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Council members attend conference

Hagerstown City Council members Alesia Parson-McBean, Penny M. Nigh and Kelly S. Cromer are at the Congress of Cities Conference

Hagerstown City Council members Alesia Parson-McBean, Penny M. Nigh and Kelly S. Cromer are at the Congress of Cities Conference

December 09, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Three Hagerstown City Council members are in Charlotte, N.C., this week for a national conference on municipal issues.

Council members Alesia D. Parson-McBean, Penny M. Nigh and Kelly S. Cromer are at the Congress of Cities Conference, which runs from Dec. 6 to 10. They arrived Monday and are returning Sunday.

The City of Hagerstown is paying for registration, hotel rooms, airfare and meals.

Each year, Hagerstown council members have travel budgets of up to $1,000. The mayor may use up to $3,000.

Reached at her Charlotte hotel room Thursday night, Parson-McBean said the seminars have been valuable - particularly one on eminent domain, a hot national topic.

"What we're learning here is priceless," she said.

As the city's first African-American council member, "there's a lot of questions I can't get answered in Hagerstown," Parson-McBean said, although she stressed that she represents all residents, not just minorities.

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Parson-McBean said there are chances to talk about issues with people from across the country.

"You can't get around it, and that's the beauty of it," she said.

Nigh and Cromer did not return messages left at their hotel rooms.

Washington County's municipalities commonly send representatives to the annual Maryland Municipal League convention in Ocean City. As government newcomers, Parson-McBean, Cromer and Mayor Richard F. Trump went to the last one.

"I think every member of an elected board should attend in their first year in office," Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said Thursday.

Aleshire, who attended a previous year, said the MML convention costs about $400 or $500.

This was the first time the city has sent officials to a National League of Cities conference, City Clerk Donna K. Spickler said.

At a Nov. 22 meeting, Aleshire asked his colleagues to discuss the cost of the Congress of Cities Conference, but no one responded.

Aleshire said he wanted to avoid a controversy such as one in October, when Cromer and Nigh protested the $684 cost of a bus tour and instead followed the bus in a car.

On Thursday, Aleshire said council members decide how best to use their travel money.

"My only concern is that we keep activities and expenditures within budget," he said.

It was not certain on Thursday if the cost of the Charlotte trip will exceed $1,000 per person. Spickler said council members will submit expense statements when they return.

Each registration cost $355 in advance, the first-time attendee rate. Spickler said each council member got a cash advance of $300 for meals for the time they will be in Charlotte.

Parson-McBean, Nigh and Cromer are staying at a hotel advertising its convention rate as $109 per day. A hotel employee said each has her own room.

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