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Tourism agency tries to restructure

March 06, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

and GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writers

Intervention by state legislators to revamp the embattled Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau might not be necessary because local tourism officials took steps Wednesday to restructure the bureau on their own.

New bylaws, approved at a Wednesday tourism bureau meeting in the County Administration Building, replaces the tourism board with a transition team for the next six months.

With approval of the bylaws, the resignation of the board's eight members wasn't necessary, although most of the members had resigned by Wednesday morning, said Ron Stansbury, a member of the dissolved tourism board and of the transition team.

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"I think it's a very positive step," said Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington.

The public, nonprofit agency, which has an annual budget of about $500,000, had been criticized for the results of its tourism efforts.

Earlier this week, the county's delegation in the General Assembly submitted legislation that would require the transition. Lawmakers said they would have preferred not to get involved, but were asked to by local officials who sensed the process was not moving along.

Wednesday's moves by the tourism board could make legislation unnecessary.

Poole said that with the matter handled locally, those involved in the transition won't feel embarrassed or offended by involvement of state lawmakers.

But Poole said he wants to hear reaction from people involved in the local tourism industry before he gives his support to withdrawal of the bill.

Poole said he doesn't want to pull the bill, only to see another glitch in the transition process. The delegation last month decided not to submit a bill after they were told the transition did not require legislation.

Former tourism board president, Judi Durham, expressed concerns about how board members' resignations were handled.

Durham said she was "surprised" when she was approached at home by Stansbury and transition team member Richard Trump on Tuesday and was told the other officers had resigned.

"I don't think anybody on this transition team is trying to railroad anybody out," said Jim Kell, a former member of the tourism board and a transition team member. It came down to lawmakers saying they would make the change if local officials didn't, said Kell, general manager of the Ramada Inn & Convention Center.

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