A trek to Montana — funded at the expense of taxpayers | ParkRecord.com

A trek to Montana — funded at the expense of taxpayers

The annual Park City trek to other communities in the West is scheduled to visit the Bozeman, Mont., region in September, the second time in eight years organizers have selected the college town and New West city as the destination.

The trip, known as the City Tour, is planned even as local governments such as City Hall face some of the tightest budgets in years. The municipal government and other public-sector entities like Summit County normally send people on the trip at the expense of taxpayers. They say the trips provide new ideas and opportunities for people on the trip to mingle in a setting outside of their day-to-day lives.

Myles Rademan, the longtime organizer of the trips, said he expects between 50 and 65 people to attend, roughly the same number that have been on previous trips. He said there are normally between 10 and 15 trip-goers representing a government entity. Their trips are usually funded with taxpayer money.

This year’s trip is estimated to cost approximately $650 per person, meaning the cost to taxpayers would be upward of $6,500 if 10 officials travel using public money. Other taxpayer-funded entities that are either invited or that have sent people on the trips in the past include the Park City School District and the Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District.

City Hall is normally represented well, with elected officials, staffers and members of boards and commissions attending.

A roster of people planning to attend the trip has not been compiled. It typically draws members of the current class of Leadership Park City, which is a yearlong program meant to encourage activism, businesspeople and not-for-profit leaders in addition to the government officials. The Leadership Park City class normally attends in high numbers, with the members paying their own way.

The trip is slated from Sept. 8 until Sept. 12, the same length as previous City Tours. Rademan said he plans to make stops in outlying places along with Bozeman, possibly in Livingston, Mont., which is a small city east of Bozeman, and Yellowstone National Park. Rademan said he wants to schedule a time to visit Ted Turner, the television mogul and philanthropist, at Turner’s Montana ranch. He said he has contacted Turner’s representatives, but a visit to the ranch has not yet been finalized.

Rademan last took the trip to Bozeman in 2002. That year also included a visit to Livingston. During the 2002 trip, the group heard from officials in the two cities, activists and a representative from Yellowstone.

The people on the trip that year heard about the small-town lifestyle of Livingston and the college-town hipness of Bozeman, home to Montana State University.

"You can get mauled by a grizzly bear and drink a cappuccino on the same day," Dennis Glick, a staffer at a not-for-profit dedicated to growth management, told some of the people on the 2002 trip during the stop in Livingston.

That year’s trip also included tours of recreation facilities, a side trip by some to the nearby Big Sky Resort ski mountain and an afternoon of river rafting.

The interest in this year’s trip is difficult to gauge. It has received little publicity and the organizers have not started registering people. Signups are usually done a few months before the trip.

Budgets throughout the public sector, the private sector and among not-for-profit groups, though, are tight, meaning that some might be hesitant to spend the money to send someone on the trip. City Hall, meanwhile, is amid the toughest budget talks in years as Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council consider whether to raise property taxes for the first time in at least 20 years.

Candy Erickson, a City Councilwoman who has been on approximately 10 of the City Tours, mostly during her three terms in office, called the City Tour a "worthwhile trip." She cited ideas about pay-for-performance plans and a citizen board involved with the police as coming from the trips.

She said she will likely pay her own way in 2010 but added, though, certain City Hall staffers should be sent on the trip at the expense of taxpayers.

"I think that the tour is an excellent learning opportunity as well as an ability to see how other towns operate and learn from them," Erickson said, adding, "We’re stupid not to steal from the best."

Trekking through the West

The annual City Tour has made stops in numerous cities across the West, with all the locations within a day’s drive of Park City.

Organizers have selected small mountain resorts similar to Park City and medium-sized cities. This year’s trip is scheduled to visit Bozeman, Mont., and its environs in September.

Some of the past destinations, listed by state, include:

Colorado: Vail, Aspen, Grand Junction, Steamboat, Telluride, Durango and Crested Butte.

Montana: Missoula, Helena, West Yellowstone, Bozeman, Livingston

Arizona: Flagstaff, Sedona, Jerome

Nevada: Reno, Lake Tahoe

Idaho: Boise, McCall, Ketchum, Sun Valley

Wyoming: Jackson

New Mexico: Santa Fe, Taos

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