The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 9, 2012

Workers pulled from I-90 tourist info center

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — The Ohio Department of Transportation has reassigned the three employees who worked the tourist information office inside the Interstate 90 rest center and truck weigh scales in Conneaut, an ODOT spokesman has confirmed.

The move takes effect this week, said Justin Chesnic, District 4 spokesman. Employees charged with providing visitors with information about local and state attractions will be given the opportunity to work other ODOT jobs within the county, he said.

The rest center will remain open and its rest rooms will be maintained, Chesnic said. Travel brochures will be available to guests, he said.

ODOT took the action as a “way to be a little more efficient,” Chesnic said. The employees now work for District 4, and will be in line for other jobs, such as a radio operator, he said.

Rumors that the rest center’s tourism desk will close have circulated for several weeks. Recently, Conneaut’s City Council passed a resolution urging ODOT to abandon any such plans.

Spearheading that initiative was Ward 2 Councilman Phil Garcia, who said visitors appreciate dealing with a human being. Garcia, informed Monday about ODOT’s plans, was angry.

“I didn’t hear about it,” he said. “We were originally told it may be another year or so. That upsets me, it really does.”

Garcia said the removal of people from the center runs contrary to the state’s desire to bolster tourism in the region. “It’s another blow to Ashtabula County,” he said.

The rest center opened in the early 1990s and serves westbound traffic entering the state from Pennsylvania. Initially, the center was to be built near a rest area it would replace in Kingsville Township, but city officials protested, saying visitors would have already passed Conneaut’s Route 7 exit by the time they arrive.