Three Bell County Tourism Commissioners ousted

By: Angela Sparkman Email
By: Angela Sparkman Email

Three Bell County Tourism Commissioners who voted against using restaurant tax dollars towards the proposed $14 million hotel and resort in Pineville are removed from the commission.

Friday afternoon, the Bell County Judge-Executive and Mayor of Middlesboro, who appoint the commissioners, replaced them with three new ones.

This change could mean new life for the Wasioto Hotel and Resort project.

Lawrence Tuck, Steve Ausmus, and Jill West were removed them from the Tourism Commission.

"Do not think what we're discussing today is a knee jerk reaction to what took place in this same room the other day," said Judge-Executive Albey Brock.

Brock says Tuck lives in Tennessee and should not be on the Bell County commission. Brock says Ausmus and West's terms expired in December.

The ousted commissioners were not at the announcement on Friday but the Tourism President, Judy Barton, was there.

"Did you take this as vindictive or anything like that?" Angela Sparkman asked her. "I'm sure it is, you know, but they were very cordial and I was very cordial to them," Barton responded.

"Both of us felt like it was necessary to take the action we took today to get back into compliance. This isn't something in a small community you want to do, but it we're going to move forward and be successful, this is something we have to do to keep moving forward," Middlesboro Mayor Bill Kelley said.

Newly appointed commissioners are Mike Long, Teresa Francis, and Darrell Hale.

The judge-executive and mayor say there will be another Tourism Commission meeting next week to discuss the hotel project again.

"I'm all for the hotel. I think there's a problem with the legal issue," said Barton.

"We just want to revisit it and look at it and let's talk, because one thing we don't want to do is let a project get away if we can have it here in Bell County," said Kelley.

Barton says the city of Pineville can submit another proposal to the commission.

Brock and Kelley also asking for people to stop boycotting businesses owned by the Tourism Commissioners who voted against the project on Tuesday.

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