county could launch a thousand proposals.
County treasurer Nancy Buck had clearly been thinking along those lines, anyway. She suggested forming a group to examine ideas before they’re presented to the legislature. “You’ll need to see budgets... [they] need to go through a vetting process.
“I’ve heard, ‘Oh, the county doesn’t do anything.’” said commenter Ken Walter. “The county provides grants... when you need matches, the county provides the money.” The county pays for roads and maintenance. “The county has always stepped up... a lot of things the county has done [for Western Sullivan] nobody wants to talk about.”
“You’re going to have people flooding you looking for money, and it’s all coming out of this renegotiation,” Cat Scott said. She also expressed concern about how the proposal came about and asked about intended uses for the $14 million expected from the federal stimulus plan.
In the end, chair George Conklin called for more discussion about the proposal.