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Panel to study tourism bureau

November 21, 1996

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

A panel was appointed Thursday to study and make recommendations on whether, and how, the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau should be restructured.

The panel will study whether the tourism board should be private, public, or a not-for-profit group, said Tom Earley, co-chairman of the panel. Earley also is chairman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's tourism task force.

About 37 local government and tourism industry officials met Thursday morning at the Ramada Inn in a follow-up to an Oct. 30 tourism round table to discuss how the tourism board should be structured.

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After an hour of discussing details such as goals and markets for tourism, Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, said the group needs to determine how the tourism board will be structured because the Maryland General Assembly starts its legislative session in about six weeks.

If legislation is needed to make the change, state legislators need to know as soon as possible, Poole said.

The panel will report back to round table participants with a recommendation at 8 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 30, at the Ramada Inn, Earley said.

Round table participants, which include local government, delegation and tourism board representatives, will discuss the recommendation and decide whether legislative changes or fine-tuning of the tourism board's bylaws are needed, officials said.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Ron Stansbury, the tourism board's secretary and co-chairman of the new panel, said they are satisfied with the tourism board's current structure.

The Commissioners haven't discussed the tourism board's structure in depth, but Snook said he doesn't want it to be privatized.

Tourism board members are expected to vote in January on whether to approve some bylaw changes, including the addition of a Washington County residency requirement for the board of directors and an increase in the number of voting members from 11 to 15, officials said. At least one member of the tourism board lives outside the state.

Voting members of the tourism board are elected by the tourism bureau's members, officials said. The bureau's executive director is a county employee who is responsible to the tourism board, officials said.

The bureau's roughly $500,000 annual budget is funded by a room tax, state grants, sales and membership dues, officials said. The 3.5 percent tax on local hotel/motel rooms makes up 80 to 85 percent of the bureau's funding.

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