A new proposal was brought before the Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday for an I Love New York selfie sign on the lawn outside the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center at 8276 Park Road, Batavia.
It's one of the most recognizable logos of New York State. The iconic “I Love New York” letters and bright red heart are frequently seen on tourist souvenirs and apparel.
But its $47,000 price tag raised eyebrows at the meeting.
It would be paid for with bed tax reserves -- not by local taxpayers, according to Chamber President Tom Turnbull, who presented the preliminary design of the selfie sign to the Ways & Means Committee.
He sought the initial reactions of committee members as he spoke about the proposed I Love New York sign, which would showcase the logo with a semi-transparent background and backlighting.
The goal of the selfie sign is to attract visitors to Genesee County and draw tourists to the Visitor Center once they stop for a photo opportunity next to the sign. Similar selfie signs are currently featured at popular destinations like the Finger Lakes and the Adirondacks.
“We think this will be a big hit for people … People are into taking pictures at places like that. We hope it will attract people to come inside our visitor center,” Turnbull said.
The chamber worked with Batavia-based companies like smartDESIGN Architecture and John’s Studio in the engineering and design processes.
The price includes design, construction and installation costs.
The bed tax revenue that would pay for it comes from a 5-percent administrative fee that is added to the price of a hotel room in Genesee County and collected annually by the county Treasurer’s Office.
Each year, bed tax revenue is capped at $420,000, and surplus funds are placed in a reserve.
The expected surplus total for 2019 is approximately $100,000, and $47,000 for the proposed sign would come from this surplus.
“The money is there," Turnbull said. "It’s dedicated for tourism, and we think this is a good use of some of that money. We can spruce up our property a little bit more and attract even more tourism to Genesee County.”
Legislators Andrew Young and Shelly Stein opined that $47,000 is a high price for this potential investment. Stein questioned the life expectancy of both the selfie-sign trend and the durability of the design in winter weather.
Turnbull said he is confident that the sign and its popularity will last well into the future.
Legislator Marianne Clattenburg said that the sign would most likely see a good amount of traffic in that area due to hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and Batavia Downs casino.
“I think we’ve got the funds," Clattenburg said to Turnbull. "And if your board is saying that this is something that is advantageous and you’ll see results from it, then I would support it."
The Chamber of Commerce received tentative permission from NYS Empire State Development to use its trademark logo. Approval of the project can occur once a finalized design has been agreed upon by the chamber and the legislature.
Now the chamber has a better sense of the legislators' thoughts on the project before it drafts a resolution asking for a portion of bed tax money to pay for it.