Local News

Cary's Council Faces Criticism for Out-of-Town Retreat

Posted March 4, 2007 6:19 p.m. EST
Updated March 5, 2007 8:21 a.m. EST

— Cary’s Town Council will head to Wilmington for three days later this month to discuss economic development and other issues at its upcoming annual retreat. But the $14,000 trip, footed by taxpayers, is angering some residents who want the meeting held in town.

Business owner Don Frantz attended the council's last three retreats in Southern Pines. He thinks Wilmington is too far away.

“It’s contradictory to me when you say you want to encourage citizen involvement, then you hold a council retreat 2-1/2 hours away,” Frantz said.

But Cary Mayor Ernie McAlister sees it differently.

“If we were going somewhere 4 or 5 hours away, I think it’d be harder to justify,” he said. “We’re certainly not doing that. This is well within distance that folks can get to.”

Besides, McAlister said, it pays to step away from daily operations of the town and get a change of scenery.

Cary's not the only town that travels for its retreat.

In the past four years, Garner has gone to Wrightsville Beach and Holly Springs has traveled to Southern Pines. Morrisville goes out of town every other year. This year, the council went to Greensboro. In 2005, they went to Wilmington.

But in the Triangle, Durham and Chapel Hill have their retreats in town. Raleigh’s city council hasn’t gone on a retreat since 2001. But when they did, members met in the capital city. One meeting spot was the State Museum of Art.

If Cary officials want a change of scenery, they should consider meeting at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Cary or the Cary Senior Center, Frantz said.

Dave Forvendel, another Cary resident who attends town council meetings, said he won't be traveling to the Wilmington Hilton, where the retreat is being held March 16-18.

"Frankly, I'd like to see the hotel and meal tax be spent here in Wake County, instead of in Wilmington," he said.

Getting away may be the goal, but as the town council is finding out, it's tough to escape criticism.

Among the many agenda items, Cary town council members and staff plan to discuss infrastructure, transportation and open space.

New to this year's agenda: Wake school board members and county commissioners will be meeting with council members to talk about reassignment and growth.