Welcome centers to close 2 days a week

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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.


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

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patriciathomas 01/08/09 - 06:17 am
If South Carolina were to

If South Carolina were to look, I'd bet they could find dozens of areas to trim equally unnecessary government spending...If they didn't worry about stepping on someones toes.

As It Is
As It Is 01/08/09 - 06:36 am
Welcome centers should go

Welcome centers should go from a large expense to the taxpayers to money producing facilities that are far better for travelers. First, we (taxpayers) don't need to own all of this land along with the facilites and upkeep. However, if we are going to conitnue to own, then it should be leased out to private business. As a traveler, you would much rather pull into a well lit multi function facility such as a gas station with at least 2 dining options vs. any current welcome center and you don't have to get off at an exit and find what you are looking for. From a business perspective, you would be far better off to buy this property from the government or lease it vs. land just off of or nearby the interstate. You will be the prime business in the prime location and receive far more traffic since you are an easy in - easy out location on the interstate. Either scenerio, you could put into the contract that a small booth area must be provided for the states chamber of commerce or tourism division to staff along with restroom requirements, etc. This would be a win for the travelers, a win for the taxpayers and you could still maintain some govt. jobs for travel hosts.

thistownisunbelievable 01/08/09 - 10:15 am
Sounds like a plan, as it is.

Sounds like a plan, as it is. I seem to remember seeing rest areas/welcome centers like this in VA or WVA somewhere.

karmakills123 01/08/09 - 12:18 pm
now the pervs know which days

now the pervs know which days they are free to use the facilities.

gabassist 01/08/09 - 12:58 pm
Many, if not most, of the

Many, if not most, of the service centers (combining filling/service stations and dining establishments) tend to be located along toll roads, and typically charge a higher rate for their convenience. These are fairly common in the mid-Atlantic and northeast roads. I suspect that most businesses would rather be located near an exit (as opposed to directly on an interstate) to allow use by local residents in addition to travelers.
I sincerely hope that restroom facilities will remain open, and that it is only the "tourist information center" portion that will be closed!

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