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County decides to retain tourism workers for now

June 21, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Washington County tourism employees whose last day on the job was to have been June 30 have gotten a temporary reprieve with the help of the County Commissioners.

Leroy R. Burtner, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, will still be replaced by Ben R. Hart, who was offered the post by the temporary tourism board of directors, officials said Friday.

The county will pick up the tab for keeping the remaining employees in the downtown office and Breezewood, Pa., information center until a new board of directors can be elected by the bureau's membership, officials said.

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The new board can decide whether to keep the employees or fire them, the commissioners said.

An emergency meeting of the tourism bureau's members has been called for Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Ramada Inn to receive nominations to the board, said Ron Stansbury, president of the temporary tourism board.

A new tourism board could be in place in August, said Susan Saum-Wicklein, a tourism board member.

The settlement between the commissioners and tourism board members came on Friday as they tried to resolve differences stemming from the commissioners' belief that the temporary board had overstepped its bounds by firing employees and closing information centers.

Commissioners president and tourism board member Gregory I. Snook was absent.

The Williamsport information center, which closed on June 1, will remain closed unless the new board decides to reopen it, officials said.

The settlement must be put in written form and approved by the commissioners and tourism board.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said it had yet to be determined how much it will cost to keep the employees or where the money will come from.

There could be nine tourism employees left as of July 1, including sales representative Greg Larsen, officials said.

Larsen said he has been offered a temporary job as event coordinator for the 135th Anniversary and Reenactment of the Battle of Antietam and has other job offers as well.

Tourism board officials have said they want Larsen to be interviewed for the sole full-time marketing job that would be left, if their restructuring plan succeeds.

Six of the nine employees remaining are full time and make a total of $148,508 a year, while the three part-time employees earn a total of $26.04 an hour, according to Stansbury.

Hart's $50,000 salary would be paid out of the tourism board's budget, Stansbury said. Burtner had been making $65,400 a year.

Commissioner James Wade suggested the county pick up the tab, allowing time for a new board to be elected.

Wade said the commissioners didn't feel comfortable with the seven-member temporary board making significant changes, such as firing employees and closing information centers.

"If you all would put a 15-member board in place, I'd shut my mouth," Wade said.

Tourism board officials said the decision to lay off the tourism employees and close the information centers was part of a restructuring to put more funding emphasis on marketing rather than administrative costs.

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