Their three-day business meeting begins at noon today and runs through Friday.
The retreat is an annual event designed to give council members information on everything from the County Charter to the budget to the business of boards and commissions, said Susan Long, the council’s legal and operations administrator.
It’s also a bit of “Getting to Know You,” as the old song goes.
The seven-member council has three new faces this year – Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, Rick Talbert, D-Tacoma, and Stan Flemming, R-University Place.
The retreat provides a relaxed setting in which council members and staff members can get better acquainted with each other and with the issues before them, Long said.
The cost of the event, which runs through Friday, won’t be available until all the bills are in, but a similar retreat at the same location cost around $5,300 last year, Long said. She expects the bill to around the same for the 2011 version.
Ccouncilmembers staying overnight pay for their own rooms, she added.
The council does, however, buy rooms for a handful of staff members.
So why drive 53 miles away from the County-City Building – and out of Pierce County – for meetings?
It’s a matter of focus, Long said.
“What we’ve found is if they’re in town, they’re very close to our offices, to their phones, to their constituents, they can set up meetings, they can take calls,” she explained. “It’s helpful to us as staff to have the council members kind of held hostage where they can’t go back to their office or grab a call. … We get some really, good solid focused time for issues on our agenda.”
Over the three days, the council will discuss both shortrange and longrange goals and proposed legislation for the coming year; they’ll look at every council committee and its work plan; get an update on bills in the Legislature that might affect the county; talk about governance and performance audits, Long said. Each councilmember will present his or her plans, priorities and concerns about issues in their councilmanic district, she added.
Long expects a lot of work and planning will be done over the next three days. And the cost is moderate, she said, because Alderbrook – though a an award-winning, upscale facility – “has a great government rate.”
“I think the benefit of that good, solid, focused time outweighs, for us, anyway, trying to stay a little closer to home and risking distractions that kind of draw us away from our topics,” she said.