Retreat cost us #036;17,000

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 6, 2002

The Suffolk City Council’s overnight retreat at the upscale Tides Inn in August ended up costing taxpayers upwards of $17,000.

The total includes $10,820 charged by Lyle Sumek, the Florida-based facilitator who conducted a strategic leadership planning workshop for council members.

The bill, released by the city late last week, shows that Sumek billed the city for 53 hours of work.

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The bill indicated that much of Sumek’s time – approximately 30 hours – was spent preparing for the retreat by conducting individual interviews with council members and the city manager.

The bill also included $1,545 in expenses, including $832 in airfare and $281 in lodging.

That charge comes on top of the approximately $6,200 the city spent on hotel accommodations and meals at the waterfront hotel in Irvington for 14 people: council members, the city manager, two assistant city managers, the city attorney, the city clerk, and a city police officer.

Before the retreat, the council was criticized for its exclusive accommodations, prompting Mayor E. Dana Dickens III and four other council members to pay for their own $239 rooms.

Council members Charles Brown and Curtis Milteer opted not to pay their own ways. Brown, on several occasions, has indicated he believes the city should foot the bill as long as the council is away on official city business.

Sumek will return to the fall retreat, slated for early November, to help council further refine its goals. He will probably be at the retreat for 1-1/2 days, said Cindy Rohlf, assistant city manager.

Council has directed city staff to look into several locations that would not require an overnight stay, including Smithfield and Hampton’s historic downtown area.

Typically, the council visits cities have successfully implemented projects that are being planned for Suffolk. Past retreats have been held in Annapolis, Md., Edenton, N.C. and Staunton, chosen respectively because of their smart growth and historic and downtown revitalization projects.