County puts off funding Tupper Lake tourist guide

TUPPER LAKE – Franklin County Legislator Paul Maroun wants the county to help pay to print some recreational guides for the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce.

At the last county board meeting of the year, the Tupper Lake Republican, who is also the mayor of the village of Tupper Lake, requested $8,000 to pay for the guides, but Chairman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, tabled the resolution.

There was $75,000 included in the 2013 county budget for tourism-related activities. The legislators awarded $25,000 of that to Essex County’s Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism to promote Saranac Lake and $25,000 to Cornell Cooperative Extension to develop agritourism.

Maroun asked for $18,000 of the remaining $25,000 last year to promote the Tupper Lake region, but he withdrew the request as long as Tupper Lake was given future consideration.

In the meantime, Maroun said the town and village of Tupper Lake have contributed funding to the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce. He said he has also followed the county board’s recommendation and initiated discussions with the state Olympic Regional Development Authority and James McKenna, chief executive officer of the Essex County-based Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.

Maroun then reminded the board that Tupper Lake will host the Empire State Games women’s ice hockey competition at its civic center this winter. That was announced in a press conference in November.

“During this whole process, it was discovered that Lake Placid has a brochure,” Maroun said. “They call it a timely brochure because it doesn’t change every year. Saranac Lake also has a brochure that’s timely. It shows the lakes; it shows the cross-country ski trails.”

Maroun said it costs about $8,000 to put each of those brochures together, which is why he is asking for the same.

“It’s an expensive piece to put together,” Maroun said. “So I thought that I had done everything that some board members had asked me to do. I thought that the third-highest-paying tax base in this county deserved something because the northern end got it, the central end got it, and I thought my district should get something. I think this will put together a program in the south end, working with Saranac (Lake) and Lake Placid, to bring tourism into Tupper Lake and Santa Clara.”

Jones said the board couldn’t approve Maroun’s request because all tourism-related costs should first go through the county’s Tourism Advisory Committee. The committee was created last year to decide how the county’s annual tourism funds would be spent after taking over tourism from the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency.

Maroun countered that the committee was created after legislators had awarded $50,000 to other agencies, so he believes his $8,000 request is up to the legislators.

“I narrowed it down to what we actually need after the town and village put this together,” Maroun said. “I know the people at TAC are upset, but what they have to understand is that I’m not touching anything with their funding. This was an arrangement that was talked about a year before TAC. It is not coming from their appropriated funds because it’s carry-over funds, where we took the other monies.”

TAC members are also tasked with determining how occupancy tax money would be spent if the state Legislature grants permission for the county to impose a 5 percent fee on overnight guests. The local law creating the tax will need approval from both the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Maroun has been the only legislator to oppose the tax, saying he’s fairly confident Cuomo won’t sign the bill. His community was also the one in the county where hoteliers raised the most objections to the tax.

After a committee of lodging owners spent about a year working on the law that would create the tax, legislators held two rounds of three hearings – each time holding one in Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake and Malone – on the tax since the beginning of the year. Support was mixed or leaning in favor of the tax in Malone and Saranac Lake, but both times in Tupper Lake, most of the town’s motel owners showed up to express their angry opposition.

Maroun has said the county isn’t ready for the tax, and it should instead split up a third of the proceeds between the villages of Malone, Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake to do their own marketing and tourism programs, noting that efforts that are intended to be county-wide often don’t end up that way.

Contact Shaun Kittle at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or