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October 25, 2012

Economic council pitches sports tourism project

The Greater Oneonta Economic Development Council has asked for town and city municipal support for a sports-based tourism project, with proposed funding through $84,000 in Otsego County occupancy tax revenues next year.

The council has proposed forming a commission, tentatively called the Greater Oneonta Sports’ Boosters, to foster growth of sports tourism, according to a document outlining the initiative. The proposal, which includes a 2013 calendar of planned and possible events, is the basis for a funding request for $84,000 from county bed tax income.

GO-EDC organizer Albert Colone said he has been presenting the plan to businesses and boards.

The concept has met with mixed, though outwardly supportive, reactions from the town and city governing boards.

However, the county treasurer said Wednesday, that though the proposal is good, funding the project next year is unlikely because of budget constraints.

Treasurer Dan Crowell said funding GO-EDC’s project would cut too deeply into other programs, including services for the aging population and Otsego Manor, the county’s nursing home, among other departments.

“There’s not a department where we’re not making a cut this year — for the third year in a row,” Crowell said.

Of the $1.2 million in bed tax revenues, about half goes to tourism projects, such as bundled advertising, primarily through the Otsego County Tourism office, Crowell said, and another portion goes to support services such as maintaining roads and public safety related to the tourism industry.

The county faces rising expenses for employee benefits, health insurance and retirement cost, Crowell said. Though bed tax revenues have grown modestly in recent years, he said, those costs have an impact on bed tax budgeting, and “there isn’t much room to expand right now.”

Colone said the sports tourism initiative meets the intent of the bed tax program and would be an ideal use of those revenues. Crowell is the ``bottom-line guy for the county,’’ Colone said, and the Otsego County Board of Representatives should take a visionary role and approve the plan for the long-term benefit of the county.

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