MAYVILLE - Now that the door on tourism funding has been shut for the Bemus Bay Pops, some county lawmakers are looking to open a window.
During their regular business meeting last week, legislators voted down a proposal to return funding to the summer entertainment series. In May, the body cut $8,705 in bed tax money which the Pops had been set to receive.
The not-for-profit will still receive $3,775 from the county this year, just not the additional $8,705 it had been anticipating. The cut came about last month when legislators realized that the Pops has received bed tax money for the last five years. A three-year limit was put into the application for funding in 2009, sparking a question about whether this should be considered the Pops' third or fifth year.
Ultimately the body voted 14 to 10 against returning the funding to the Pops. Only three of the 23 legislators present in May opposed making the cut in the first place.
Throughout last week's meeting, several legislators spoke of wanting to support the Pops. However, because of the three-year limit instituted in 2009, the Pops can no longer receive funding from the pot of money it has been in recent years. So, as a result, several legislators mentioned maybe finding a new way to fund the group.
"Should they need another stream of revenue, we as a county should support them, but not through this venue," said Tami Downey, R-Kiantone. "We should work together to find a different venue so that that can be supported."
Later in the meeting, Jerry Park, R-Forestville, said several ideas which have come out of the situation with the Pops will be put to the Planning and Economic Development Committee, which he chairs.
Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott, echoed Downey, saying it's important the legislature support the Pops.
"I want to go back to something that was said about 'developing,'" Tarbrake said. "That's a key word here because I think the Bemus Bay Pops is still developing, as in developing money for the county. Chautauqua Lake is probably our biggest driver as far as Chautauqua County goes, so I think it's important that we support this."
John Gullo, D-Fredonia, questioned which should hold more weight in legislators' minds - the process or the outcome.
Yes, the Bemus Bay Pops, has surpassed its three-year limit for bed tax funding, but, even in applying for a fifth year, the entertainment series was ranked above other projects which also applied for the money.
"If we're talking about where the money is best spent, I think there is a compelling argument," Gullo said. "Mr. (Vince) Horrigan's comments are very meaningful to me. I wish that was my village, someone saying that to me, saying that this works for my community."
There's also the question of the Pops being different from the other events and organizations which apply for the pot of tourism funding set aside by the legislature. Most of the other applicants tend to be applying for single-day or single-weekend events held annually in the summertime. With the Pops, there's Chautauqua Lake Idol, Praise on the Lake, Light the Lakes, weekend concerts, special events and movie nights.
"I always say that we're one county and we really are one community," said Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown. "We're talking about a population of 120,000, about 125,000. What's good for Bemus Point is good for Jamestown is good for Dunkirk is good for Silver Creek is good for the entire county. This project, I believe very strongly, adds incredible economic value to our entire county community, to each and every one of us and to, most importantly, each and every one of our constituents.
"It's not a one-weekend event," Cornell continued. "It's not a one-day celebration. It's an entire atmosphere. It's an economic driver."
Throughout their discussion, legislators spoke about needing to clear up the "gray area" from which the problem with the Pops arose.
Although the three-year limit was added to the application for funding in 2009, it was never incorporated into the legislature's resolutions for awarding the money.
"Last month, when Mr. (Tom) DeJoe brought this up, I agreed with him that this was very, very murky and that what we needed to do as a body was to make this much more clear," Downey said. "I still have that position. I think that because this has been so confusing, in my opinion, we should go back and fund the Bemus Bay Pops because the economy, especially because of the economy we're in right now, those dollars mean something to the local economy and to the county itself. ... I think we need to get this clarified and on the books and black and white so that we don't have this problem five years from now."
"I share Mrs. Downey's concerns and the concerns of the majority of my colleagues from last month," Cornell said. "I believe we can better clarify that resolution. I think we need to clarify for organizations like the Bemus Bay Pops what our exact intentions are. We need to have it in legislation, not simply as an interpreted guideline out there.
"Clearly the Bemus Bay Pops was ahead in line of the other projects we're considering funding this meeting," Cornell continued. "In terms of the ranking, it was above these that we're considering now. But I do think that we need to go back next month and I would ask Mrs. Downey if she will join me in drafting legislation that clarifies what our intentions are going forward so that it is fair to organizations applying."