Tourism reorganization will cost some their jobs

April 18, 1997


Staff Writer

Twelve local tourism office employees, including Executive Director Leroy R. Burtner, will lose their jobs by July 1 under a restructuring that will shift the agency's funding priorities from salaries to marketing efforts, officials said Thursday.

When the reorganization has been completed, the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau will have cut by nearly one-third the money it spends on salaries.

Critics of the tourism bureau say it has budgeted too much for salaries and not enough for marketing efforts aimed at attracting tourists.


The tourism bureau, which had budgeted $346,754 for salaries and benefits this fiscal year, will budget only $130,000 for salaries for the fiscal year beginning July 1, tourism officials said.

The bureau's total annual budget would remain at about $500,000, officials said.

The staff would be reduced from eight full-time and four part-time positions to three full-time positions and an undetermined number of part-time jobs, said Ron Stansbury, president of the tourism bureau's board of directors.

The tourism board, consisting of a temporary, seven-member transition team, has asked the Washington County Commissioners to reassign all of its tourism employees to other jobs by July 1, according to an April 17 memo from the team to Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook.

"The commissioners are going to try to find positions for those people, but we're not going to create anything," said Snook, who is a member of the transition team.

County Human Resources Director Alan Davis said those employees should be given preference when county positions come open. There are no job openings now, he said.

The four part-time employees at the information centers in Williamsport and near Breezewood, Pa., could lose their jobs by May 1, Stansbury said.

The $77,601 spent on salaries and benefits for employees at the two information centers would go into the marketing budget. The bulk of that, $55,000, would be used to market Civil War attractions, Stansbury said.

The bureau would cut another $81,401 in operating costs for the two information centers, including utility expenses, said Burtner.

The bureau's next executive director won't be guaranteed the $65,400 salary Burtner receives, Stansbury said.

The base salary of the new executive director would be between $45,000 and $50,000, and could go up to $60,000 with incentives, he said.

Burtner, who has worked for county government for 20 years, can apply for the post, Stansbury said.

Burtner said he has not decided whether to apply for the position, which he has held since February 1995.

Stansbury said the executive director's post must be filled before July 1 so the person who gets that job can hire the new employees. Tourism employees being laid off could apply for the new jobs, he said.

The new executive director would hire and fire the bureau's employees, Stansbury said. The board of directors would have the power to hire and fire the executive director.

Tawana Kesecker, an employee at the Breezewood Information Center, said none of the transition team members have visited the Breezewood center.

"They have no idea how many visitors we get a day or yearly," said Kesecker, 21, of Hancock.

One day last week, seven buses stopped at the center, she said. From Thursday through Sunday, more than 1,000 tourists a day stopped at the center.

Visitors can pick up maps and brochures for tourist attractions in Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Stansbury said a marketing committee will focus on how to lure more bus tours to the area.

The transition team was created on the recommendations of a tourism roundtable, which included tourism officials, Hagerstown and Washington County officials and members of the county delegation to the General Assembly.

A new board of directors must be in place by July 1, the date by which the transition team is scheduled to disband, Stansbury said.

Tourism officials said they will try to increase the agency's annual budget from $500,000 to $700,000 by boosting the number of county hotel and motel rooms rented.

As of July 1, the hotel/motel room tax that helps fund the tourism bureau will return to 3 percent, after being set at 3.5 percent for one year.

The bureau also generates revenues from state grants, sales and membership dues.

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