The Prince George's County Council is spending $10,000 to $15,000 for a two-night retreat on the Eastern Shore this week. Ingrid Turner, chairwoman of the County Council, said she chose to spend more money on this year's retreat, even as the county faces a $77 million shortfall next fiscal year, to help council members avoid distractions.

"We wanted to be able to focus," she explained, "and if you get far enough away where you're not getting the day-to-day calls, you can really focus and concentrate."

The council's two-night retreat will begin Monday, about 90 minutes away from the council's Upper Marlboro offices at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa & Marina in Cambridge.

The cost of the retreat is more than what it cost the council last year, she said, when a one-day retreat was held inside the county borders at the historic

Newton White Mansion in Mitchellville. But Turner says a thorough outing was not needed last year, in comparison to this year, when five new council members are starting the beginning of a four-year term.

One resident not happy about the retreat, first reported by the Gazette, is activist Jennifer Harris, who lives in Accokeek. "The reason I believe Ms. Turner can get away with justifying this kind of expense is quite frankly because no one is going to be quite outraged enough to come and complain about it in loud and strong enough numbers for them to change their ways," she said.

Harris suggested the county ask each member to pay his or her own way to attend. She said she thought fewer members would still want to stay at the resort in that case.

"That would make them think about it from the taxpayer perspective, rather than from the perspective they're coming from," she said.

Turner said the finances of the event are being handled responsibly; the council is staying at the resort on a government-discounted rate, she said, and it is booking speakers who are willing to speak for free. Only "essential" staff will attend, though Turner said she couldn't give an exact number of how many will be there.

According to an agenda, the retreat will include discussions like "what stimulates the economy to create jobs and bring in revenue for counties" and seminars on topics such as open-meetings law. Council members also will have a dinner meeting with County Executive Rushern Baker.

Turner said the Cambridge resort was the least expensive choice given to her by the county's finance office. Guests at the 400-acre Maryland Eastern Shore hotel can enjoy activities like spa treatments or swimming in the indoor pool, according to its Web site.