Tourism contract, settlement of lawsuit on county agenda

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An annual contract with the county’s chief tourism booster is up for its annual renewal when the Oneida County Board of Legislators meets this week.

The contract enables Oneida County Tourism to receive the money generated by the county’s 2 percent room occupancy tax for the purpose of promoting tourism and business meetings around the county. This levy is separate from the sales tax that also is paid by hotel, motel and bed-and-breakfast guests.

Other agenda items include approval of the county paying $100,000 as its share of a $200,0000 settlement to end a claim resulting from a slip-and-fall incident at county-owned Union Station in Utica.

The room tax generated $690,808 for the agency in 2015. None of the money is used for any other purpose, other than the county retaining 3.5 percent to cover administrative costs.

The tax is the major revenue source for the tourism agency, which is based at a visitor center at the Utica Thruway interchange.

Visitor spending in Oneida County topped $1.3 billion in 2015, according to a study done for the Empire State Development and the I Love NY travel and tourism program. This figures represented a 5.5 percent increase over the previous year.

The settlement is the result of a claim filed by Joseph C. Valvo, a contract security guard who worked at Union Station.

He was employed by L.B. Security and Investigations, Inc. On Sept. 2, 2013, Valvo was making a security tour of the building during a power outage caused by a storm. Valvo slipped and fell in water that had accumulated in a second-floor corridor, according to County Attorney Peter M. Rayhill. The water entered the corridor through an open window. Following mediation, it was recommended the claim be settled, with the county paying $100,000 and L.B. Security providing an additional $100,000.

The legislators meet Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the County Office Building, Utica.

William Schmitt, outside attorney for the county, has met twice with the legislature’s Ways & Means Committee to report on the status of the litigation and possibility of a settlement.

Rayhill requested approval of the settlement by the full legislature.

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