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Ways & Means Committee

June 20, 2019 - 5:49pm

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.

June 6, 2019 - 1:49pm

The Ways & Means Committee was briefed on plans for the Healthy Living Campus and determined the next steps for financing the project at its meeting Wednesday.

The proposed Healthy Living wellness collaborative project will house the United Memorial Medical Center, YMCA fitness areas, Office for the Aging Senior Center and communal gathering spaces.

UMMC provides affordable primary care, local medical specialists and illness prevention. The Batavia YMCA offers family recreation, fitness coaching and adult aging services. The Office for the Aging assists with health care insurance programs, caregiver services and nutrition.

Dan Ireland, president of Rochester Regional Health/United Memorial, believes these organizations form a strong, unified effort.

Ireland, addressing the committee, said, “What you heard from us really paints a nice picture that there isn’t a better synergy than the three areas working together to provide for our community.”

YMCA CEO Rob Walker spoke of the positives of the proposed campus. The collaborative project hopes to promote investment from health care providers. In turn, Healthy Living membership holders can reap the benefits of affordable care and year-round access to wellness facilities.

Walker said, “The whole idea here is that we’re not just under one roof, but we’re going to be actually working on programs together. Groups from the Senior Center, groups from the hospital, groups from the Y will have to get a committee together on what programs we want to run jointly.”

Ireland and Walker posed various building configuration options to the committee. In response to concerns about accessible parking due to traffic flows, they presented different designs that could offer 400–500 parking spaces on the campus. They said that the finished project could attract more families and members of the aging population to this community.

Committee members are seeking more information about development financing, accessibility and potential joint programming. The wellness collaborative will finalize its financial model prior to asking for funding approval from the county legislature in 2020.

Office for the Aging Director Ruth Spink suggested it would be beneficial to present the Healthy Living Campus to the community in order to gather more feedback. The presentation is tentatively scheduled to occur during a public hearing in October.

Later, County Clerk Mike Cianfrini brought forward a resolution to the committee opposing the state's proposed “driver’s license access and privacy act.” The county Clerk's Office opposes it because it obligates the county clerk to accept all identification from undocumented individuals when they apply for driver’s licenses.

If the assembly bill is enacted, the clerk must approve identification documents written in any language as long as they have been authenticated by a foreign government. Therefore, the clerk may grant standard driver’s licenses to undocumented individuals even if the documentation cannot be translated.

Cianfrini added, “In the event that we hypothetically do recognize a fraudulent document or if we witness somebody … illegally register to vote, the [privacy portion] of the law prohibits us from contacting the state, local or federal law enforcement.”

Committee members discussed how these licenses could be used to access other government services. However, Cianfrini said a standard driver’s license does not guarantee Federal REAL ID to undocumented individuals. Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, the government will require REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses to board flights and enter federal facilities.

The resolution was unanimously carried by the Ways & Means Committee. According to the New York State Senate website, the bill is currently in assembly committee. It will travel to the state assembly and senate floors for passage thereafter.

The next Ways & Means Committee meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 19 at the Old Courthouse.

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