By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Two weeks after delaying funding for Destination Oneonta, Common Council voted unanimously to approve $70,000 for the downtown promotion organization.
Still, questions remained.
“Is there a vision and strategy for Destination Oneonta’s future,” said Council member Mark Drnek, Ward 8, who raised the original concerns, “in which it becomes more self-sustaining, even as its core mission remains unchanged but it’s membership grows to be more inclusive of the Greater Oneonta area and less exclusively representative of Downtown business?”
“I think a lot of what you know about D-O has come about from a very lengthy past,” said Katrina Van Zandt, D-O membership coordinator.
“So as we’re moving forward and constantly changing and updating what we’re doing, that mission and vision of what we’ve been has changed,” she said.
D-O is sustainable because of outside fundraising, she said, not the $150 membership fee. “Right now you’re spending $70,000, but you’re getting myself, a board, and a whole ton of volunteers. You’re saving almost $40,000,” she said.
And D-O Vice President Paul Habernig further emphasized the importance of the city funding.
“You have to look at the idea that Destination Oneonta has two distinct functions. We are member services and we are events, so for sustainability, we can sustain with just our membership, but if we take away that funding our events go away and quality of life goes away.”
But Drnek stressed that the evolution of the organization might influence future funding considerations.
“The question is … Are you a downtown-Oneonta- centric organization enough? You are right now, but will you be in a couple of years and what will the attitude of the council be around the request for $70,000 vs. $10,000 vs. the rest that’s brought to it?”
If the answer is no, council may not “feel compelled to support you,” he said. “As a Greater Oneonta membership and working for a Great Oneonta membership, will you still be able to give the city of Oneonta the services that we have been getting, that we have been counting on?”
“We can’t ask that question today because it’s not today that we’re talking about,” replied Habernig.
“Is there an active strategizing for a five-year plan?” questioned Drnek.
“That’s actually on our to-do list is to re-evaluate our strategic plan and see where we’re headed, see what the numbers look like,” said Van Zandt.
“The great thing about Destination Oneonta is that we’re able to ebb and flow and go with what the needs are at the time, with our board being volunteers, with all of our event planning and all of that being volunteers, we’re able to introduce new people at any time,” said Habernig. “We have that flexibility that I don’t think other organizations may have because we are a need-based and service-based organization, it allows us that flexibility.”
Council member John Rafter, Ward 7, added, “I am very much in support of the funding of your organization because without it, we have nothing. You’re not replaceable, easily. So I don’t see the threat in every future council meeting to your funding, but on the other hand, we might not have money.”
“We expect our departments to report on your success and we expect anyone we’re funding to inform us.”
“Your letter said that ‘We’re confident that the services we provide will have a measurable impact’ I absolutely appreciate what you’re all doing. To have an organization that is dedicated to bringing people to downtown business, that’s important. I just wonder if there was any plan that you all have in place, or maybe this was part of your five year planning, to actually begin to try to measure some of those things,” asked Council member Mark Davies, Second Ward.
“It’s a little difficult in our organization with the free events that we provide a lot of them don’t have ticketable functions,” said Van Zandt. “Some of the items are difficult to measure. Going forward what we need to figure out is how to get some more measurable numbers to present to you.”