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TRUMBULL COUNTY Visitors bureau makes budget request



Published: Thu, November 11, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



The bureau has enough money to stay afloat four more months.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Trumbull County commissioners say they will review a $250,000 budget request from the county convention and visitors bureau, although they have made no commitment to fund the bureau for another year.

Commissioners sent their last check to the bureau 12 months ago amid accusations that the group had improperly saved about $200,000 in its bank account.

The dispute between commissioners and the convention board grew as the board asserted its independence from the county by appointing its own members and rewriting its bylaws.

In June, commissioners voted to terminate the 20-year-old contract with the bureau at the end of the year and approved seeking bids from other organizations interested in doing the job.

On the same day, a state performance audit requested by commissioners found the bureau had done nothing wrong.

Keeping to deadline

The board's budget request was in keeping with a deadline established under the current contract, said Dominic Baragona, a CVB board member. With the election over and a new commissioner coming on board, he said he hoped commissioners would consider reinstating bureau funding.

"Now that the bureau has been totally exonerated from any wrongdoing whatsoever, you would think they would say we have a good group here," Baragona said.

The bureau has about $80,000 left in its bank account, enough to keep its doors open four more months, he said.

The CVB board also has been asking commissioners to forward an additional $163,000 they say they are owed by the county. The money represents funds collected by the county's tax on hotel rooms at a time when the proceeds could be used only to promote tourism.

"There has not been any determination if they are entitled to it," said county Administrator Tony Carson.

Will review proposals

Carson said the county has not yet advertised for bids from public relations companies or other organizations interested in a contract to promote Trumbull County tourism because the county convention and visitors bureau is still doing that work.

Commissioners Dan Polivka and James Tsagaris said they still wanted to review proposals from other organizations.

"I guess we are going to go out for proposals and see what we are going to get," Tsagaris said.

Polivka said commissioners would consider a proposal from the convention bureau. "We are looking at all options," he said.

Questions about the appointment of board members to the CVB board, accessibility of records, and authority over the group's bylaws would need to be addressed before the group could get a new contract, county officials say.

The commissioners and the CVB also would have to get beyond their history of conflict, said Paul Heltzel, who will become a commissioner in January.

"I'm still trying to find out if there is something here that is beyond repair, or if this is something that can be repaired," Heltzel said.




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