Press-Republican

Local News

September 11, 2009

Welcome Center saved just before closure

BEEKMANTOWN — The state released funds Friday afternoon to save the Beekmantown Gateway Welcome Center just days before it was to be shut down.

Adirondack Regional Tourism Council Executive Director Ronald Ofner had told the Press-Republican for an article posted on its Web site that $196,000 budgeted by New York state for the Interstate 87 facility had not been released six months after it was expected.

The Welcome Center is one of two I Love New York gateways funded by the state, the other in Binghamton.

The Beekmantown Center was going to be forced to close Monday, Ofner had said, after using about $90,000 in surplus funds and then running out of money.

But late Friday afternoon, the state suddenly released the funding, Ofner said.

MANY VISITORS

The Beekmantown Welcome Center is the first rest area in New York state to visitors traveling from Canada south along Interstate 87. It's just 15 miles from the U.S.-Canadian Border Crossing in Champlain.

It gets about 12,000 calls for information a year, plus thousands of walk-ins.

"It's a family coming in looking for directions to Plattsburgh. It's a family coming in looking for shopping. It's someone coming in looking for directions to Lake George or New York City," Adirondack Regional Tourism Council Supervisor Doug Yu said, describing their clientele.

The Welcome Center sells space for brochures and other advertising and provides maps, directions and services that open the region up to visitors.

SURPLUS DEPLETED

All of that would have disappeared Monday if the Welcome Center had closed.

It has been operating without a contract since April 1. The $90,000 spent to keep the Welcome Center operating since then came from money that had been tucked away since the facility opened in 1991.

Yu said the funding delay was "pretty symptomatic of all that's going on around the state."

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