Commissioners in Reno say the trip's well worth the cost

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A few Augusta commissioners are away at a national convention in Reno. Some who stayed behind say those who went are setting a bad example with your money.

Commissioners traveling to conventions is nothing new, but after just voting to cut millions, including jobs, from the budget, some feel this wasn't the best time to take a trip on the taxpayers' dime.

But those who are in Reno say they went because it's a trip that was already budgeted...and so far they say it's been worth it.

Reno, Nevada has been dubbed the biggest small city.

Right now, it's where leaders from across the country are for the National League of Cities convention.

That includes Augusta commissioners Marion Williams, Betty Beard, and Calvin Holland.

All 10 commissioners could have taken the 5 day trip, but some didn't, feeling it would set a bad example.

"When you look at all the cuts we did make and then the commission's budget was increased $28,000, I think that sends a bad signal," said Commissioner Joe Bowles.

Last week the board voted to cut millions of dollars from next year's budget in the form of layoffs and cuts to transit and recreation.

This conference is costing taxpayers $2,000 per commissioner.

Calvin Holland told us by phone he decided to go because the trip was already budgeted and says it's money well spent.

"People are here from all over the country," he said. "We're here about business; we're not out partying and having a good time. I don't have time for that. I'm a dedicated person."

Marion Williams says he got flack when he went to a conference in Hawaii, but says he wasn't going to let that keep him home.

"Each time we come, we learn something," he said. "Most people don't want you to learn anything. They don't want you to educate yourself so you can do a good job."

Some say not going would have been a sacrifice.

"We should set the tone for what needs to be done in business, in this way, and we're not doing that," said Commissioner Jimmy Smith.

Those out West say their offering is the knowledge they'll bring back to a struggling city.

"What we're doing is trying to bring back info to Augusta to make Augusta better," Holland said. "We don't have the time for partying and having a good time."

If commissioners are attending these seminars in Reno, perhaps they may be helpful. The topics include Building Bridges, about working together; Parliamentary Procedure; Working with the Media; and Budgeting with the People, about learning how to get citizens involved in the budget process.

We were not able to reach Betty Beard.