There was plenty of heat generated by people at a meeting called by Businesses for a Better Brookings Thursday night at Java Java.

Whether any light will result from the sometimes heated discussion about the groups existing visitor center, or any such center, in downtown Brookings is yet to be seen.

Augie Kofoet, president of Businesses for a Better Brookings, welcomed citizens to the meeting along with representatives from the city, the Port of Brookings Harbor, Salmon Run golf course and interested business people.

Among the 20 or so people at the meeting were Nancy Shute, Port Executive Director Russ Crabtree, Peter Spratt, Brookings City Manager Leroy Blodgett, Eldon Gossett, City Councilor Rick Dentino, Tim and Terry Patterson, Rex Atwell, Bruce Chambers, Heather Weckler and Ken Byrtus.

One thing everyone seemed to agree on was the need for a visitor center in downtown Brookings. But there was no consensus on where or how large it should be.

Don Nuss, one of the founders of Businesses for a Better Brookings, distributed a handout at the meeting providing background on the existing Brookings Downtown Visitor Center Building at 519 Chetco Ave.

The handout read:

Businesses for a Better Brookings agreed to lease the lobby, public restrooms and parking from Terry Miller (owner) on August 1, 1999 for four years.

Mr. Miller installed the signage on the building, a pay phone and other amenities for visitors. The rent includes all maintenance of the restrooms, restroom supplies, janitorial services, electricity, insurance and other overhead costs.

Nuss said Businesses for a Better Brookings intended for advertisers to place brochures, signage and other visitor information that would help pay the $1,000-a-month rent.

Businesses for a Better Brookings provided maps, brochure racks, a bike rack and other informational items, Nuss said.

Approximately 50 advertisers from Crescent City, Brookings, Grants Pass and Gold Beach signed up to place brochures, real estate information and signage at the location, he said.

When billed for another year, 90 percent renewed and were pleased with the results.

Nuss said at Thursdays meeting that Businesses for a Better Brookings provided over 70 percent of the funding (of the visitor center) with proceeds from the Avenue of the Flags project.

The Avenue of the Flags program gives residents the opportunity to sponsor a flag along Chetco Avenue and Highway 101 on eight national holidays.

The program is sponsored jointly by Businesses for a Better Brookings and Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 757.

The cost to sponsor one of the flags is $35 per year. Approximately 300 flags are sponsored annually.

Last November, Businesses for a Better Brookings terminated its lease with the landlord of the visitor center building for lack of money, Nuss said.

After reviewing our financial situation, Mr. Miller agreed to lower the lease to $500 per month, Nuss said.

Businesses for a Better Brookings is prepared to pay $250 per month if the chamber or the city would be willing to pay the rest.

Others people werent so keen on supporting the existing center.

Leroy Blodgett pointed out that the Oregon Tourism Commission had written to the owner of the building to express his concern about complaints from tourists. (See story, The Pilot, Jan. 31.)

The Oregon Tourism Commission is concerned about this property because the staff at our State Welcome Center north of town has received many complaints from visitors who could not get thorough information (at the visitor center) and who left frustrated and confused, wrote Oregon Tourism Executive Director Todd Davidson.

I think you would agree with us that frustrated visitors are not something we want to encourage!

Rick Dentino said the sign on the large visitor sign on the outside of the building is misleading to visitors.

It would make as much sense and be just as accurate if you put up a sign saying Free Beer on the building, Dentino said.

That visitor center consists of a couple of bathrooms and a hall. No wonder visitors are confused.

Heather Weckler suggested the Youth Center building at 604 Chetco Ave. could be used as a visitor center.

Some of our young people could be trained to hand out information and provide directions, she said.

After more discussion, the meeting was ended with no action being taken.