Eagle Town Board’s retreat draws questions
EAGLE, Colorado – A recent two-day Eagle Town Board retreat has drawn criticism from two residents who went to Denver to participate in the event.
The retreat was held Aug. 3 and 4 in Denver with Gary Suiter, who recently served as the interim town manager in Minturn, acting as the event facilitator. The town board traditionally holds a retreat after new members are elected. The last retreat was held two years ago.
This year’s two-day retreat was held at the Magnolia Hotel and the consultant fee for Suiter was approximately $2,000. The hotel bill was $2,254 for lodging for 15 people. The event bill also included $225 for lunch on Aug. 3 and $190 for lunch on Aug. 4. The town board attended a Colorado Rockies game on Tuesday night and tickets cost $343. Town board members paid for their own breakfasts both days and for their own dinners on Aug. 3. No alcohol charges were incurred by the town.
The town had budgeted $5,000 for a board retreat as part of its 2010 spending plan. Additionally, town board members voted to contribute one month of their board fees – $1,900 total – to help defray costs associated with the retreat.
Brandi Resa, who was unsuccessful in her election bid for a town board seat last spring, and Markus Mueller were the only citizens who attended the session in Denver. During a town board meeting last week, both questioned if the retreat had been properly advertised. They also questioned the decision to hold the session at a Denver location.
“This location had limited or no notice given. It does not seem that citizen attendance was encouraged,” said Resa.
Eagle officials disputed the assertion that the meeting was not properly noticed. Colorado law requires that information about any official town board meeting be posted in a designated posting location at least 24 hours prior to the session. The meeting notice about the retreat was posted at Eagle Town Hall by 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 2. The retreat began at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3. Additionally, town officials maintain they had instructed staff to post the information on the website and they were unaware that the meeting notice was, in fact, not published at http://www.townofeagle.org.
“We don’t meet in secret. We never have and we never will,” said Eagle Mayor Ed Woodland. “Any accusations that we do are just paranoid nonsense.”
He noted that costs from the retreat will be available for public scrutiny as part of the bill schedule the town board approves each month. As for actual formal action, the town board is precluded from voting on any actions during a work session, and that’s how the recent retreat is characterized.
Resa and Mueller argued that the town board should have spent the retreat money with Eagle businesses.
“We have no issues with the staff/trustees spending money on a strategic planning session and/or treats such as the Rockies game,” said Resa. “They each put tons of time in for the town and as long as the costs are reasonable in cost and frequency, this is not an issue.
“Our disappointment was with what we saw as a lost opportunity,” she continued. “We felt the town could have made a great statement by meeting in Eagle and spending the money at our local restaurants and a local hotel. During a time when all of us are struggling, we felt it was a missed opportunity to make a statement about supporting Eagle, especially when all of us are asking ourselves why the businesses in Eagle are not surviving and better yet, thriving, and at the same time, we are shopping or dining elsewhere.”
Woodland said the reason for going to Denver was to get away from regular business and give board members an opportunity to get to know one another and develop ideas for specific goals.
“If the criticism is we didn’t say in Eagle, the reason is this … we wanted to get away from the distractions of our businesses and our lives,” said Woodland. “I don’t think it’s is unreasonable to go out of town to get away from things and get some perspective.”
Resa and Mueller took issue with the tone of some of the comments generated during the board retreat. Specifically, they noted the board members voiced concerns about the future for infill development in town.
“A couple of trustees commented during the meeting that infill won’t work because there are not the masses to support it,” said Resa. “Unless you can continue to annex, which does not seem possible given our borders, infill must be done.”
Because the board retreat format is basically a discussion among members, Woodland said the event did not provide opportunities for public comment regarding the various issues discussed. He said the facilitator will compile a report from the event, which will be presented during a regular town board meeting. At that time, the public will be given the opportunity to comment and the board will take action on the proposed goals presented. At that point, a discussion regarding infill goals will be addressed, said Woodland.
But Resa and Mueller also questioned if true strategic planning was accomplished during the session.
“In our opinions, and what we define as a strategic meeting, it seemed to involve specific issues instead of bigger goals and vision of what we want to becomes as Eagle and how we can become that,” said Resa. “There were some great ideas, but there seemed to be too much discussion on Eagle River Station, which is not even a current land use file. This was disappointing.”
Resa noted that Trustee Yuri Kostick even commented during the meeting that he hopes the town can work on some of the great ideas brought up and not get bogged down by the two big land use files in the coming years.
Woodland had a different take about the meeting’s flavor.
“There’s no question we had a good goal-setting session. We came out with some major objectives and we will be getting a report,” he said. “And, in terms of getting to know each other a bit better, it was a good retreat.”