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Clarksburg/Bridgeport visitors bureau to fold

by James Fisher

REGIONAL WRITER

Uncertainty surrounding the future of the Bridgeport/Clarksburg Visitors Bureau has been answered.

Board members decided Thursday to dissolve the group because Bridgeport and Clarksburg are planning to open their own bureaus.

Board member Jim Harris said Friday the dissolution process will not be easy because it was not anticipated when the group was originally incorporated in 1992.

"It won't happen overnight and I don't think it will happen by the end of this fiscal year," he said. "Right now, the board is not scheduled to meet again, but the executive officers were empowered to move this forward."

Part of the process is hiring an attorney to advise the board how to dissolve the corporation, Harris said. Beside the actual physical office, there are other issues that need to be dealt with, he said. They include promotional materials and the group's toll-free telephone number and Web site.

Director Sue Baldini said she understood why the two cities chose to break from the county group. But she said she was upset that something couldn't be worked out.

"It's just ludicrous to have two visitors bureaus in a county that has less people than some cities," she said.

Earlier this year, Bridgeport decided to end its affiliation with the joint bureau. Bridgeport officials wanted to focus on the proposed convention center planned for the Charles Pointe development, said Mayor Joe Timms.

Subsequently, Clarksburg City Manager Tom Vidovich proposed a similar venture. As of Friday, city council had not discussed the proposal.

In light of Thursday's decision, Vidovich expects to present his proposal to council in the near future.

"One of the determining factors in all of this is the amount of dollars available," Vidovich said.

"We've set a path that we intend to go down, but it doesn't mean we won't listen to alternatives. If something arises that we could be involved on a county-side level, we would definitely be receptive."

Another issue with the closing of the joint group is how it will affect the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia's Historic Marketing Pilot Project, Baldini said.

The Bridgeport/Clarksburg CVB had combined with groups from Monongalia, Marion, Preston and Lewis counties for the project, designed to explore the feasibility of marketing regional heritage tourism, Baldini said.

While no decision has yet been made, the board hopes to completely fund the project's remaining years, she said. Each county contributes $2,500 per year.

When the plans for Bridgeport and Clarksburg were first made public earlier this year, officials of fairs, festivals and businesses throughout Harrison County were upset.

Many groups in Harrison County rely on the expansive tourism promotions as well as advertising grant money, said Carol Schweiker, director of Fort New Salem.

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com

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