Council to hold retreat at Brasstown

COVINGTON — City officials will hold their annual retreat at Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa in Young Harris, the City Council agreed Monday night.

The retreat will take place March 18-20 at the facility in the North Georgia mountains.

Personnel Director Ronnie Cowan said he does not yet have a total cost on the retreat.

The cost to stay at the hotel is $109 per room per night. The mayor and council and retreat facilitator will stay the first night, with the city manager and three division department heads joining for the remaining two nights, Cowan said.

Cowan said each person would likely have his or her own room. If that's the case, the total cost would run approximately $3,500 for the hotel stay. The city is also paying an additional $5,000 to the facilitator, Centre for Strategic Management in Conyers, putting the total cost at about $8,500, not including meals, mileage and gas reimbursements.

Mayor Kim Carter formed a committee consisting of Councilwomen Ocie Franklin and Janet Goodman and Councilman Mike Whatley to make a recommendation as to the retreat location.

The committee chose Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa over a less expensive out-of-town option in Unicoi State Park, which costs $75 per room per night.

Franklin said the Brasstown hotel was chosen because, "It's not as old. I think it's a better facility. You get what you pay for. We want it to be nice but not too expensive."

Franklin said the cost has already been budgeted for training expenses.

Last year, the city held its retreat at the FFA-FCCLA Center in Newton County. The year prior to that, it was held at Callaway Gardens.

Cowan said he would like to see the retreat location continue to rotate between a local and out-of-town option.

"Being outside Newton County gives them time to feel like they can talk freely among themselves and not be involved in personal business," he said. "Getting isolated helps them to work on team building."

In addition to working on team building, city leaders will continue to formulate a strategic plan for the city and its departments.

"The facilitator is good at putting ideas together so management can understand the direction we're going in," Cowan said.

The vote to hold the retreat in Brasstown was 4-2, with Councilmen Keith Dalton and John Howard in opposition.

Dalton said he wanted a local site that would be less expensive. He said he will make an effort to share a room in order to save money.

"It's not right. I don't need the city to pay for me a vacation. I go on my vacation on my time, my dime," he said. "Is a retreat a good idea? I think it is. We can accomplish some great things, such as goal setting. Do you have to go out of town to do it? No."

However, Franklin said the committee decided it was best to get away.

"Retreat means to leave. We decided we needed to get out where we have more privacy and nothing will interfere," she said.

Franklin said the retreat is continuing education for council members.

"We will learn more about the city, learn about ethics and have a chance to fellowship and talk with each other. Mostly, we will be handling city business," she said.

Franklin added that she wants citizens to know the council will not be "lollygagging" around while away.

"There's always a lot to learn. You never get through learning," she said.