Editor's Note: Welcome to the Paper Trail, a new blog where Observer reporters will share the memos and other documents that help explain stories making headlines in local government.
$13.50 for a bowl of buttered popcorn. $69.95 a head for a BBQ dinner buffet. $2.75 for bottles of water.
Those are some of the highlights of invoices detailing the $9,598 that Mecklenburg County spent for food and food service at the two-day retreat for county commissioners held in January at the Lodge at Ballantyne Resort. Click here to see the documents. The Bissell Company, which owns the Lodge, donated accommodations for the retreat.
County Manager Harry Jones discussed the tab for the annual retreat Friday in his weekly memo to commissioners. Jones said he had been questioned by a reporter about the cost of the retreat.
As the Observer reported Sunday, Jones wrote the county decided to pay for the food to avoid the appearance of any wrong doing in accepting the free accommodations from the Bissell company.
Jones defended the food costs, noting the board developed rapport with colleagues and decided to defer a bond sale that officials said would save $18 million in debt payments next year.
The $9,598 covered five meals, plus various drinks and snacks for 28 people: commissioners, county staff and retreat facilities, according to invoices obtained Monday by the Paper Trail. It also included taxes and a 22 percent service charge for the meals, which were catered from the resort.
A comparison of the county’s invoices and the catering menu on the Ballantyne Resort’s Web site shows the county was charged the regular price for its food. The company also requires a minimum number of guests for its buffet-style meals.
For example, the Carolina BBQ buffet, which the county purchased for the Thursday dinner at the retreat, requires at least 40 guests. The total tab for the dinner, including taxes and a service charge was $3,689.03.
What did they get for that? Well, the menu includes lemon and herb baked salmon cakes and BBQ beef short ribs, salads, and red velvet cake, among other things. APRIL BETHEA