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Sept. 15, 2006
New Department Takes a Proactive Approach
Earlier this year our County Legislature made the decision to combine two county departments - Planning and Community Development, and Promotion and Tourism. The purpose, when proposed in my state of the county address back in January, was to devote additional county resources to both the tourism and community development initiatives of county government.
It has been a few months since the departments merged, and I am very excited about the direction the new department is headed in. I would like to share with you some of the initiatives that the County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning is involved in:
- Grant-seeking assistance - One of the goals of the newly-formed department is to provide hands-on service and technical assistance to local municipalities and constituents. We are well on our way toward achieving that goal. In June the department sponsored a seminar for towns, villages and not-for-profit agencies across the county. The idea, which was encouraged by Legislator Fred Beardsley, chairman of the Economic Development and Planning Committee, was very well-received. Several organizations learned about funding sources and the grant-seeking basics that are necessary to help meet local needs in our communities. Everyone in attendance requested that we continue to provide these types of seminars, and we're looking forward to finding ways to do that.
- Tourism Web site - County government remains committed to its support of tourism and tourism-based businesses. We've decided to separate the tourism Web site from the official county government Web site. The tourism site will be re-designed and made a stand-alone entity, one that is on a par with other professional tourism development organizations. This process is well underway. First and foremost, it will be easier for people to find information about Oswego County and our tourism partners. It is our hope that, by this time next year, the new tourism site will be fully online. As an additional benefit, we expect that some of the lessons learned through this process will help the county provide better online service to businesses and residents through the government services Web site.
- Staffing - We are in the final stages of filling a vacant public information position in the department. The additional staff person will assist with Web site development, tourism marketing, public information, and many other initiatives that the department is involved in.
- Housing assistance - The department administers the federal rental assistance program that helps low-income families afford decent housing. Last year, we brought in approximately $1.5 million in revenue that was used to assist hundreds of low-income families. In an effort to expedite the process and alleviate a lengthy waiting period, the department is requesting additional funding from the federal government. This would help us better serve needy families in communities across the county.
- Community outreach - In order to determine how the department can better serve our local communities, I asked Director David Turner to visit each legislative district as requested by members of the County Legislature. Meetings have been held in several towns and villages, and the planning staff is working to provide technical assistance on a number of projects. I am very pleased to report that this process has already helped us to identify ways that the county can better serve its constituents, and brought forth new initiatives that will move our county forward.
These are just a few of the projects that the new department is working on. The staff is impressive, with many years of professional skills, knowledge, and hands-on experience in their jobs. I appreciate their professionalism and dedication during this transition period. I also want to acknowledge the members of the Economic Development and Planning Committee: Chairman Beardsley, Vice Chairman Kevin Gardner, and legislators Jack Beckwith, Barbara Brown, Dan Chalifoux, Shawn Doyle and Paul Natoli, for their support of this process.
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