The Port of Olympia commission, staff and a consultant gathered at Alderbook Resort on Hood Canal last month, hoping to get away for two days to talk and mend the relationship between commissioners and other port personnel.
The meeting was open to the public.
The decision to meet in Union also cost the port some money, according to a public records request filed by The Olympian. Records show that the port spent close to $9,000 on March 29-30.
A breakdown of the main costs:
▪ Food and meeting room: $2,344.62.
▪ Lodging: $2,897.70.
▪ Consultant: $3,600.00.
The decision to hire a consultant to improve the working relationship of the commission, staff and executive director was spearheaded by Commissioner Joe Downing last year. Commissioner E.J. Zita also voiced support for the plan, particularly after some contentious work sessions between the three commissioners in the fall.
But the decision to hold the special meeting at Alderbrook came as a surprise to some after it was announced at the end of a port commission meeting March 27.
The consultant, Wendy Fraser of Fraser Consulting LLC of Olympia, recommended the port commission meet where they could get down to work with no distractions, said Jeri Sevier at the time, the port’s human resource and administrative manager.
The commissioners were asked about the meetings and the decision to go to Alderbrook Resort after Monday night’s commission meeting.
“The first thing is that it was hard work,” Downing said about the special meeting, “and there is a value associated with hard work.”
He also said that it sometimes makes sense to get off premises to get some good thinking done.
“I think we made some headway,” said Commissioner Bill McGregor about the meetings.
Now, we just need to follow through on what we discussed, he said.
But Zita said she’s not sure the costs outweighed the benefits. Not only was there a financial cost, but there was a cost to transparency by having the special meeting at a place that is “nominally open to the public.”
“It wouldn’t have been my choice,” she said about Alderbrook Resort. “(The meetings) would have been cheaper and more open.”
“There were people who spoke openly about some personal things they probably wouldn’t have spoken about, and maybe that was useful,” she said. “I’m not sure it was or not.”
“The proof will be in the pudding,” she added about the outcome of those meetings. “I hope that I will see it pay off in greater civility and a better working relationship.”
The port commission is set to have a follow-up discussion about the Alderbrook meetings at noon May 1 at the commission’s usual meeting location, Percival Plaza (Olympics Room), 626 Columbia Street NW, Suite 1-B, Olympia.