Some of Prince William County’s town officials also attend the Virginia Municipal League’s fall conference. They say they benefit from the training provided and from learning from others who attend.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to see and understand what we are supposed to be doing as town officials,” said Dumfries Mayor Melvin “Mel” Bray.
Last year, the town of Dumfries spent $7,345.25 to send its police chief, town manager and six of its seven council members.
“We all volunteer,” Bray said. “Who will attend depends on who is available.”
The town paid the conference registration fee for all eight as well as meals and hotel rooms for six people. Two of those who attended the meeting in Norfolk did not stay overnight, said Retta Ladd, Dumfries town treasurer.
Registration cost $2,266.50. Three nights stay in a hotel cost $3,398.53 and meals totaled $1,267.40.
The total cost of $7,345.25 also included $412.82 for mileage submitted by one council member and mileage and per diem submitted by the town manager.
This year, six council members and the town manager are planning to attend the conference later this month.
Again the town will pay the $275 registration fee for all those attending, totaling $1,925; three nights stay at a hotel costing $418.11 a person for a total of $2,926.77; and the $21 optional dinner that all will attend, costing $147.
Additionally, each will receive $42 per diem totaling $882. Those who decide to bring their spouse are responsible for paying for their meals, said Dumfries Town Manager John Barkley.
The total cost of this year’s conference to the town of Dumfries is projected to be $5,880.77.
Bray said the money is well spent.
“There are lots of training sessions and workshops,” he said.
Networking with other town leaders also is beneficial. “We often find that we have common problems,” Bray said. “We sit down over lunch and we talk about these things.”
Many of the Dumfries Town Council members also participate in various VML committees that concentrate on such topics as new state laws, finance, health and education.
The Dumfries Town Council is planning a retreat shortly after the VML conference so it can discuss what it learned, Bray said.
While the smaller towns of Haymarket and Quantico are not sending any of their officials to the fall conference, two people from Occoquan plan to attend and did so last year as well.
Last year the town paid $974.84. Town officials expect to spend about the same amount this year.
Occoquan Town Council-woman Bobbie Frank and Town Treasurer Win Frank will attend the conference. Bobbie and Win Frank are married.
While the town pays Bobbie Frank’s expenses, Win Frank pays his own way, said Claudia Cruise, town administrator and clerk.
Last year, the town paid Bobbie Frank’s registration fee of $275, three nights hotel stay and parking costing $494.50 as well as meal and mileage totally $205.34. The couple opted for valet parking for an additional $15.
“Win [Frank] paid for the valet parking himself,” Cruise said. “I don’t think our people are taking advantage of the town at all.”
It is unclear why the total cost figure provided last week to The Potomac News and the Manassas Journal-Messenger by town officials are different from the total costs provided to the Richmond Times-Dispatch several months ago.
Some of the totals may have edged up or down since the cities, towns and counties provided them, because of late repayments or reimbursement requests.