ASTORIA, Ore. -- A delegation from Astoria returned this week from a visit to a sister city in Germany and was greeted with objections to the expense.
Forty-one people visited Walldorf on a five-day trip that ended Wednesday, the Daily Astorian reported.
At a cost of $1,800 for each, the city paid airfare for the mayor, four members of the City Council, the city manager and the president of the sister city committee.
"It's just the audacity of it," one resident, Leon Jackson told the Daily Astorian. "It's just really in your face."
He said it would be OK if just the mayor went but to send the whole group of city officials was a bad decision. The money could be better used reinstating city positions cut under budget restraints or fixing a street, he said.
Maurie Hendrickson said traffic hazards in Astoria go unaddressed and noted that others on the trip paid their own way.
"There are a bunch of students that just went to Walldorf and they had to raise their own money to get there," he said.
The trip marked the 50th anniversary of the sister city relationship and the 250th birthday of John Jacob Astor, who was from Walldorf and the namesake of Astoria. Walldorf is near Heidelberg in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg.
The city didn't pay fares for spouses of City Council members, or for the other participants, including Paulette McCoy, bicentennial director, and Jim Pierce, the former Oregon State trooper who chaperoned Astoria High School exchange students who raised money to go on the trip.
The city of Walldorf paid for the group's lodging at Holiday Inn, as well as for meals and transportation, Mayor Willis Van Dusen said.
"We have discussed this as a team and we completely understand this," Van Dusen said. "In fact, each one of us, before we were on the council, questioned previous councils on the importance of our sister city relationship. All five of us agree that this trip was important and the city money that was used was justified."
The airfare money came from the city's Promote Astoria Fund, funded by a lodging tax, and its use was discussed in open meetings and also during the budget process, Van Dusen said.
Bruce Conner, chairman of the sister city committee and owner of Sundial Travel and Cruise Center, booked the tickets. He said the city saved more than 35 percent by ordering early through his company.
"The city got the lowest fare," he said. "They were able to take advantage of the lowest prices available."
Information from: The Daily Astorian, http://www.dailyastorian.com
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