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FISHCAP under fire in Franklin County

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MALONE - A member of the Franklin County’s Industrial Development Agency’s board of directors told county legislators this week that there was no need for Franklin County lawmakers to provide funding for a FISHCAP initiative spearheaded by the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.

Paul Hogan, a member of the Franklin County IDA board said the agency’s tourism funds are used for commercials, websites, and press coverage.

Golf packages for the Malone Golf Club have also increased 10 percent over the last year, Hogan added.

“Seventy-five percent of people who take golf packages are people who have come before,” he said.

Mr. Hogan noted that many tourism pamphlets are circulated, such as one for fishing which includes fishing locations.

He added that to tourism websites, such as adirondacklakes.com or golakes.com, there were 88,687 visits in 2012; 43 percent were Canadian visits while 80 percent were new visits.

What tourism does not do, Mr. Hogan said, is organize local events such as fishing tournaments.

He said he was concerned about Franklin County allocating $25,000 to FISHCAP, an initiative from St. Lawrence County to make the north country a fishing destination, and another $25,000 to agritourism.

Mr. Hogan said the IDA researched the possibility of agritourism.

“Agritourism is a very profitable business,” Mr. Hogan said, adding that he has experience with it in Argentina and Australia. “We’ve gotta look at agritourism that is more involved than watching a manure spreader throwing whatever it does...”

He added he would have Fawn Tatro, who helps coordinate tourism, get in touch with those involved with agriculture in the area.

Of FISHCAP, Mr. Hogan said the IDA had not heard anything about the FISHCAP initiative from its coordinators.

“Nobody’s come to speak with us,” Mr. Hogan said. “This is a program that we have no knowledge on what so ever.”

He said he thought FISHCAP organizers should have approached the IDA before speaking to county officials.

“I think it was a bit rude that the legislature was approached first,” Mr. Hogan said. “I think people need to respect people doing their jobs.”

He said he has heard FISHCAP has organized fishing tournaments in St. Lawrence County and decided to visit the initiative’s website.

“Now I came across five tournaments listed,” he said. “Five tournaments ... It’s certainly not the fishing capital of the world.”

Mr. Hogan said the IDA already knows that Franklin County has good fishing and has already created a pamphlet about it.

“I think we’re pretty well covered for fish,” he said.

Mr. Hogan said the IDA would like to suggest the county put all tourism money into the agency’s general fund.

“Looking at the fishing program and agritourism, we’re the experts. ... It’s basically a waste of the taxpayers’ money, taking $50,000 and throwing it at these two programs,” he said. “Bringing thousands of fishermen into Malone during the summer will disrupt a very successful golf program.”

Mr. Hogan said that the IDA is working with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s regional development council on tourism issues. He added a committee formed to discuss a possible bed tax in Franklin County has not approached anyone involved with county tourism.

Hugh Hill, executive director of the Malone Chamber of Commerce, challenge some of Mr. Hogan’s assertions.

“You mentioned the regional council several times. I am a full member of that council, appointed by the governor,” he said. “I applaud your desire to work as a regional entity with the other tourism efforts. I would encourage that strongly, but I just want to make it clear that you haven’t said that the council is endorsing Franklin County tourism, have you?”

“We work as a region,” Mr. Hogan said.

“I’m not disputing that,” Mr. Hill said. “I just want to make sure you’re not using the governor’s council to endorse your operation.”

“What I’m saying is the Adirondack Regional Council, we’re working with it,” Hogan said.

Franklin County Manager Tom Leitz said Friday legislators will probably revisit the tentative budget before making a final decision on funding for FISHCAP and agritourism.

He added that if the county were to fund the two initiatives it would require additional work, such as contracts. FISHCAP and agritourism are both listed in the tentative budget.

“This budget contains an appropriation to assist with the efforts of FISHCAP and to work with the organization to establish a new major fishing event in Franklin County,” the budget summary reads. “We believe this investment will ultimately improve the local economy, and increase sale taxes generated within Franklin County and northern New York.”

Mr. Hill said Friday that since FISHCAP was formed several years ago, the amount of seven-day, non-resident fishing licenses has increased in St. Lawrence County. In 2011, 3,379 were sold, which is 2,282 more than in 2010.

He added this should not be the focus of the initiative as more funds will be spent in local businesses such as hotels or restaurants.

Mr. Hill said the ideal time for trout fishing is in the spring and fall, so it should not disrupt golfers.

“I support it [FISHCAP] because I think there’s some fresh approaches to tourism,” he said.

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