The Ashland City Council has decided not to pay thousands of dollars for a facilitator to help with an annual goal-setting session.

The Ashland City Council has decided not to pay thousands of dollars for a facilitator to help with an annual goal-setting session.

At a meeting earlier this month, a majority of councilors voiced opposition to the idea of a paid facilitator.

"The cost, to me, doesn't make sense," Councilor Greg Lemhouse said.

City Councilors, Mayor John Stromberg and some city of Ashland staff members will meet on Jan. 23, 2010 for the annual council goal-setting session.

City Administrator Martha Bennett estimated the cost of a facilitator at $2,500 to $3,500.

Facilitator Stephen Bryant of Albany billed the city of Ashland $3,074.80 for about a week of work that included preparing for and facilitating an April goal-setting session.

Bennett said that if there is any year when the council could set goals without a facilitator, 2010 would be a good year because much of the work will involve updating goals, rather than setting new ones. Also, she noted, there will be no new people on the council in 2010.

No council seats were up for election in November.

Back in April, Mayor John Stromberg and Councilors Carol Voisin and Greg Lemhouse were relative newcomers, having taken office in January.

Councilors Kate Jackson and Eric Navickas were in the minority in saying they wanted a paid facilitator for the 2010 goal-setting session.

Ideas for who might facilitate the session, at no extra cost to the city, included the mayor and the city administrator.

"It's harder for the person who's facilitating to take part," Jackson said.

Current council goals include reducing fire danger in the Ashland Watershed, ensuring the financial health of the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department, strengthening the local economy, studying the issue of homelessness in town and replacing Fire Station No. 2.

The amount the city has spent on work related to annual council goal-setting sessions has varied widely in the past several years, according to figures provided by the city.

In 2005, the city spent $1,218.70. The figure rose to $6,780 in 2006 and to $7,158.87 in 2007. Then it fell to $2,512.50 in 2008, compared to the $3,074.80 spent for this year.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.