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Letter to the Editor: Herndon Visitors Center Closing—Vote May 1, 2012

The Closing of the Herndon Dulles Visitor’s Center: What REALLY happened???

I was present at the Town Council meeting where the 2011 Council voted to NOT allocate any further funding for the Visitor’s Center, even thought  mid-year budget request by the Visitor’s Center had been funded by previous councils on a regular basis. And even though a line item in the Fairfax County budget specifically named the Herndon Dulles Visitor’s  as the recipient of $40,000. Councilwoman Hutchinson, who was at that time acting as an unpaid volunteer Director for the Center specifically asked the Town Manager if the funds coming from the County were ear-marked for the Visitor’s Center, to which the town manager responded that once the money came to Herndon it could be used as the Town saw fit. That was an answer that troubled me deeply. 

With the vote of the sitting council, the Visitor’s Center was denied County and Town support and Visitor’s Center board was forced to shut down for lack of funding. This decision by the Council was diametrically opposed by prior councils actions to support the Center and its efforts to promote economic development and tourism for the Town over the past decade. 

Within two months the grant money from the County was released to the Town and I thought the Visitor’s Center would re-open, controlled by the Town, however, that is NOT the case. 

The $40,000 from the County that had been ear-marked for the Visitor’s Center was placed in the Town’s general fund and allocated to hire a consultant to develop an economic development ‘strategy’ for the Town. 

Dennis L Baughan
Herndon, VA

Ann V. Null May 01, 2012 at 09:39 AM
Thank you for that background. I, too, am aware of hostility towards the Herndon Depot and Visitors' Center by "the slate". In addition to redirecting ear-marked funds away from the Center, this hostility is expressed in the repeated subordination of the Visitors Center lease to a hostile third party. Everyone campaigns on "quaint, charm, etc." But actions speak louder than words. The actions of "the slate" have left us with a void where we once had a quaint, charming, and welcoming Visitors' Center.
Ann H Csonka May 01, 2012 at 11:39 AM
WHICH SLATE? The whole "background" above so garbles the facts of the Visitor Center's funding and apparently ineffective operation that there is not enough space in a comment to begin to unravel the fairy tale of "hostility". It surely did not seem to be meeting it's intended objectives of promoting tourism and welcoming visitors with the funds provided. The present Council did not create that ineffective situation -- the Visitors Center operation did.
Barbara Glakas May 01, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Butch, Connie was not an “unpaid volunteer.” She got a full-time salary from the Visitor’s Center. Every year the town granted approximately $25,000 - $35,000 to the Visitor’s Center and much of which went toward salaries (Connie’s plus some other part-time workers). Connie only became an “unpaid volunteer” right at the end, because the Visitor’s Center ran out of money after they paid off some debts. The Visitor’s Center is currently open on Sunday’s, and on other days by appointment, staffed by volunteers from the Herndon Historical Society. The town is currently looking at possibly hiring a new economic development staff person, who may possibly be housed in the Visitor’s Center.
Jennifer Barton Boysko May 01, 2012 at 11:57 AM
See the Herndon Time article for more in depth information on the Herndon Visitor's Center: http://ww2.fairfaxtimes.com/cms/story.php?id=2383
Carol Bruce May 01, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Barbara, A small but important correction: The Visitors Center no longer exists. The Depot Museum, which has always been operated by the Herndon Historical Society and was never a part of the VC, is open every Sunday from noon until 3:00 with extended hours on certain special occasions. And, we are always happy to conduct group tours for scouts and others by appointment.
Barbara Glakas May 01, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Also, if you look in this upcoming year’s town budget you will see that there is a line item that says the town will begin implementation of the recommendations of the Economic Development task force, which includes visitor and tourism functions and marketing interests for things such as restaurants, hotels and other businesses in the town. The $40,000 from the County is included in this line item. More information about the Economic Development Strategy can be found at the bottom of this page on the town’s website at: http://www.herndon-va.gov/Content/Business/EconimcDevelopment.aspx?cnlid=4065
Ruth Tatlock May 01, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Very enlightening. Thanks, Jennifer. BTW - My daughter and I will be "manning" the Visitor Center on Mother's Day. Do stop by and see us!
Bob Bruhns May 01, 2012 at 07:49 PM
As I recall, some revenue from an increase in the meals max a year or so ago was also earmarked for the Town's marketing effort. I hope that the effort is effective.

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