Niagara Gazette

September 18, 2013

Council agrees to NTCC extension

By Justin Sondel justin.sondel@niagara-gazette.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The city of Niagara Falls will continue to use the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. as its official tourism bureau, at least until next summer.

City lawmakers on Monday removed from the table and then passed a resolution granting the tourism agency a one-year extension to a 10-year agreement that expired at the end of May.

The city stopped paying the agency in the absence of the agreement. The NTCC filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court on Aug. 1 asking the court to order the city to pay the agency bed tax money — NTCC gets 80 percent of the city’s bed tax revenues which total about $900,000 a year — as it was required to under the expired agreement.

The agency also receives $1 million a year in casino revenues, which are passed through the city.

John Percy, the agency’s CEO, said his organization has continued to promote the city in the absence of payments, but is glad that the contract extension is in place.

“I’m pleased that this action was taken in a positive manner,” Percy said. “It’s unfortunate that we had to do a lawsuit to get to this point.”

Three city council members - Chairman Glenn Choolokian, Councilman Sam Fruscione and Councilman Robert Anderson Jr. - voted to table the measure at the July 8 meeting, citing concerns over the level of transparency with which the agency spends the money it gets from the city and state.

Those concerns were similar to those expressed by Republicans in the county legislature where a one-year extension was approved in June.

As part of both agreements the agency has agreed to pay consultant Millier, Dickenson and Blais to conduct yearly performance evaluations of the NTCC.

The council also approved the hiring of the consultants under a different resolution.

Percy said he hopes the third party performance review will give the city and the county confidence in the agency so NTCC can secure long-term contracts with both municipalities.

“I think now we all have to get to the table and get this performance review completed and move forward with a permanent contract as soon as possible,” Percy said. “Because that gives us stability to do future marketing and future programming.”

Choolokian said he and his colleagues on the council majority passed the extension so they, like the county legislature, could work toward a more thorough evaluation of the work the agency has been doing in recent years.

“Instead of rushing things and passing (a long-term extension) we want to take the time to do more research,” Choolokian said.

Choolokian said the council will wait for the performance report from the consultant and use that information, along with information provided by local business owners, to make a decision in regards to a long-term contract.

Choolokian said the possibility of the city ending its relationship with NTCC after the extension expires remains an option.

“It gives us more time to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to,” he said.

Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257