But in April and again at their May meetings, Hudson County Freeholders expressed concern about the slow pace since approval for the upgrade. That portion of the county site was given approval in mid-2012. The site will be critical, not just for this summer, but for the even larger event in January 2014 when the nearby Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford will host the National Football League’s Super Bowl.
At the May 21 caucus, Freeholders raised questions as to why after more than six months and the tourist season looming, the site had taken so long to set up, and whether or not the cultural affairs department should be brought back under the more immediate supervision of the county administrator. Currently the department operates largely independently, answering primarily to the county executive’s office.
Having spent $35,000 for the website upgrade, Freeholders were told in late April that the website, which would provide a variety of information to potential travelers, would be ready by Memorial Day, after being told previously that the website would be up and running at the beginning of the year.
The idea was to present an interactive site connected to the cultural and tourism portion of the county website. This would be set up and maintained separately from the county website, which some freeholders have described as mostly useless.
Freeholder Bill O’Dea said he was concerned because Hudson County is losing out on a significant amount of tourist trade partly because tourists who might come to Hudson County or make use of its many hotels, often have nothing to guide them, and that a county website could serve as a tool for tour companies and others to direct those revenues to Hudson County.
Bill La Rosa said the site had a “soft launch” in May that would allow tourists to access much more information, but noted that the project had been delayed by a number of factors that included his small staff and his personal illness.
La Rosa said his office had spent time in April fine-tuning the site, allowing for the booking of hotels and the use of social media.
These things are very important especially when parts of Hudson County, including Secaucus and North Bergen, have a number of hotels, but more important, other businesses such as restaurants and niche stores would benefit from the massive increase in people passing through during the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.
By having the site active by Memorial Day, however, O’Dea said the county could boost its tourism for the summer.
“The fireworks on the 4th of July will be on our side of the Hudson River this year,” O’Dea said, noting that firms that specialize in tourism packages would likely use the site to provide tour groups with secondary destinations. He said packages generally had a core group of destinations, but Hudson County might get locations included if these tour agencies are aware of what can be found in Hudson County.
Freeholder Eliu Rivera has asked LaRosa to do a presentation in the near future on the website. Meanwhile, the county is looking to get a $337,000 grant from New Jersey Division of Tourism for marketing.
Some legal questions, however, remain, especially in regard to whether or not the county can sell advertising space on the website.
La Rosa said he doesn’t know if the publically funded site would be allowed to, although O’Dea said businesses throughout the county have sponsored county events prior to this.
Freeholder Al Cifelli asked to get a legal ruling since he said there is a difference between sponsorship and advertising.
At the same meeting the Freeholders presented a laudatory resolution to Superintendent Frank Gargiulo and the staff of the Hudson County Schools of Technology, congratulating High Tech High School for being awarded a Silver and a Bronze Medal under the U.S. News & World Report Best High Schools Rankings and making Newsweek’s List of Top High Schools in the country.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.