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Governor puts county's welcome center on recommended elimination list again

State lawmakers grappling with a $2.2 billion budget deficit have set their sights on a familiar target – the visitor information center on U.S. 301 at the edge of ScrevenCounty.

Gov. Sonny Perdue’s proposed budget cuts include closing the ScrevenCounty center and firing its two employees for an annual savings of $139,400. The governor also proposes closing visitor’s center in Plains, Ga., for a savings of $186,400.

The two centers are the ones that get the least traffic among the 11 visitor’s centers in the state. In 2008, the ScrevenCounty center had 67,600 visitors and the Plains center had 56,000 visitors.

Workers at the 47-year-old center in ScrevenCounty hand out maps, Cokes and literature on historical sites, activities, recreation areas and attractions. Information specialists, who have visited the places they send people to, give directions and advice on things to do and businesses to frequent.

They give out discount coupons and help travelers book hotel rooms and campgrounds. They also give motorists information about road construction and closures.

When the idea of closing the Sylvania visitor’s center has been brought up in the past, area business owners have rallied and argued that the center attracts much more business than it costs to operate.

Businesses in Plains also have rallied to support their visitor’s center, saying it’s much needed and used. Some state lawmakers are hoping the Plains center will remain open despite being on the governor’s hit list because of a law that requires the state to maintain and operate a tourist center in the vicinity of the home of any Georgian elected president or governor.

The number of visitors per center in 2008, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development:

·        Augusta 1 million

·        Columbus 540,400

·        Kingsland 1.7 million

·        Lavonia 1.2 million

·        Plains 56,100

·        Ringgold 2 million

·        Savannah 1.8 million

·        Screven County 67,600

·        Tallapoosa 1.5 million

·        Valdosta 1.6 million

·        West Point 690,400