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Willow Creek MD council plans $20,000 retreat at Lethbridge hotel

ALICIA FOX – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
At a price tag of $20,000, MD of Willow Creek councillors will head to a retreat to discuss by-law amendments and a variety of other topics.
Chief administrative officer Cynthia Vizzutti presented the options for the retreat to council on Sept. 8, advising the $20,000 expected cost is about the going rate for a three-day retreat of this magnitude.
Vizzutti recommended Deborah Howes, who comes highly recommended and is a skilled mediator.
While Howes comes at a cost of $2,750 per day, not including her hotel expenses, Vizzutti suggested Howes would be an excellent person for the job.
“She is definitely the Cadillac, but it’s all going to run about $10,000 for a facilitator for three days,” Vizzutti said in her presentation to council.
Trained to pull out thoughts and conversation, the facilitator would be responsible for keeping the days on track, the discussions informed and well-thought-out, and the legal ramifications considered.
“Deborah Howes is a lawyer and has years of experience reviewing documents like this,” Vizzutti said, adding she would be able to tell councillors if their recommended amendments to by-laws were legal or what the recommended course of action could be. “She will not drive the outcome. She makes you think.”
Other considerations for mediators would have perhaps been cheaper, but during their conversations councilors favoured Howes.
Other discussions focused on where the retreat would be held.
Vizzutti presented several options, from Kananaskis to Waterton to two different locations in Lethbridge.
While the Lethbridge Lodge was marginally cheaper, councilors elected to stay at the Coast Inn and Plaza as opposed to traveling to Kananaskis or Waterton where the prices would have been significantly higher.
Aside from each councilor attending the retreat, others present will include Vizzutti; Oldman River Regional Services Commission senior planner Mike Burla; manager of planning and development Gail Gibeau; assistant agricultural fieldman Carla Preachuk; and superintendent of public works Roy Johnson.
It was decided there would be 13 people planning to spend the night in Lethbridge for three nights, with most people coming down on Sunday, Nov. 1 so they could start bright and early Monday morning.
Fifteen people would be staying two nights as councillors Maryanne Sandberg and John Kroetsch would drive down on Monday since they lived close enough to Lethbridge to do so.
The retreat days will run Nov. 2-4 and councillors were told to be prepared to work hard.
“Be prepared to spend long days,” Vizzutti cautioned. “Get your rest. At the end of your day, you’re tired. She (Howes) will pull everything out of you, because it’s her job to do that.”

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