Press-Republican

March 5, 2013

Tourism oversight may change

DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

MALONE — Franklin County’s part-time tourism promoter may be housed in the District Attorney’s Office so she can continue her part-time job there.

The possible change in work site for Fawn Tatro is expected to be discussed at the next meeting of the County Legislature on Thursday.

The move would coincide with the county’s intent to take over tourism initiatives and create a 5 percent bed tax to fund proposals most likely to boost economic development.

The bed tax must have approval from the State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The North Country Regional Economic Development Council recently endorsed the county’s effort for a bed tax, which can take up to two years.

And that is about the time Tatro could be promoted to full-time office manager at the DA’s Office.

‘MORE REVENUE’

DA Derek Champagne said he lost three positions when the county went through tough budget times three years ago.

He took the hit then with assurances from legislators that when times got better, he could recoup some staff and catch up on the backlog of state-prison reimbursements, he said.

Counties can be paid back for prosecuting inmate-related cases, such as promotion of prison contraband and officer assault. 

“We’re entitled to that revenue, but I can’t get it because I don’t have the staff to do it,” Champagne said.

Tatro, who was the office assistant under former County Tourism Director Neil Seymour until his September 2011 retirement, is the grand-jury stenographer in the DA’s office and would be paid about $25,000 a year for the part-time job.

And if she were trained in other office duties, someone else would be freed up to work on the revenue-generating casework, Champagne said.

‘BOTH WORLDS’

When he learned about the proposed tourism-oversight changes, he suggested Tatro be assigned space in his office, which has a separate entrance from the rest of his department.

“She can work it out with the county on the 15 or 20 hours she’ll be working for them, and I’ll get the rest of the time for her to do grand jury and other things,” he said.

That would include training as office manager when Mimi Tulloch retires, which is expected to happen in two years. 

“This will give the county two years to find someone else to take over tourism,” Champagne said. “It’s the best of both worlds for everybody.”

ADVISORY BOARD

The existing Tourism Office shares a board of directors with the County Industrial Development Agency, but legislators will likely change that in a few weeks and direct tourism initiatives to themselves, funded with $350,000 to $400,000 in anticipated occupancy-tax money.

Project proposals up for funding would be voted on by an appointed Tourism Advisory Board and, from there, be presented to the County Legislature for final approval.

Tatro would then carry out the identified projects under the Advisory Board’s guidance.

Email Denise A. Raymo: draymo@pressrepublican.com