Animal Adventure owner: Park was used as chip in 'political game - WBNG.com: Binghamton-area News, Weather, Sports

Animal Adventure owner: Park was used as chip in 'political game' in consideration for Broome funding

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HARPURSVILLE (WBNG) -- The owner of Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, Jordan Patch, says the Town of Colesville has withdrawn its pending application for municipal funding from Broome County. 

According to Patch, the move comes after the park was recently "forwarded an email originally sent by a Broome County legislator, to Broome County Planning Division, that surpasses the bounds of appropriate conduct, and is accusatory of criminal conduct by Animal Adventure Park."

After hearing the story, County Legislator Jason Shaw reached out to 12 News. He says he believes an email he sent back in July was the start of the problem. In that email, Shaw questioned what the funding would go towards. He pointed out hot and small bathroom conditions at the park, as well as that it is a cash only business, questioning the park's accounting practices. Shaw says he actually supports Animal Adventure Park, and did not intend for his email to be offensive, or to cause controversy.

"It's terrible to say but people tell you to be careful about the questions you ask. Because anything you ask seems to upset someone and so I would rather just come out with this now and say these are my questions. And on top of it, I think animal adventure is an excellent business and from a local and national point of view, it is a great tourist attraction, it is a great economic development piece. I certainly wish them the best and hope we can continue moving ahead," said Shaw.

Despite the battle between the county and the park, County Executive Jason Garnar remains supportive of Animal Adventure.

"Over the past year it's put Broome County absolutely on the map so I'm fully supportive of Animal Adventure and I want to see them grow and expand and that's what my small communities fund was all about," said Garnar.

In a statement to 12 News, Broome County Legislature Chairman Daniel J. Reynolds (R) said discussions on a resolution to award $30,000 from the Small Communities Grant Fund to the Town of Colesville/Animal Adventure Park had been scheduled to continue Thursday at a Finance Committee meeting.

Read the full letter that Patch released Wednesday: 

Read the statement from Chairman Daniel Reynolds below.

"We were surprised to hear today that an applicant for Small Communities Funding felt like a “political pawn.” Over the past 2 months, the Broome County Legislature has been involved in a bipartisan discussion about a request from the Town of Colesville/Animal Adventure for $30,000 from the Small Communities Grant Fund.   This application was moved forward by the Hotel/Motel Committee so a comprehensive discussion could take place between all of the stakeholders. While discussions on the resolution to award the funds were scheduled to continue Thursday at our Finance Committee meeting, it has come to our attention today that Animal Adventure has called on the Town of Colesville to rescind its application. 
 
This resolution was tabled by Legislator Mary Kaminsky last month to allow for even more discussion on the issue.  During the standard legislative review process, several general questions were raised regarding the eligibility for this project to meet the requirements of the Small Communities Fund which were developed by the County Executive and his staff and agreed to by the Legislature.  The eligibility policy states that Small Community Funds cannot be awarded to a for-profit entity.  While these discussions were taking place, we were unaware of specific concerns attributed to a particular legislator.  We have been and will continue to be accessible to discuss the issues with Town Officials and the applicant. Attached are portions of the application and eligibility policy that displays the requirements of the applicants.  To read the full Small Communities Fund Policy and Eligibility Requirements, visit http://www.gobroomecounty.com/planning/forms. 
 
Additionally, in May, the Legislature worked in a bipartisan fashion to provide funding to The Agency to create a Small Businesses Loan program to help businesses like Animal Adventure expand in Broome County.  We’ve also played a role in other bipartisan local business efforts such as supporting the Jobs. Now. Broome, A Good Life, and Buy Local campaigns along with the formation of the Broome County Regional Farmer’s Market.  The Legislature stands committed helping any and all small businesses in our area grow and prosper."

Following the release of Chairman Reynolds' statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for Animal Adventure said Patch would like to clarify that the Town of Colesville applied for the funding on behalf of Animal Adventure Park.

"This is no different than the Binghamton University incubator receiving funds, and awarding them to for-profit student start-up companies. Further, this application passed through two prior committee meetings. Had the application not been eligible, it never would have moved through the initial meeting," according to the spokesperson.

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