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County’s Tourism Council grappling with what to do until a ‘home’ is found

“How do we function moving forward?”

That was the question Stephanie Wells, executive director of the Anderson County Tourism Council, asked the tourism council advisory board at its Jan. 10 meeting.

That question was brought up by the fact that at its December meeting, the Anderson County Commission failed to ratify a sales contract for the log building on Charles G. Seivers Boulevard near Interstate 75 that houses the welcome center operated by the Tourism Council.

The building had been auctioned off with the understanding that the Anderson County Commission would have to approve the sale.

Had the sale been approved, the Tourism Council would have operated out of a leased site until the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce finishes construction of its new building downtown.

The Tourism Council would then have bought building space from the chamber. As a result of the commission’s action, Wells said that the highest bidder had requested a return of the earnest money that had been put up.

She said that the reason for the contract for the sale of the building was in order that the chamber would have assurance that it would have a buyer for the building it is planning to build adjacent to its new headquarters. Wells said that now, without a contract, the chamber has no assurance of a tenant.

Wells said the $20,000 that had been earmarked for leasing temporary space would go into the fund balance. She said that at this time, only the immediate needs of the building dealing with public safety would be dealt with. She noted that there may be a mold problem, and porch railings might have to be replaced.

She has been working with Roger Lloyd, buildings director for the county, to have the building inspected. Wells said the roof eventually would have to come off and rotten wood replaced. “We do have $200,000 in reserve for the building,” she said.

Wells said the operations committee would have a special meeting Jan. 26 to discuss the purpose of the welcome center and other tourism issues.

County Commissioner Denise Palmer, who is on the county operations committee, told the tourism board that the committee wanted to get a better handle on tourism and bridge the gap between the commission and the Tourism Council.

She said there was some confusion as to whether it would be better to stay or move.

Palmer said the Jan. 26 meeting will be a workshop and will be open to the public.

Wells urged her board members to attend the Jan. 26 meeting to give feedback.

Commissioner Stephan Verran, who is also on the operations committee, was at the tourism board meeting.

Wells noted that tourism is not as visible to the public as the chamber of commerce or economic development, But she said that on average, visitors to Anderson County spend $100 per day.

The fact that the current welcome center building has no meeting space was brought up. Because of that, the advisory board meets in different locations each month. The board also discussed the proposed budget for fiscal year. 2024 since it must be submitted to the budget committee in February or March.