Wilson Co. Tourism Department Cut From Budget - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Wilson Co. Tourism Department Cut From Budget

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WILSON COUNTY, Tenn.- While the tourism industry in Wilson County has been valued at more than $100M per year, the County Commissioners have voted to eliminate the tourism department.

This year County Commissioners were faced with making some cuts or raising taxes. They felt like the tourism department, which is also known as the convention and visitor's bureau, was expendable. Others disagreed.

Wilson County officials estimate four out of every ten people who attend the fair are from outside the county. Now, the county department charged with marketing the event and others is about to disappear.

Ricky Rodriguez runs the Tourism Department. Monday night the County Commission eliminated the department. Now, Rodriguez is trying to change some minds.

"We're trying to set up some interviews and trying to continue our normal day to day activities as best we can," he said.

Commissioner Kenny Reich said the choice was to raise property taxes or make the cut. Reich's resolution passed 16 to 7. He said it was the most cost effective cut, because most of the tourism department's $200,000 budget is tied up in salaries and benefits.

"We need to make sure we're spending what we've already got wisely and cut the things we feel we can do without," said Reich.

Reich argued it's more cost effective to let the area chambers of commerce do the work. Commissioner Jim Bradshaw disagrees. He said the county needs to manage the tourism industry valued at more than 100 million dollars per year.

"We've got to have that. It's a big chunk the hotels, the amount of money they bring in each year in Lebanon and Mt. Juliet," said Commissioner Bradshaw.

After the vote, Rodriguez and an assistant are about to lose their jobs.

"I don't think anyone can offer the same expertise that we can. It's a very competitive market.

There are communities that circle Nashville that are working just as hard if not harder at what we're trying to do here," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez will present his case for keeping the tourism department at next week's county budget committee. He hopes to change some minds.

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