OLYMPIA - The Port of Olympia's 43 employees can now cash out earned vacation time if they choose and donate the money to support relief efforts in Japan after the devastating earthquake and tidal waves that destroyed parts of northern Japan.
The program was approved Thursday at the port commission’s study session and was unanimously supported by Commissioners George Barner, Jeff Davis and Bill McGregor. Port Finance Director Kevin Ferguson presented the motion to the commission Thursday.
“We have a number of customers in that country (Japan) and so, to not support them as best we can, I think, is inappropriate,” Ferguson told the commission.
Japan has become a regular destination for ships from the port because of its relationship with the Federal Way-based timber company Weyerhaeuser, which exports logs through Olympia’s port and is the port’s largest log-yard tenant. So far this year, six ships have loaded logs at the port; four of those were bound for Japan, marine terminal director Jim Amador said Friday.
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The two other ships went to destinations in China and likely were Pacific Lumber & Shipping customers. Pacific Lumber, which also operates on the port’s log yard, is a division of the Port Blakely Cos. of Seattle.
The port expects 24 to 29 ship visits this year, Amador added. The most recent ship to visit the port was the Lavieen Rose, which departed this week for Hiro, Japan, with 5.7 million board feet of Weyerhaeuser logs.
As part of the policy adopted Thursday, employees are allowed to cash out up to 40 hours of earned vacation time. If every employee opts to participate in the program and cashes out 40 hours, the port could raise about $60,000 for relief efforts, Ferguson said after the meeting. Before adopting the measure, though, the commission wanted to make sure the program would not run afoul of the state Auditor’s Office. It will not as long as the employees are donating the money and not the port, Ferguson told the commission.
He also said the donation program is similar to an existing port program, which allows employees to cash out earned vacation time in the event of an emergency.
This is not the first time port employees have donated money to a charitable cause. Every year port employees vote to donate money to three organizations. Last year, they donated $4,240 to Community Youth Services, Safeplace and the Thurston County Food Bank. They also donated food to the food bank, port spokeswoman Kathleen White said.
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