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City visitors center, Hope organization negotiating deal

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Columbus Visitors Center is working with Heritage of Hope Inc. on an agreement for the Hope organization to become the center’s satellite location.

Lynn Lucas, executive director for the visitors center, said the two agencies are working on language in a proposed agreement, but nothing has been signed.

Heritage of Hope Inc. Chief Executive Officer Larry Simpson confirmed that.

“We are working toward an agreement,” he said.

The visitors center has been considering different options for how to increase countywide tourism, including the possibility of a satellite office in Hope.

In June, the Bartholomew County Convention, Recreation and Visitor Promotion Commission voted to give all county innkeeper’s tax proceeds — more than $1 million — to the Columbus Visitors Center for the second year in a row.

The Hope Area Welcome Center, which was launched four years ago under sponsorship by the Hope Area Chamber of Commerce, had requested $88,500 for 2015 from innkeeper’s tax proceeds but was denied by the commission for a second straight year. The Welcome Center had received a combined $130,500 from innkeeper’s tax funds in 2012 and 2013.

Heritage of Hope Inc., which sponsors Hope Heritage Days and other events, then applied to become a Columbus Area Visitors Center satellite operation, marketing countywide tourism. The move also would direct some tourism dollars back into the Hope community.

A flier being distributed this week to sponsors of the Sept. 26 to 28 Hope Heritage Days festival listed a visitors center ribbon-cutting at 1:45 p.m. Sept. 28 at the festival headquarters.

The flier, which Simpson called a mockup, was also on the festival’s Facebook page before being removed Wednesday afternoon.

Information about the Heritage of Hope Visitors Center also was removed from the Heritage of Hope website Wednesday afternoon.

“I am hoping, within the next few weeks, we will have the center here. And should everything proceed as desired, we would have the ceremony,” Simpson said. “It’s a great opportunity if things proceed as planned.”

Simpson said he hoped an agreement would be finalized within the next few weeks.

While the visitors center has met with Heritage of Hope representatives several times about becoming a satellite operation, it also has floated the idea of installing kiosks instead.

Interactive electronic kiosks with information about Bartholomew County could be located in Hope, at Edinburgh Premium Outlets, Ceraland Park, Hamilton Center Ice Arena and downtown Columbus, Lucas said in an earlier interview.

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