Tourism agency's fate back in hands of lawmakers

March 05, 1997


Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - The saga of revamping the embattled Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau has landed back in the hands of state lawmakers.

But they said would rather someone else take the reins of the issue.

"I would prefer not to be involved. I'm sick of this issue. I'm sick of it," said Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington.

On Monday the county delegation filed legislation that would put in place a transition team that would lead to a new agency. A new permanent board would take over next year.


But lawmakers said they filed the bill with reluctance, after local efforts to restructure the tourism agency stalled.

"I don't relish the thought of dogging a bill like this. It's a little ridiculous," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, who chairs the county's delegation in the General Assembly.

Tourism efforts in the county have been the target of critics, who say there have not been enough results from the existing public, nonprofit agency with an annual budget of about $500,000.

A task force recommended in December that the agency be turned into a public-private partnership independent of local government and with a clear set of goals.

Key to the restructuring plan was for the tourism board to resign and be replaced by a transition team before a new board would be named.

In January, members of the board said it would be "premature" for them to resign, and asked to work with the transition team until a new board was in place.

Lawmakers said they mistakenly believed that hurdle had been cleared after a meeting with local officials and tourism board members. After the meeting, Mayor Steven T. Sager said he believed the board would resign and the transition could be accomplished without legislation.

Sager said that he learned last week that Joseph Snyder, vice president of the tourism board, was trying to cancel a board meeting scheduled for today. The meeting had been planned so the board could adopt new bylaws, to include having the transition team take over tourism operations.

Sager said there were other "maneuvers" going on to stall the transition process, but refused to elaborate.

Snyder said he tried to cancel the meeting because he thought some members would be unable to attend. He has since changed his mind, and the meeting is still scheduled for 10:30 a.m. today in the County Administration Building.

Snyder said he has taken a "neutral" position on the transition - neither favoring nor opposing the plan.

"My only real concern is what comes out of this is fair and equitable to all parties," he said.

The Herald-Mail Articles