Niagara Gazette

Local News

June 17, 2013

County lawmakers battle over NTCC funding


Niagara Gazette — According to Virtuoso, Republican county officials have been sitting on a long-term renewal proposal by NTCC since February. He said he’s pushing for a vote on renewal now because it’s overdue, and for NTCC it’s becoming urgent.

“There’s political intervention going on here and I’m not going to stand for it,” Virtuoso said. “Tourism is too important to the county.”

Updegrove said in his statement that an accounting of NTCC’s past performance is “long overdue.”

The agency, formed in 2003 from the merging of the county tourism department and the Niagara Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau, is authorized by contract with the county to receive 75 percentof all bed tax collected within the county and spend it promoting tourism.

Updegrove recites more common complaints by the critics — “insufficient interaction with host communities by NTCC leadership, a lack of communication or updates from NTCC, a lack of quantifiable and verifiable results (and) excessive personnel costs” — and says the county ought to be sure all the stakeholders are getting “optimum results for their investment” before any agree to rehire NTCC.

A one-year extension of the current contract would guarantee the agency’s funding isn’t cut off in the midst of the local tourism season, and buy time for the stakeholders to assess its performance and renegotiate their contracts, Updegrove said.

“If the NTCC and its board are confident that they are doing the best job possible, there should be no hesitation on their part to cooperate,” he said. “The taxpayers deserve transparency before any long-term contract is signed.”

Virtuoso charged the one-year extender is a stalling tactic by Republicans who want to “control” NTCC and oust its oft-maligned CEO, John Percy.

“They’ve had more than enough time to ask the questions that they wanted to ask. They’re just playing games now,” he said.

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