I’d rather be fishing

A fisherman in the foreground reels in a sunfish as others try their luck along the Cayuga-Seneca canal in Seneca Falls.

WATERLOO — The tourism industry is on the rise in Seneca County.

That message was delivered to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday by representatives of the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce, the county’s tourism promotion agency.

Chamber officials Jeff Shipley and Rick Newman presented the tourism report for 2019.

“2019 was a very good year for tourism in Seneca County and the Finger Lakes,” Shipley said.

He said 4.8 million visitors came to the Finger Lakes Region and Seneca County saw 11 percent of all visitation traffic, the most among the 14-county region.

Shipley said visitors to the county spend $65 million annually on lodging ($13.9 million), second homes ($11.8 million), recreation ($2.1 million), food and beverage ($23.7 million), retail and service stations ($12.8 million) and transportation ($398,000).

Tourism is responsible for the employment of 1,090 people in the county, generates $4.2 million in local taxes and provides $575 in property tax relief per household, Shipley said.

The county paid the Chamber $443,599 to promote tourism last year with the money coming from the county’s 3 percent room occupancy tax. The report indicated that was spent on regional marketing, advertising and promotions, website and digital promotions, information centers and distribution, contacts, office administration, taxes, insurance, salaries and benefits and travel and training.

Newman said the top visitor attractions in the county are the del Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre, Waterloo Premium Outlets in Junius, Cayuga and Seneca lake wine trails and Sampson State Park in Romulus. He also noted that Empire Farm Days draws many visitors, as does the dog show at Sampson. The top visitor origins were New York, Canada, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

New attractions in 2019 were the DraftKings Sportsbook at del Lago, a revamped marina at Sampson State Park, and the Finger Lakes Kombucha Company in downtown Seneca Falls.

There were more than 10,000 requests for information on Seneca County and travel articles on the county appeared in The New York Times, Forbes online, CondeNast Traveler, Reader’s Digest, USA Today, Travel & Leisure and the Travel Channel.

Shipley said 2019 also saw a new tourism logo for the county and a rebranded website.

Other action at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting included:

• COUNTY MANAGER — County Manager Mitch Rowe said he planned to be in Albany Wednesday to talk to legislators and state officials about the Medicaid program and to lobby for the selection of Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Romulus as the state’s first veterans cemetery.

• SALES TAX — The board voted to request home rule legislation by State Sen. Pam Helming and Assemblymen Brian Kolb and Philip Palmesano to give the county authority to continue extending the additional 1 percent county sales tax for another three years. The authorization is needed to keep the tax at 4 percent, rather than the 3 percent originally authorized by the county.

• WAIVER — The board voted to waive $10,653.54 in interest and penalties owed on a $71,215.53 back tax bill for the former Coca-Cola distribution property at 1766 Auburn Road, Seneca Falls. The property has gone through foreclosure and the new owner has requested to pay $60,561.99 in back taxes but asked the interest and penalties be waived.

• PILOT — The board approved a PILOT agreement with the Sangolqui and Donati solar projects on Routes 318 and Gravel Road in the town of Seneca Falls. The company will pay the town, county and Seneca Falls school district $1,800 per megawatt annually for 15 years, increasing by 1.5 percent a year. The two projects expect to generated 2 megawatts of power when operational. Construction is set to begin this spring.

• BALSLEY ROAD — The board voted to award a contract for the rehabilitation of Balsley Road in Seneca Falls to Seneca Stone Corp. of Seneca Falls for $1,168,665, the lowest of five bidders.

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