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Franklin County to decide on tourism contract

It’s up in the air whether Franklin County will sign a new contract with the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism in 2020 to manage its tourism marketing as other agencies vie for that role.

Franklin County Manager Donna Kissane said this isn’t a matter of the county not being satisfied with ROOST’s efforts, but rather their contract was up, and the county is required to go out to bid when it comes to what outside agency will take care of its tourism marketing.

“I talk with the ROOST leadership team on a regular basis,” she said. “We continue to work toward tourism with the best interest in Franklin County.”

Kissane said there are groups other than ROOST currently in the bid process, but she couldn’t name them at this point. The county is not required to go with the least expensive bidder, she said.

“I’ve taken a glance at them, and we’re in preliminary stages with the county legislators and the Tourism Advisory Committee, but we haven’t dived into the proposals just yet,” Kissane said.

The contract between ROOST and Franklin County ends in February 2020.

“A decision for the next contract would have to be made before then,” said Jim McKenna, ROOST CEO. “I think we just have to wait and see how the county wants to move forward.”

Kissane said the process was delayed because some of the agencies didn’t submit appropriate paperwork.

“We reissued the proposal because some did not answer the questions adequately enough,” she said. “We have certain benchmarks that have to meet, and some of them are deal breakers — Iran Divestment form, conflict of interest forms, sexual harassment policies. We can’t move forward if any of those are missing.”

Kissane said Franklin County is expected to make a decision on its tourism marketing in December.

McKenna said even if Franklin County doesn’t sign a new contract with ROOST, that would not affect ROOST’s separate contracts with Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, which are in Franklin County.

ROOST is the main tourism marketing agency in the North Country. It services Franklin, Essex and Hamilton counties and also holds individual contracts with towns and villages such as Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Lake Placid and Piercefield. ROOST maintains tourism websites such as visitmalone.com. and saranaclake.com. It conducts tourism and leisure studies to determine why people visit the Adirondacks.

Even with projects that aren’t its direct responsibility, ROOST provides assistance. With overuse in the High Peaks Region, ROOST partnered with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to educate hotel workers on alternative hikes they can direct adventurous tourists toward.

The way Franklin County pays ROOST is similar to servers and tips in the restaurant industry. ROOST is guaranteed $475,000, which is collected from a 5% occupancy tax. If the occupancy tax doesn’t cover the total cost for ROOST, Franklin County pays out from its general fund. Kissane said the occupancy tax covered the ROOST cost in 2018, and no money was taken out of the county’s general fund.

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