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Tourism agency lays off employees

July 01, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Washington County's tourism information center in Breezewood, Pa., closed Monday and employees there were laid off, officials said.

Five Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau employees, including the three part-time employees at the information center, accepted a layoff offer from the county, according to Ron Stansbury, tourism bureau board president.

The information center, which opened in 1986, will remain closed unless the Washington County Commissioners hire people to work there, Stansbury said.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said whether the Breezewood information center is reopened is up to the tourism bureau board.

Stansbury said the tourism bureau can't afford to keep the center open and had planned to close it today when the commissioners stepped in 10 days ago with a plan to keep it open for much of the summer.

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Commissioner James R. Wade said Monday the commissioners wanted to keep the employees, thinking that was what they wanted.

But last week several tourism employees told county Human Resources Director Alan Davis that they were tired of the uncertainty about whether they would be laid off, Wade said.

Some workers decided they wanted to move on, said Greg Larson, who decided to remain as the tourism bureau's sales representative.

Davis offered to keep the employees on for an unspecified amount of time, but there was no assurance of a permanent job, Larson said.

Larson said he is remaining so he can help provide some continuity between the temporary board of directors and the new board expected to take over on Aug. 1.

Also staying on board for now are two other full-time employees in the downtown visitors center, including one who plans to retire on Aug. 1, Stansbury said.

Their salaries will be paid by the county until the new board decides whether and how to continue restructuring the bureau's budget to focus more on marketing and less on salaries, officials said.

Stansbury said the state's tourism office will run the bureau until the new executive director, Ben R. Hart, takes over on Aug. 17. Three part-time workers have been hired at $6 an hour, he said.

Executive Director Leroy Burtner retired on Monday, said Shoop. Burtner's last day in the office was last Thursday.

Stansbury said Hart will meet with the commissioners, employees and tourism bureau members today.

The five tourism employees whose last day was Monday will be referred to a job counseling service, Shoop said. They were not offered severance pay.

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