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If you haven’t heard, the Rome City Commission went on a retreat. The resort is a three hour drive away at the Forrest Hills Mountain Resort and Conference Center near Amicalola Falls.
It’s the first time the commission has gone farther than Polk County for a retreat since the recession began in 2008. The resort is nestled in the Chattahoochee National Forest and lies somewhere between Ellijay and Dahlonega.
Food was provided as part of the two day and one night stay package for approximately 15 people. So far, at least social media commenters estimate, it was the lap of luxury.
Diane Wagner, who normally covers government, tried her hand at lifestyle coverage and gave a review of the resort — while it was OK, it was no Winshape (located on Berry College’s campus).
Let us also point out that one Rome City Commissioner, Evie McNiece, declined to stay at the resort overnight. Diane Wagner didn’t either but she wasn’t invited, so no report on the rooms themselves.
It’s important to remember that while this is a retreat, it’s still open to the public. Some people have a tendency to forget journalists are only members of the public and we have more self-imposed responsibilities but no additional rights.
The total cost of the retreat, covering approximately 15 people staying one night, as well as their food and beverages, was a whopping $3,133.
Here comes the math (journalists are notoriously bad at this subject, but we’ll give it a go). $3,133 divided by approximately 15 equals just over $200 per person.
That’s actually not bad, price-wise.
The purpose of a retreat is to really get a deep dive into a number of topics without interruption and maybe get some team building along the way. It’s not a bad idea, but the backlash on social media is one of perception.
The problem is what people perceive as the truth is often more important to them than the actual truth.
In this case, they perceive that their local government officials are going elsewhere to conduct their business. Shady or no, the fact is they spent local money in another county when we spend tax dollars to try and bring tourists here to Rome and Floyd County.
Also, from our perspective, the farther away our local government goes to conduct discussions, the harder it is to cover and report on those discussions. We’re certainly hoping that thought didn’t come into play when determining the location of the retreat.
Now, the Rome City School Board is headed over to the Forrest Hills Resort as well. However, they may need to begin saving up some of their money to purchase school buses and hire drivers if the transit agreement with the City of Rome falls through.
The GDOT recommendation came despite the fact the school system and city have successfully worked under a mutually beneficial transit agreement for the past 35 years.
The move by the GDOT hearkens back to the words of former President Ronald Reagan, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”