MAYVILLE - In a letter sent Monday to county legislators, representatives for the Bemus Bay Pops threatened to take their efforts elsewhere if the county doesn't step up as a partner for the entertainment series.
The County Legislature voted last month to cut some funding which had been scheduled to go to the Pops this year.
The Pops will still receive a total of $3,775 in tourism money this year, but will now not receive an additional $8,705.
In the letter sent to county lawmakers Monday, the Pops make a case for the funding to be restored and for continued future funding to be ensured.
"We are confused by your recent actions," the letter starts. "We apparently have not communicated well enough with you regarding who we are, and the amazing impact our programs have every year on the economy you are responsible for."
The letter then goes on to quote the county's new comprehensive plan, questioning why the Pops is not mentioned in specific in the document. The letter is seven pages in total, written by Pops Chairman Clayton Sweeney on behalf of the Bemus Bay Pops Board of Directors.
In its seven pages, the letter provides details of what the Pops officials say the series brings to Chautauqua County in terms of tourism and revenue each year. It ends with a request of the county and a threat to take the series elsewhere.
"The bottom line is that we expect Chautauqua County to be our partner, to invest in the economic work that we do," Sweeney writes.
"If not, many other communities are interested in our results," Sweeney continues. "We will review all options at the end of the current season, and determine if we care to accept offers from communities in other regions who value the 480,000 people and $12 million impact we can bring to them instead of to Chautauqua County.
"We apparently have not communicated well enough with you regarding who we are, and the amazing impact our programs have every year on the economy you are responsible for."
Bemus Bay Pops chairman
"But our goal is to remain here in our community," Sweeney continues. "Because of the phenomenal economic and cultural impact our programs have, we trust that you want us to stay in Chautauqua County, prosper, and continue to grow."
The County Legislature voted to cut funding from the Pops last month following a discussion about the series's eligibility to receive the tourism money.
Legislator Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton, pointed out that the Pops is in its fifth year receiving funds from the county's bed tax revenues. In 2009, the legislature instituted a three-year limit for organizations to receive such tourism money.
The county funds tourism attractions such as the Pops through bed tax revenues, not the general budget. The bed tax is a 5 percent tax charged by the county and is broken up into two portions, with 2 percent supporting waterways projects and a portion of the 3 percent going to help fund tourism projects.
Festivals and event organizers can apply for bed tax funding each year. There is also more than one round of funding for each year. To receive the regular, on-cycle funding from the bed tax revenues, an event organizer must apply a year in advance. That's how Dan Dalpra, Bemus Bay Pops president, received the $3,775 this year. He applied in 2010 to receive the regular, on-cycle funding this year. There's also off-cycle funding, which event organizers were able to apply for in recent months. Applications received were prioritized and funded according to their priority. The Bemus Bay Pops had applied for an additional $8,705 and was set to receive the award until legislators questioned the series again receiving county funding.
The County Legislature will meet at 6:30 p.m. tonight on the third floor of the Gerace Office Building in Mayville.
On the body's agenda tonight is a resolution to award other festivals and events the money that was until last month set to be given to the Pops.
In addition to the $8,705 cut from the Pops, there's a balance of $16,320 in 2011 bed tax revenues still left to be spent. That $16,320 amount had been allocated to the Southern Tier Pond Cup Hockey, but the money was not spent. In total, there is $25,025 left to be spent.
Legislators will vote tonight on distributing a portion of the funding to the Chautauqua Bon Vivant Festival, for a total award of $8,975; the 14th Annual Antique Boat Show for $909; the Jamestown Cultural Highlights Brochure for $9,055; a billboard promoting the rodeo for $1,746 and an Alternative Art Series at the Adams Art Gallery in Dunkirk for $4,340.
In total, the Bemus Bay Pops has received $51,081 in bed tax revenue in the last five years - $12,500 in 2007, $10,000 in 2008, $15,000 in 2009. $9,806 in 2010 and only $3,775 in 2011.
DeJoe's proposal to remove the Bemus Bay Pops from the list of bed tax projects was passed by the legislature with minimal opposition. A role call vote was not taken, but three legislators were vocally noted as opposed - Dick Babbage, R-Bemus Point; Jay Gould, R-Ashville, and Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott.