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Mayor justifies retreat

CONYERS -- Though last weekend's city retreat was on the public's dime, Mayor Randy Mills said that the out-of-town meeting was an appropriate way to focus planning efforts and move the city forward.

The mayor, five-member council and four city employees went to Lake Lanier's Legacy Lodge Jan. 29-31 to discuss past, current and future issues facing the city.

Mills said that the City Council has held an out-of-town retreat for more than 20 years and it is no different than the Atlanta Regional Commission's planning retreat.

The retreat helps officials focus, Mills said, and, as everyone on the City Council has their own business, "it's tough enough to get them."

"It (the retreat) really gave everybody focused attention. It's tough enough with the Blackberrys and phones," Mills said. "I wanted to capture them, literally capture them, for two days."

The retreat is always a budgeted expense, Mills said.

Isabel Rogers, administration and finance director, said there was a $265 hotel cost to each of the 10 city officials who attended. The price included the cost of meals, rooms, equipment and the meeting room, Rogers said.

Mills added that the out-of-town retreat was still relatively close by. Since he has been mayor, and even when he was serving as a councilman, Mills said he has found the out-of-town retreat "works well."

It gets city leadership away, clears their heads and allows them to fully focus on city affairs, according to Mills.

City officials gathered that Friday afternoon to discuss the mayor and City Council vision. Other discussions and updates focused on downtown economic development, tourism and public relations, the Georgia International Horse Park and public safety.

The next day's discussions were devoted to public works and transportation, planning and zoning and the current and next year's budgets. Several updates on ongoing city developments were also discussed, including the Downtown Development Authority and City Hall remodeling. Officials wrapped up Sunday with a closed session on potential litigation, personnel issues and land acquisition and/or sale.

"It's not playing around," Mills said of the retreat. "We start at 7 in the morning and go through 7 at night."