Cites concerns shared by county, Lockport, Falls gov'ts
Niagara County Legislature Majority Leader Rick Updegrove, R-Lockport, issued the following statement regarding ongoing discussions about the expired contract of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp.:
"Over the past two weeks, I have received copies of a form letter from several businesspeople in communities around Niagara County. The letters are the product of an advocacy campaign originating at the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. approximately three weeks ago and orchestrated by NTCC CEO John Percy himself. The reason for this campaign is painfully transparent: the NTCC is attempting to pressure the governments of Niagara County, Niagara Falls and the City of Lockport into hastily renewing the taxpayer-subsidized agency's now-expired contract, and forcing them into a long-term agreement that doesn't expire until the year 2028. Furthermore, the proposed NTCC contract limits the ability of the stakeholders that fund the agency to evaluate the agency's performance.
"It is my concern that many of the people sending the letters are doing so out of fear. They are being told that the County Legislature is jeopardizing their livelihoods by not renewing the contract. Of course, they are being callously used by Mr. Percy in what amounts to an effort to save his own job, which pays well into the six figures and has included such perks as first-class international travel to destinations like Europe and India.
"With the county government and the City of Lockport contributing approximately $1.7 million in tax dollars over a 10-year period, an accounting of the NTCC's stewardship of that money is long overdue. I have spoken to Mayor Mike Tucker of Lockport's concerns about this matter many times. I know that Mayor Tucker has raised a number of valid questions and objections related to the manner in which the NTCC has carried out its obligations. And for those who would seek to make this an 'East vs. West' issue, it is not. It is well-documented that the City of Niagara Falls Common Council has expressed the exact same concerns as Lockport including:
"•There is 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.
"Because I would like to see an amicable resolution to this issue, I am recommending a one-year extension of the county's contract with the NTCC. During that time, the county will explore seeking the advice of a national tourism expert as we renegotiate our host agreement contract to be sure that all Niagara County entities are receiving optimum results for their investment. 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. The taxpayers deserve transparency before any long-term contract is signed."