In food and travel, town of Vail slims down |

In food and travel, town of Vail slims down

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL ” The town of Vail spent almost $110,000 on meal and travel expenses in 2008 ” a figure that will slim down considerably with the town’s smaller 2009 budget, according to officials.

About half of the money was spent by town employees on meals and travel, and the rest went toward town-hosted meetings, town events and employee events, said Kathleen Halloran, the town’s manager of budgets and financial reporting.

However, after the Town Council cut about $1 million from its 2009 budget in January and laid off two workers, Mayor Dick Cleveland asked all departments to cut back on expenses, especially in food, travel and training costs.

“We’ve looked at all our expenses across the board, cutting the nonessentials, such as professional enrichment and travel,” he said. “It’s important to keep staff trained and efficient, but we’ve asked department heads to manage wisely.”

Food and travel costs for 2008 were already pared down from what was originally budgeted, said Halloran.

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The total 2008 budget for the expenses was almost $129,000. However, as departments were asked to cut down in the later part of the year, the 2008 total ended up being about $110,000 instead.

The cuts will be even more drastic this year, Halloran said.

For 2009, travel and meal expenses are budgeted for $62,000, 43 percent less than what was spent in 2008, thanks to department cuts and smaller community and employee events.

Food expenses in 2008 were spent on a combination of meals charged by individual employees as well as working lunch meetings for staff and Town Council.

Often town officials or employees will meet with other officials or people doing business with the town over meals, Halloran said.

Most of the charges were made to purchase cards, or P-cards, that are issued to employees.

A sampling of meal charges on the town’s 2008 records include:

– An $84.25 working lunch at Westside Cafe and a $140.74 working lunch at Alpenrose on Town Manager Stan Zemler’s account.

– A $92.11 charge by Community Development Director George Ruther at the Vail Chophouse in Lionshead Village for a meeting about the Arrabelle development. Five people were at the meeting, said Ruther.

– $1,400 on a farewell party at the Arrabelle for building inspector Charlie Davis, a long-time town employee.

Halloran said that big farewell parties for such employees weren’t uncommon in the past, but that costs will be scaled down significantly starting this year.

Another meal expense cut will be on food for the Town Council members. In the past, the town has bought the seven-member Town Council lunch during meeting days, when work sessions start around lunchtime and meetings last well into the evening. Costs for the lunches usually ranged from $120 to $260.

The council decided to forgo the provided meal and members have started bringing their own food.

The town also spent money on airline tickets and hotel stays for employees to attend various meetings and staff retreats.

For example, Zemler, Town Attorney Matt Mire and Town Councilman Mark Gordon spent $463.44 on hotel stays for a four-day conference of the Colorado Municipal League in Steamboat Springs.

The council and department heads also went to Park City, Utah, for an annual “peer resort visit” with other resort governments. The town paid for airline tickets and hotel rooms for eight to 10 staff members and some of the Town Council.

“We met with their Town Council and mayor to talk about their ideas on affordable housing and other things, and we take a walking tour (of part of the town),” said Judy Camp, town finance director. “This year we have money just for a day trip to a peer resort. It’ll probably be somewhere close, like Aspen.”

Cleveland said that he and other town officials might still represent Vail at some out-of-town meetings, but they won’t stay overnight, and the locations will probably be within driving distance.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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