1. Archive

Tourism group, chamber hammer out truce

A new spirit of cooperation between the county's tourism department and the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce has begun _ again.

The Tourist Development Council agreed Thursday to help defray $7,000 in costs of running the chamber's new office in Ridge Manor. In exchange, the chamber has agreed to display and give out tourism council pamphlets and other materials.

The tourism employee who runs the current welcome center _ and who was originally slated to hand out brochures at the chamber office _ will work in Brooksville instead.

"Does this stop the nonsense between the chamber and the TDC?" TDC member Scott Guthman asked before the group gave the plan the nod.

Both sides say they want the bickering to end.

"We're pleased that we were able to work out an arrangement that's beneficial to both organizations," said George Williams of SunTrust Bank of the Nature Coast. He is the chamber's incoming president.

TDC Chairman Tom Barnette agreed.

"The TDC and the chamber should work in tandem," Barnette said. "The (TDC) board members are most desirous of that occurring."

The two groups have argued for months over a converted gas station at Interstate 75 and State Road 50. The location was coveted because of its closeness to the interstate.

Last year, the TDC and chamber agreed to share the space. That idea was nixed in part by the gas station's owner, Withlacoochee Equities Inc., an investment group that includes local engineer Nicholas Nicholson. Relations also turned frosty after TDC members originally objected to chamber executive director Wanda Kelly being placed on the TDC board.

Although the TDC wanted to place its own employee at the location, the relatively small size of the structure has made the plan difficult to carry out.

Both sides agreed the plan is only a temporary solution. While the chamber is able to use the building rent-free now, the building's owners say they hope to sell the structure soon. When that occurs, both the chamber and the TDC will again look for new digs.

While both the TDC and the chamber have given their blessing to the deal, a contract still must be finalized. When that is finished, the plan will go before the TDC board and then must be approved by the County Commission.