by: Mike Petchenik Updated:
Roswell’s government spent more than $5,000 to send the City Council and administrator on a leadership retreat at the Ritz Carlton Reynold’s Plantation, according to records obtained by Channel 2 Action News.
Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik requested a full accounting of what the City Council spent on the trip after a local taxpayer watchdog group questioned why the group had to travel to Lake Oconee rather than meet in Roswell.
“The amount is really inconsequential,” said Jake Lilley with Roswell For Fiscal Responsibility. “It’s really the idea of taking local tax dollars out of the community and spending them somewhere else when we could have met that need here in Roswell.”
Lilley said he believes the money wasn’t well spent.
“Just last year, the Roswell Visitor’s Bureau adopted a campaign slogan called ‘Find It All in Roswell,’” said Lilley. “So, I guess maybe they’ll have to change that slogan to: ‘Can’t find it in Roswell.’”
City leaders told Petchenik the trip provided a good opportunity for council members to interact with one another and “clear the air” about issues facing the city.
“It was productive. I just wish it hadn’t cost so much,” Councilwoman Betty Price told Petchenik.
Price told Petchenik she paid out of her own pocket to cover the cost difference between the least expensive choice, a government-run facility in north Georgia and the Ritz. She indicated that other council members offered to do the same. The city obtained a government rate of $169 per night to stay at the hotel, she said.
Mayor Jere Wood told Petchenik the trip was money well spent.
“We worked on the vision for Roswell, goals for the departments, capital projects,” he said.
Wood said the trip expense was minimal compared to the multimillion dollar budget city leaders must appropriate each year.
“The council was looking at the $1 million expenditure. The citizens making the complaint were looking at the $40 expenditure,” he said of the difference in cost between a cheaper hotel and the Ritz stay for two nights.
Records show Roswell spent about $5,600 for nine people to attend the two-day retreat, including a facilitator who city officials said didn’t charge any money for his services above and beyond his weekend expenses. That comes to an average of about $625 per person.
Petchenik requested numbers from several other cities that have held similar leadership meetings as a comparator:
Last May, Milton held a planning session at the Atlanta National Golf Club in Milton for $6,800, which included the cost of a facilitator. The total price per head was about $340.
In January, 12 Alpharetta leaders traveled to Hotel Indigo in Athens for meetings, spending $2,950, an average of $245 per person.
In June, Johns Creek held a strategic planning workshop at the Stone Mountain Conference Center. The cost, including a facilitator, for 30 attendees, was $6,176, or about $206 per person.
Two weeks ago, Sandy Springs leaders met at a city-owned building, spending $700 to cater for 20 people, including media attendees, at a cost of about $35 per person.