The city council cancelled its planning retreat reservation at Brasstown Resort Valley and Spa Wednesday after receiving continued criticism over the past two months. The retreat will now be held at a local location, which is still being determined.
City Manager Steve Horton said he felt the retreat had become a distraction and he asked Personnel Director Ronnie Cowan to call Brasstown again to see if the facility would reconsider waiving the cancellation fee.
"Things become such a distraction administratively and for the council, both. I talked to Ronnie, ‘You know this thing, it seems like it’s an issue every day,’ so I asked him to check one more time," Horton said.
Brasstown did not waive the fee but offered to cut it in half, reducing the cancellation cost from $3,924 to $1,962.
With the new option in hand, Horton called each council member to ask if they wanted to cancel the reservation or continue to hold the retreat at Brasstown. Each council member said they either wanted to cancel the retreat or were OK either way.
Councilman Mike Whatley said he had previously changed his mind about going to Brasstown."Weeks ago I changed my mind and said, OK, this has become way too distracting for the city and council. We can't get our normal business done because of this. It was interrupting my personal life and other people on the council probably felt the same way," Whatley said. "I said I’ll be the one to back up and say maybe we made a mistake, maybe we should back up and get this thing local and stop all criticism, dissension and divisiveness in the community."
However, he said he didn’t think paying nearly $4,000 to cancel the trip was the right call, but the reduced fee was more palatable.
"We’re still going to have to pay some money of course, which is business, but not anywhere close to $4,000. When all of the smoke clears we’re going to save money doing it that way. Hopefully everybody comes out a winner, hopefully the feud is over. All the hoopla in the community can be settled now. Maybe the papers will be happy and the council will be back unified for a while," Whatley said.
Councilwoman Janet Goodman said she was fine if the retreat was held at Brasstown or locally.
"I am so sick and tired of it and ready for it to end. It got all out of proportion and people misunderstood what was being said and it got all out of proportion. People are so cruel now, it’s unbelievable. They call you names because you don’t think like them," Goodman said. "I hope this is the end of it."
Councilman Keith Dalton had been against having the retreat at Brasstown from the beginning and said it was great to move the location and that the decision was long overdue.
Horton said he mailed a letter to Brasstown on Wednesday officially accepting the $1,962 cancellation fee. The city has 30 days to pay the fee, he said.
A local location has not been chosen yet, but a choice will be made within the next two days, Horton said. Cowan said he wanted the public to understand the importance of having a retreat in general. He said the controversy over the location has overshadowed its purpose: a training session.
"This is just like going to Georgia Municipal Association trainings. We’re using the same facilitator (for the council) that the city management is using now so we can all be on the same page," Cowan said.
He said many of the city’s recent successes, including the sterling financial audit the city recently received, are do in large part to good planning. The facilitator is the Centre for Strategic Training, out of Conyers; they will paid $5,000.