Dining on your dime: Basalt goes easy on the chow
BASALT ” The Basalt government spent $11,715.64 on meals in 2008, with about half of that feeding Town Council and planning commission members at dinnertime meetings, according to public records.
A report provided by the town’s finance department showed $5,396.56 was spent last year to provide meals during regular meetings, work sessions and retreats for the council and planning commission. Meetings for both boards typically start at 5 or 6 p.m., so members don’t have an opportunity to go home and eat after their day jobs.
The town government takes out food from a variety of restaurants in Basalt and feeds the elected and appointed officials in Town Hall.
In addition to the money spent on food for official meetings, town employees or elected officials tallied $4,766.57 at Basalt establishments for food expenses while on government business last year, the report showed. That expenditure also included items like coffee or snacks purchased for citizen committee or public feedback sessions, the records show.
The remaining $1,552.51 spent on food last year was part of the per diems submitted by employees while out of town for training or other official business, according to the report.
Basalt employees don’t have purchase cards like city of Aspen employees. Those cards, held by the majority of Aspen employees, allow workers to charge expenses without going through a prior approval process. They work like debit cards on the City Hall account.
The Basalt employee handbook allows employees to use their personal credit card for expenses, then turn in a request for reimbursement or they can get a per diem allowance in advance to a trip for training or other business. The per diem was $38 last year. It was hiked to $47 this year, according to Basalt Finance Director Judi Tippetts.
A report prepared by Tippetts showed the town government spreads it orders among restaurants for meals for the council and planning commission meetings. Food was purchased from 27 establishments for the meetings in 2008. Only three establishments were from outside Basalt town limits, and the orders purchased from them were modest.
The town government spent the most money at City Market for its meals for meetings. The bill there was $1,873.53 last year. Other large expenditures were made at Val’s Gourmet, $1,616.63; Timbo’s Pizza, $982.73; Taqueria el Nopal, $742.95; Smoke, $745.19; Cuvee, $781.43; Cafe Bernard, $780.82; and Clark’s Market, $582.46.
Employees who sought reimbursement for meals purchased in Basalt while on official business also spread the wealth, a scan of the finance department report shows. Reimbursement was typically sought in scenarios where two or more employees met for lunch to discuss a business issue. Former Town Manager Bill Efting, for example, sought reimbursement for expenses incurred when he met with other town staff members or town consultants. Expenses were typically under $50.
The town’s food budget also included purchases made when citizen committees were convened, or when an official body like the Mud and Flood Task Force, which includes police and fire department officials, met in the spring to discuss how to prepare for potential flooding.
When employees dined while out-of-town on training or other government business, they generally hit more humble establishments rather than big-name restaurants. Trips to Applebee’s, Arby’s, Taco Bell, Village Inn and Wendy’s for modest amounts were common. One employee also hit a Hooters.
There were a handful of reimbursements sought for dinners at finer restaurants, such as the ChopHouse and Maggiano’s Little Italy in Denver.
No single request for reimbursement from an employee topped $50, the report showed.
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