Waste Management spent $17,053.66 on 3-day retreat

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ST. CROIX - A three-day retreat that the V.I. Waste Management Authority board and senior managers took on St. Croix in January cost taxpayers more than $17,000.

That figure includes round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations for those who traveled from St. Thomas; catering for lunch, dinner and refreshments; the cost of the meeting room and certain business services; facilitator fees; materials and prizes for a team-building activity; and stenographer services for the board's annual meeting.

It also includes presents commemorating the Waste Management Authority's 10th anniversary that the board and agency managers gifted themselves.

The expenses for the retreat at the Arawak Bay Inn at Salt River from Jan. 22 to 24 totaled $17,053.66, according to figures provided by the V.I. Waste Management Authority in response to a Daily News public records request.

$2,200 in gifts

According to the information Waste Management provided, the breakdown for expenses was:

- Round-trip airfare from St. Thomas to St. Croix for 12 people, including three board members, an assistant, seven managers and the facilitator for the retreat was $1,975.

- Hotel accommodations for 10 people for three days and two people for two days at a "local" rate was $5,622.75. Breakfast was included.

- Catering services for three days for all participants, which includes the St. Thomas and the St. Croix board members and management teams, as well as the facilitator, was $2,950.

- The meeting room and services with audio-visual materials, such as projectors, flip charts, markers, the printing of documents, wireless internet and phone calls were included.

- The facilitator fee, at $1,250 per day for two days, was $2,500.

- The commemorative gifts were $2,206.47.

- Materials and prizes for a team-building activity were $426.94

- Per diem payments for the board were $375.

- Stenographer services for the board annual meeting, which occurred at the end of the retreat, were $897.50

- Audio equipment setup was $100.

An exercise in engaging

Waste Management Authority Executive Director May Adams-Cornwall said she thinks the retreat was important for building capacity and training and having managers and the board interact and talk about how they want to see the agency move forward.

"This one was particularly important for us, because we realize with the situation with finances and resources that our priority goals must match up with the strategic direction of the authority," she said. "We felt like we needed the board to engage with us about what the strategic direction should be."

According to information Waste Management provided, all five board members - board chairman and Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls, Dodson James, LaVerne Ragster, Valdamier Collens and Norberto Rosado - attended the retreat, along with a Waste Management employee who is assigned to the board. Fourteen Waste Management staff members, comprising executive and senior management, also attended, along with the facilitator.

Adams-Cornwall said that board members and staff who live on St. Croix spent the nights at home, rather than at the Arawak.

"We just came in every morning," she said, noting that she she did not think that it was necessary for everyone to stay at the inn. "I don't think it makes sense to do that, unless it's some far, far place. This was accessible."

Gifts and prizes

The Waste Management Authority 10th anniversary commemorative gifts that all participants received included embossed portfolios and portable speaker devices with USB ports, Adams-Cornwall said.

The prizes and materials for team-building exercises included prizes and materials for a team scavenger hunt and for charades, Adams-Cornwall said.

The facilitator for the retreat was Haldane Davies from the University of the Virgin Islands, she said.

The per diem amount of $75 per day was paid to the two non-governmental board members, Ragster and Rosado, Adams-Cornwall said. The three others, government employees, are not eligible for the per diem, according to V.I. Code, and are paid their regular salary when they are on board business.

Staying focused

Adams-Cornwall said that because cell phone service was spotty at the retreat, those attending had to focus on the business at hand.

"It kept everyone focused. No one got any calls during that meeting. I think that was important," she said.

The topics discussed during the retreat centered on planning and how participants envision the agency in 10 years, according to the agenda. There was also a session on board committee structure.

Cornwall said they also discussed priority goals and objectives for the upcoming fiscal year and building the agency's business strategy.

"We need to know which goals and objectives are rising to the top, because the money is limited," she said.

One of the priorities is putting a strategic plan together, Cornwall said, adding that she is in the process of getting proposals for that.

Additionally, the retreat also involved some training with the board, according to Cornwall.

'Money well-spent'

Cornwall said she thinks the $17,000 was money well-spent and said that the retreat was less expensive than it would be to send people out of the territory for training and capacity-building.

"For the small amount that that represents of a total budget of an organization our size, if you were to take that same money and try to send the same amount of people out to be trained the same amount, you'd spend four or five times the amount of money," she said.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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