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Conference tab reaches nearly $4,000

December 23, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - A preliminary estimate for sending three Hagerstown City Council members to a national conference in Charlotte, N.C., is nearly $4,000, according to city records made available this week.

That includes hotel rooms, airfare, registration and meals for council members Alesia D. Parson-McBean, Kelly S. Cromer and Penny M. Nigh.

Each year, the city allows each council member up to $1,000 for expenses, including travel, meaning the three council members could have a combined $3,000.

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Councilman Lewis C. Metzner has said he supports the trip and would contribute from his $1,000 account this year to help pay for it.

The city often sends officials to the annual Maryland Municipal League convention in Ocean City, Md., but this was the first time for Hagerstown at the National League of Cities' Congress of Cities and Exposition.

"This annual event combines training, communications, advocacy, policy development activities, and exposition opportunities," the league says of the conference at its Web site. Participants hear from experts on national issues, attend workshops and see exhibitors' new equipment and services.

The three Hagerstown council members who attended have spoken highly of the conference for its information and networking opportunities.

The conference was Dec. 6 to 10. The council members were in Charlotte Dec. 5 to 11.

The final total for the trip was not complete as of Thursday because some receipts hadn't been submitted, City Clerk Donna K. Spickler said.

The expenses so far are:

$355 per person for registration, for a total of $1,065

$181.90 per person for airfare, for a total of $545.70

$742.32 per room, for a total of $1,484.64 (Parson-McBean stayed in one room; to save money, Cromer and Nigh shared a second room)

$300 per person in advance for meals, for a total of $900.

The grand total so far comes to $3,995.34.

During the conference, Cromer said the council members were unlikely to use all of the meal money because they were eating inexpensively.

Spickler said Thursday that the council members hadn't submitted meal receipts yet.

On Wednesday, the city offered to release records of the expenses, in response to a Maryland Public Information Act request The Herald-Mail filed Dec. 8. The Herald-Mail reviewed the records Thursday.

Despite Metzner's offer, the city hasn't decided how to pay for the nearly $1,000 beyond the $3,000 in the three council expense accounts, Spickler said.

Records reviewed Thursday also show that the city paid $3,621 this year to join the National League of Cities for two years.

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