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Tourism board to be elected July 31

June 27, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Members of the Washington County tourism board that will decide the fate of nine remaining tourism employees and the Breezewood, Pa., information center, will be elected on July 31, tourism officials said Thursday.

Members of the temporary board of directors for the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted a meeting Thursday morning at the Ramada Inn to bring the bureau's roughly 130 members up to date on restructuring moves intended to direct more money toward marketing efforts than toward salaries.

Of the 63 people present, about 45 were members of the bureau, said Ron Stansbury, board president.

About two-thirds of the 63 people - including about 45 members - attending the meeting signified with a show of hands that they agreed with the direction tourism efforts were taking.

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No one raised a hand when Stansbury asked if anyone was unhappy.

The temporary board came under fire last week when some of its members and several Washington County Commissioners accused it of overstepping its bounds by hiring and firing employees and closing the Williamsport information center.

On Friday, tourism and county officials came to a tentative agreement to hold off on firing people and closing the Breezewood center until a new 15-member board is elected.

Even then, there will be no money available in the budget to keep the nine employees, Stansbury said.

The budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 should balance, but there will be a deficit this fiscal year, he said. Stansbury said he didn't know how large the deficit would be.

Members of the temporary board will compile a slate of candidates for the board from recommendations from bureau members. The bureau members then will vote for 15 new board members, officials said.

At least two members expressed concerns about the possibility of electioneering.

Pat Holland, Sharpsburg's town clerk, asked if a cutoff date would be set for voting members so a person couldn't join one day and vote the next.

Tourism officials said no such date had been set.

Members will get the opportunity to meet the candidates before the election, tourism officials said.

They also can meet the new executive director, Ben R. Hart, on Tuesday morning at the downtown visitors center, Stansbury said.

Hart is moving here from his post as president and chief executive officer of the Greater Grand Forks, N.D., Convention and Visitors Bureau. He was hired last week and should start full time in August.

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