What’s the real cost of retreat?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 19, 2002

Editor, the News-Herald:

As usual my friend Richard Harris got it right in his letter discussing City Council’s Tides Inn visit, which you published in the Sept. 17 issue of the News-Herald. I agree with Richard’s apparent conclusions that there was absolutely no need for City Council to travel, with entourage, to the Tides Inn, and that trip did not serve the best interests of Suffolk’s taxpayers.

Further, while I applaud the members of City Council who decided to pay for a part – and I stress the word &uot;part&uot; – of the cost of the Tides Inn soiree, the cost of a room was a mere pittance compared to what the retreat really cost the taxpayers.

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We’ll never know the true cost of Council’s soiree because the City won’t tell us (Sadly, the reason the City isn’t giving us the true cost may be because nobody knows the correct amount(s).). However, if one adds up the known costs of: (1) driving multiple city cars to/from Irvington; (2) overtime pay for certain city employees, including a policeman (yes – a Suffolk City Policeman!) to accompany Council; (3) $1,500 for dinner for 14 people (some $107 per person as reported by the Daily Press); (4) pre-retreat meetings (outside Suffolk) with the facilitator; (5) the facilitator’s hotel and travel expenses both before and after the retreat; and so on, it quickly becomes apparent the real retreat cost would have paid the starting salary of a policeman or firefighter for most of a year.

By the way, I read in the newspaper that Norfolk City Council also traveled out of town for a retreat – all the way to the 4-H Center in Wakefield. Wonder how many people the 4-H Center could have fed for $1,500? Additionally, the newspapers also report that Suffolk may soon be in an exclusive club if Norfolk Council is finally shamed into deciding that Norfolk’s citizens can be trusted to vote for mayor.

A couple of questions still come to mind. Who voted for this thing anyway? Can we look forward to more of the same next year?

Finally, I urge the Suffolk News-Herald to spend some Freedom of Information Act money and let the people of Suffolk know the true cost of the great Tides Inn caper.

C.L. Willis, P. E.


P.S. When my wife and I had dinner at the Williamsburg Inn’s Regency Room for our recent 49th wedding anniversary, I found out how a dinner can cost about $107 per person – it’s easy if you include a bottle of good French champagne and fancy desserts served tableside.