Whodunit: someone messed up site
Angry words and finger-pointing marred the monthly Graham County Travel & Tourism meeting Thursday at the community building in Robbinsville.
The main point of contention – the T&T website, which was incomplete and contained inaccuracies when it went public two weeks ago.
“The ball has been dropped on the website,” said Lance Cable, who operates the Tuskegee Motel. “My customers’ needs are not being met. We are getting nothing for the three-percent tax we pay!”
Cable raised the issue several business owners were present to discuss. He continued, “The site was launched prematurely and has not been taken down. I am not seeing any action! Are you doing anything?”
According to T&T board member Jessica Wehr, the answer is yes.
“I am not a computer expert. This is not my area of expertise. I do not know why it launched. There have been issues with the posts and there was corruption of data when the data was moved to the new website,” Wehr explained. “The next morning the entered data had been removed!”
Who removed or corrupted data was a matter of heated conjecture. Some suggested that sinister acts were involved.
“Someone is sabotaging our website,” T&T board member Robin Turner said. “Someone is getting in and erasing material!”
Lynn Turner of Stars Creative, who was hired to maintain the T&T website, told The Graham Star she believes “some of the problems with the website are because of the host being used.”
Lynn Turner (no relation to Robin), who did not attend the meeting, had recommended the board use Squidix, a U.S. company. She said that T&T board chose to use Bluehost, a company based in India.
Bluehost was the choice of Tail of the Dragon co-owner Nancy Johnson, who was hired to maintain the county’s travel and tourism website after the T&T board fired director Tabitha Myler 14 months ago.
IronHorse Lodge owner John Powell suggested the T&T board rehire Johnson because she is local and knows the area. “The old website was better than this one,” Powell said.
Robin Turner pointed out that Johnson resigned because she could not find the time for updates.
Lynn Turner is no longer the webmaster. StarsCreative also produced three promotional videos county officials have praised.
Those videos were criticized Thursday. “The first video was garbage,” Powell thundered.
Moonshiner’s Steakhouse owner Barry Levy said that he had a 22-minute video that promotes Graham County and that’s better and cheaper than the Stars Creative video.
Cable said that the Stars Creative video about economic opportunities in Graham County “lies” about the workforce. “Everyone in the room knows how difficult it is to find even one person to trust to open the door in the morning or close up at night,” Cable said.
T&T intern John MacEwen is working to revise the travel and tourism website and bring it up to date.
That announcement didn’t appease Johnson, who angrily criticized the board and stormed out of the meeting after demanding an apology she did not receive.
Johnson was miffed about an email Wehr authored that intimated Johnson resigned before the board hired StarsCreative. Board member Revonda Williams apologized for “having the dates wrong.”
Laila Mortimer, co-owner of River’s Edge Treehouse, also became upset after failing to receive a satisfactory answer to the question, “Who is sabotaging the site?” She walked out of the meeting after exclaiming, “I can’t take any more of this!”
In other business:
n Board members Wehr and Powell disagreed about the need for a full-time travel and tourism director. Wehr is for, Powell is against;
n The board discussed pros and cons of weekly or daily Cheoah River releases. Robin Turner explained that, “Brookfield, the U.S. Forest Service, Cherokee County, Graham County, and Fish and Game” will meet soon to access environmental impacts;
n Audience members emphatically stated they did not want the board to “put together a special package” for kayakers;
n Katy Lynch asked what is being planned for the upcoming solar eclipse and whether there is a coordinated effort in the county to take advantage of the occurrence. She pointed out that there are financial opportunities available and preparations needed for county residents. She feels that a coordinator for the event would be useful.