‘Is it equitable?’: Lanark County votes to include Smiths Falls in tourism marketing for a $5,000 one-year term

Tourism in Smiths Falls will get a boost of marketing from Lanark County after a first-time $5,000 annual agreement was struck between them for promotional activities. – Laurie Weir photo

The Town of Smiths Falls will have representation at the county level to help promote its tourism aspects.

But the cost of $5,000 is not equitable, charged one councillor, as the tourism budget is $220,000 for the other municipalities across the county footprint.

During a regular meeting of Lanark County Council on Feb. 29, Coun. Toby Randell (Carleton Place Mayor) said he would like to see what Smiths Falls is getting for the price, as other municipalities are footing the $220,000 tourism and marketing bill.

“An important consideration is that the Town of Smiths Falls will not be contributing toward all tourism activities at the county,” noted a report to council by Vanessa Dow, tourism, and corporate relations coordinator.

The file was referred back to staff at the Feb. 14 meeting to look at these issues. “Only items where it would be logical to include Smiths Falls assets would be included. Only one print publication is included in the price.”

Current county staff also provide an essential corporate communications component that doesn’t include Smiths Falls, but it’s reflected in the 2024 tourism budget.

“This fee structure was arrived at by assuming eight hours of staff time per month plus inclusion in the upcoming Lanark County Visitor Map,” Dow said.

The inclusion of Smiths Falls in some publications and social media points will have a positive overall impact on tourism to the region. “They offer unique items to the tourism landscape across the county and can increase interest and tourism to the overall region.”

Warden Steve Fournier (Drummond/North Elmsley Reeve) said he supported the recommendation of staff.

“Anything that Smiths Falls does usually ends up in Rideau Ferry,” he said, referencing boating on the Rideau Canal with stops at a popular waterside restaurant there, CCs on the Rideau.

Randell said he’s in favour of involving Smiths Falls in the tourism plan. “I think it’s beneficial to have them as part of it,” he said. “I just want to make sure it’s equitable across the board for everybody.”

He said it’s not hard to do the math to see what the rest of the municipalities are paying for tourism compared to Smiths Falls in the county.

“Is this something that we should be pushing for – that they’re totally bought in since they are so close in proximity?”

Chief administrative officer Kurt Greaves said Smiths Falls is a separate town “and they’ve always done their own thing. Yes, it would probably benefit everyone, but they have always gone their own way.”

Coun. Ed McPherson (Perth Deputy Mayor) said Perth has a robust tourism and marketing strategy. He noted two recent videos that were released and how people now want to move to Perth. He asked if those videos would now get used in the county’s marketing plans.

McPherson said he’d liked to have seen information on what the county does for each municipality and the costs involved in that – “and here’s what we’re not doing for Smiths Falls.”

McPherson asked if the county staff is using the work that each municipality has already done.

“What are you doing for them (Smiths Falls) for $5,000 that we’re not providing to you to upload,” McPherson asked. “I’m not against it. I am just not clear what I’m getting for my money.”

Coun. Bill King (Lanark Highlands Deputy Mayor) would also like to see the list of comparable actions. He’d like to see the benefits of this agreement for the county. “It just sounds like they’re getting a bit of a free ride at a low cost onto all the work we’re doing as a county and we’re not participating in any of their stuff.”

Dow said during this one-year term she will track what the county is doing for Smiths Falls under the terms of the agreement and report back to council.

“They’ve never bought in before,” she said. “I think we’re trying to help … to see if this is mutually beneficial to both sides and we can re-evaluate.”

Coun. Christa Lowry said she’d like to do the same thing she requested at the last meeting – to refer back to staff to obtain more information.

“I don’t hear anyone saying it’s a bad idea to be working with Smiths Falls,” she said. “I think we want to promote tourism across the whole area.”

She said they were missing enough information to understand the value of the agreement versus what is being contributed by other municipalities – like how are some of the decisions made, what are the goals and how the budget is divided.

“I still don’t think we have quite enough information to understand what is being proposed,” she said.

Coun. Richard Kidd (Beckwith Reeve), who chaired the meeting, said he agreed that they needed more information, “but it’s $5,000. We’re going to blow that having staff looking into this,” he said.

Kidd said they could battle this back and forth forever, but it came down to two options – either don’t support it and look at it for next year’s budget, or sign the agreement with the understanding that any work done for Smiths Falls would be tracked and reported on by budget time.

The motion passed, with Kidd as the deciding vote, to move forward with the agreement.

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