Save taxpayer dollars, cut PR

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors sent a snazzy news release to my inbox with lots of quotes from leaders about the county’s “Vision 2026 Summit” on Oct. 25.

The Holiday Inn event was deemed a total success, many agree.

The problem is that area media — including The Leader-Herald with several stories and photos –had already reported on the event in detail many days earlier.

Some of this media/press release activity by county government begs a couple of questions: Why does county government need outside public relations firms from Troy and New Jersey? Who are they reaching, if not local media? Are county taxpayers getting the best bang for their buck?

Supervisors on Nov. 14 approved a $100,000 “public relations/affairs/marketing campaign” capital project for 2017.

Capital projects are often funded through reserves, but it’s all taxpayer money.

Fulton County has been using Gramercy Communications in Troy to spread the word about what county government is doing of late. The county has “a lot going on,” officials say, juggling many economic development balls in the air. But The Leader-Herald — the county’s official newspaper — hasn’t exactly been inundated with news releases.

They must not be meant for us.

Fulton County has existing contracts with the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth and the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce to market local economic development and tourism efforts.

County supervisors in April 2014 hired DCG Corplan Consulting of West Orange, N.J., to market the Tryon park. The firm was hired for $139,480 to prepare a targeted industry analysis and marketing plan for Tryon.

The Board of Supervisors in June authorized a six-month, initial $30,000 contract with Gramercy that runs through Dec. 31. Some of the public relations work includes promotion of the county’s Smart Waters initiative, Tryon Technology Park, marketing videos, and housing and retail strategies.

A year ago, the Fulton County Board of Supervisors unveiled its “Fulton County N.Y. POSI+IVE” brand, created by North Star Destination Strategies of Nashville, Tenn at a total cost of $46,000. The T in positive is replaced by a plus-sign — on various promotional materials, such as posters and mugs.. The county even added a new public relations mascot named “Plus.”

Let“s face it. The “Jump Start: Fulton County” campaign the last few years was a cheerleading effort. But who is playing on the field?

Currently, Fulton County has one major company — Epimed — at the Crossroads Business Park in Gloversville. There is also currently one main company — Vireo Health of New York — at the Tryon Business Park. The county is also working to bring a regional business park to  Route 30A.

Perhaps the county should concentrate on landing many more additional jobs for the area before it spends thousands of additional taxpayer dollars promoting itself.

Officials don’t like that idea, feeling it should be the other way around.

—  A curious thing to me is when people speak at a public meeting and then announce with sometimes violent and weird gestures to the reporter, protesting they don’t want their photo taken. This has happened to me several times over the years, and reminds me of Sonny at his sister’s wedding in “The Godfather.” Even more curious is when taxpayer-paid officials make a stink about getting their picture taken. A couple of people associated with the Greater Johnstown School District are especially camera shy. Can these public officials really complain if a hair is out of place?

— Gloversville police never provided a single explanation on how 36-year-old Heaven M. Puleski of Schenectady escaped Oct. 3 from the custody of three city police officers. They probably never will. Police Chief Marc Porter told me Nov. 21: “I can’t. It was a personnel matter. I’m not at liberty to say.”

He said the department’s internal investigation doesn’t allow release of the reason. Puleski already pleaded guilty this week and didn’t share anything with the court.

Too bad the public will never know how that event transpired.

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