Welcome centers to close 2 days a week

AIKEN --- The welcome center on Interstate 20 in Aiken County sees its fair share of travelers.

"The one in Aiken County sees a good deal of traffic because of traffic heading to and from the Atlanta area," said Marion Edmonds, a spokesman for the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

But budget woes have hit South Carolina's first line of hospitality, and the state's nine visitor centers, now staffed seven days a week, will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting next week.

Mr. Edmonds said this will cause "the least disruption for travelers" because travel tends to be lightest on those days.

North Carolina and Virginia also have closed their welcome centers in recent weeks.

The decision stems from the state's budget crisis and economic woes.

In December, the State Budget and Control Board trimmed $383 million from agency budgets, bringing the total cuts since July to more than $1 billion. And each state agency is taking a hit.

Last month, the tourism department laid off 40 temporary workers at the welcome centers.

Mr. Edmonds said the agency isn't certain what the total savings from the closures will be.

"However, we do know that the personnel savings will be about $210,000 in the first year," he said.

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or michelle.guffey@augustachronicle.com.

WELCOME CENTERS BY THE NUMBERS

9: Number of visitor centers across South Carolina

40: Number of welcome center temp workers laid off in December

$210,000: Personnel savings expected in the first year after the closings