Franklin County disburses $23K for solar eclipse prep

A private jet prepares for takeoff at the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear in October 2018. Harrietstown has applied for funding to pay for overtime at the airport in anticipation of an influx of traffic for the eclipse. (Enterprise file photo — Lou Reuter)

Franklin County is distributing $23,000 in occupancy tax money to towns, villages and organizations ahead of the April 8 total solar eclipse to assist them in preparing their infrastructure for the cosmic event.

The money, approved on March 9 by Franklin County legislators, was managed by county Economic Development and Tourism Director Phil Hans.

Hans said the occupancy tax money comes from a 5% tax collected from visitors at all hotel, motel, bed-and-breakfast and vacation rental stays, so it is not a tax from local taxpayers. He said the money is being “reinvested” for visitors to have enjoyable and safe viewing experience.

Saranac Lake was awarded $14,000 for portable toilets, trash removal and overtime or additional pay for employees in the police and public works departments throughout the weekend and on the Monday of the eclipse.

Harrietstown was awarded $750 for a shuttle service from the town-owned Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear. Hans said the town has requested another chunk of money — less than $2,000 — for overtime at the airport, as increased traffic there is expected. This second request has not gone before the legislators for a vote yet.

The town of Tupper Lake was awarded $5,000 for portable toilets and 25 additional trash receptacles.

The town of Tupper Lake also requested $10,000 to contract with the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism to create wayfinding signage and maps for restrooms, parking, bus stops, viewing areas; informational pamphlets; and welcoming signage.

The Saranac Lake Civic Center was awarded $4,500 to remain open after the eclipse as a “traffic calming strategy,” Hans said. The hope is that people will go skating after the solar event, instead of leaving immediately.

The village of Malone was awarded $15,000 for increased staffing for the police, public works and parks departments; traffic and crowd control; trash removal; barricades and cones; benches; traffic signs and portable message boards.

Hans said his county office is mostly playing a supportive role in the eclipse event, but added that Franklin County has purchased 24,000 pairs of eclipse viewing glasses, which it has distributed around the county at businesses, organizations and governments.

Hans said the eclipse will definitely have a positive impact on the county’s occupancy tax collection. It’s only a one-day event, but it comes during the slower “shoulder season” when there are typically fewer rentals. He hesitated to project how much of an impact it could have on the year as a whole, but was sure it will have some sort of impact.

He does not know what rates each lodging place is renting rooms at — some are renting at higher rates because of the high demand for rooms during the eclipse. With the tax being a percent of the total cost, this could lead to higher tax revenues for a given room than normal.


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