Tourism job cuts concern leaders

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The cuts are part of 28 Turnpike job eliminations expected to save the Authority $1 million a year. The tourist information clerks earned about $46,000 a year.

Lauri Klefos, executive director of the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, and state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli said they are trying to get answers about the move, which they said involved no input from tourism experts here or in Boston.

"It's a huge concern to us because we had no inkling this was being discussed, and were not asked for any input," said Klefos. "This came out of left field."

Turnpike Authority Director Alan LeBovidge told the Boston Herald his goal with the cuts is to show the Legislature that he's "running a tight ship." LeBovidge said he will leave another 28 jobs unfilled that were funded in the last budget.

He says the next move is to look at toll takers and see how many the agency needs.

LeBovidge has eliminated 62 jobs from the cash-strapped agency since he was hired by Gov. Deval L. Patrick last year.

Klefos said she's been in touch with the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, and Pignatelli said he's seeking answers from the Turnpike Authority without much success.

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"It makes no sense whatsoever," said Pignatelli, a Democrat whose district is home to Tanglewood, the county's largest tourist draw. "You don't pull the plug in the middle of July in the Berkshires when it comes to tourism."

If the cuts are for lack of money, Pignatelli said, "then reinstate the tolls (on the western stretch of the Turnpike), and we'll have money to fund these things, or make it a seasonal thing."

The east and westbound kiosks in Charleton, and the eastbound kiosk in Lee are affected, said Klefos.

"The Turnpike's roll has to be bigger than just providing a rack with brochures," said Pignatelli.

If the issue relates to customer numbers, tourism officials should be involved, he said.

Efforts to reach the director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, Betsy Wall, were not successful, nor could the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority be reached for direct comment yesterday.

Pignatelli said he intends to contact the Turnpike Authority to raise his objections, and Klefos said she is also following up to get more information.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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