December 10, 2012
PDT Staff Writer
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is looking into the possibility of changing the way their Travel Information Centers (TIC) are structured. Scioto County has a TIC located on U.S. Route 23.
“Where ever we have TICs they (ODOT officials) are going to those counties and meeting with commissioners and convention and visitor bureau directors. They are talking about what were doing with our TICs. We (ODOT) are looking into changing how they will be operated. In some locations we have been looking at the opportunity to bring in privatization with like a fast food establishment and having informational kiosks in them like they do in some of the other states,” said Kathleen Fuller, ODOT District 9 spokeswoman. “So they are going around and meeting with the different local officials and offering the opportunity if they would like to participate in an oversight or management of the facility.”
Fuller said if this change would occur, the current employees of the TICs would likely become employees of their respective ODOT district.
“District 9 would still maintain the facility but the TIC would become more of the kiosk-type of a station,” Fuller said.
A meeting was held last week with ODOT officials, Director of the Portsmouth-Scioto Convention Visitors Bureau Kim Bauer and Tom Reiser of the Scioto County Commissioners to discuss this possibility.
“We discussed what the state is talking about doing with not only our information stop on (U.S.) 23 but, all of the information stops in the state. The meeting was very productive and very informational,” Bauer said. “Things are still in discussion so, when the state gets ready to announce what they are going to do the state will announce what they are going to do. I will not be moving my office out there, they (ODOT) are not closing it. Tourism information from all over the state will still be there and available. The restrooms and facilities will still be there.”
Bauer said at this point nothing has been decided. ODOT was seeking information about what should be kept at the facility.
According to Steve Faulkner, ODOT Press Secretary, ODOT has been on a listening tour across the state talking with folks about the role TICs play in the communities in which they are located.
“The TICs used to be a function of central office, we’re going to look at how that could be a function of the local county garages. If ODOT were to make changes — one, would a place like Scioto County or Portsmouth with their visitors bureau want to staff it (TIC)? This is a way for us to see what our options are,” Faulkner said. “Only one county of the eleven conversations we’ve had so far has expressed an interest in staffing the TIC.”
He said ODOT is engaging in the conversations asking if changes were to happen, what would the county like to see, how would they like to participate in those changes and collaborate on some of the changes.
“From our perspective we are in the process of information gathering. Notifying the counties of an idea ODOT has moving forward and how would they like to partner with us,” Faulkner sad.
Faulkner was uncertain if the idea would proceed further if the counties chose not to staff the TIC.
“As we look to streamline some of our operations, we’re looking at ways to be as efficient as possible. If that is having a staff member at a Travel Information Center would be the best use of our resources. Those are some of the questions we have to consider. If it’s not, is that a function that a local government would like to maintain? We would certainly be open to that idea and open to that conversation,” Faulkner said.
He said there are 11 Travel Information Centers throughout Ohio and the one in Scioto County has three employees.
A timetable has been identified moving forward.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org.