Our opinion: Tourism the victim

For the past few months, the controversy over who or what agency oversees tourism promotion in Warren County has been a mess.

And during that time, the tone of the debate has gone from mildly odoriferous to noxious, with the two major debaters, the Warren County Commissioners and the Warren County Visitors Bureau, firing stink bombs at one another in salvos.

There is a third player in the mix, the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry, that has kept its involvement low-key and far less abrasive.

The result has been a field of scorched earth that could have been a fertile ground for opportunity.

The victim in this war between commissioners and the WCVB board has been tourism, the very thing everyone involved in this debate claims to want to promote.

At the crux of the issue is the disposition of about $140,000 that the county’s three-percent bed tax produces each year, money that, according to state law, can only be used to fund a designated tourist promotion agency (TPA).

And, as the municipal referendum voting continues over a change in that designation from the WCVB to the Chamber, and as the heat between the commissioners and the WCVB reaches white-hot levels, there is a proposal before the county board to escrow the funds, essentially withhold them from any entity until some sort of resolution is found which satisfies their problems with the current TPA and their desire for a single-point tourism entity.

Of course, that would amount to a tacit end of the county’s current relationship with the WCVB as the designated tourist promotion agency, leaving it virtually broke and likely force it to close the visitors center in Starbrick and curtail other operations.

It didn’t have to come to this, but it has.

The challenge we would like to pose to all the parties involved is to find a way forward out of this killing field and try to focus on a cohesive, reasonable and effective tourism promotion mission and not the acrimonious argument over acronyms.