County retreat might be in town

COVINGTON -- Newton County commissioners will likely stay in town this year for their annual retreat, according to Chairman Kathy Morgan.

Morgan said commissioners will attend a "two-day work session for strategic planning," or what has previously been referred to as the Board of Commissioners' retreat, in late February. A definite date and location have not been established yet, Morgan said.

Both in-town and out-of-town options are being priced, but, "I'm pretty sure we'll stay within town. I don't think it's going to be overnight," Morgan said.

Morgan said she will look at potential sites and determine the best option. If there are several sites within a comparable price range, she will bring them before the Board of Commissioners for a vote, she said.

Morgan said she has received calls from several commissioners who have asked to stay local. There are benefits to going out of town, she said, but in the current economic climate, that may not be the best option. Morgan said often when meetings are held locally, people will arrive late or leave early, and may not attend unless they are interested in the subject matter.

"If you don't have a dedicated or committed public servant, they do not always take it as seriously as it needs to be taken," she said, whereas if the meeting is out of town, "You really do have everyone captured.

"I'm doubtful we'll leave the county, even though as a rule of thumb that is a positive way to build camaraderie, which is what we're trying to do, but I just don't feel like we have that luxury," she said.

Morgan added that last year, if she or commissioners opted to stay overnight for any training sessions or out-of-town events, they footed the bill themselves.

The county will hire an outside facilitator to conduct the work session.

Morgan, the five commissioners, Administrative Assistant John Middleton, representatives from the county attorney's office and the county clerk are expected to attend, and county staff may also participate to give updates on particular issues, she said.

Morgan said commissioners will be discussing what issues they want to prioritize in the new year and looking at potential impacts to the 2011 fiscal year budget.

"We're trying to get the Board of Commissioners to unite and think about the interests of the entire county and then look at their districts. Compromises have to be made ... We've got to diversify our funding throughout the county," she said.