Commissioners reject request to attend national conference
Waxhaw commissioners took an extra day to make a decision, before rejecting Mayor Daune Gardner’s request to attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors this month.
Board members recessed their Tuesday, Jan. 10 meeting to the following day. The recess allowed staff and Town Manager Mike McLaurin time to create a spreadsheet detailing the specific expenses that would be incurred by the mayor’s planned attendance of two Washington, D.C. conferences later this month, the Mayors Conference, from Jan. 18 to 20, and the Mayors’ Innovation Project, Jan 20 and 21.
Board members were flummoxed when during the budget discussion Gardner revealed that the unpaid dues from the 2011 Mayors’ Conference had been waived by the organization, thereby reducing the event costs by $1992 and she noted a cost savings of $800 was realized by negotiating better hotel room rates, further reducing the projected expenses. Gardner also reduced cost by asking for $25 a day for valet parking, instead of the $42 a day she had originally requested.
After a few minutes listening to McLaurin working to recalculate the adjusted cost, Commissioner Sean Poccia asked that the board defer making a decision until the next meeting on Jan. 24.
“Rather than to continue doing simple math,” Poccia said, “I’d like for the board to have all the numbers before us when we make a decision.”
When it was pointed out that both of the conferences occur before the next meeting, Poccia agreed to the proposal suggested by the town attorney Chaplin Spencer to recess the meeting to the next morning before a scheduled board work-session.
Gardner had originally requested the board to almost double her travel budget to $9500, asking for additional $4500 budget to fund the two Washington conferences and a North Carolina Main Street Conference at the end of the month.
In addition to the registration fees and conference dues, Gardner had requested $440 to reimburse the fuel cost of traveling to and from Washington, as well as $225 to cover the cost of meals and $665 for five nights at the Hilton Hotel. The travel expenses would also cover past due expenses for the Innovation Project, the $500 annual fee from 2010 and 2011, as well as the current year.
Gardner addressed the board, making a case as to the value the conferences bring back to the town.
“For me personally, participation in the conferences helps me to learn how to be a better mayor.” Gardner said. “The ability to participate in policy level discussions that develop the ideas that we later use to lobby our members of Congress is very valuable as it brings in a small town perspective to legislation.”
Early Wednesday morning, commissioners resumed their meeting at the CMC-Waxhaw community room located at the recently opened Emergency Room center on Providence Road in Waxhaw.
After more than 30 minutes of discussion and examining the document prepared by staff late into the night, commissioners voted unanimously to increase the mayor’s travel budget by only $500.00, restoring it to a previous year’s budget level and rejecting the additional $4000 funding request.
With the board’s decision, Gardner has approximately $3500 in available travel funds, well short of the needed $6774.25 to attend all three conferences, but enough for one Washington Conference and the required NC Main Street Conference.
Commissioners find no benefit
Once the budget decision was made, the commissioners then had to vote whether or not to authorize the mayor to use travel funds to attend the conferences. In a unanimous vote, commissioners rejected Gardner’s request to attend either Washington conference. The town’s policy required that the board must approve travel expenditures exceeding $500 in advance.
Commissioners approved a $4500 increase in their collective travel budget and authorized Gardner to attend the Small Town Main Street Conference on Jan 25 to 27 in Clayton, NC.
In other business, Commissioners unanimously approved a $1337 re-imbursement to the Ashton Manor Home Owners Association for the costs to repair sidewalks damaged by the recent heavy rains. Ashton Manor was involuntarily annexed into Waxhaw in 2002 and was represented before the board by the HOA secretary Jim Albright.