Port of Olympia Commissioner Morris questions purpose of ‘road show’ port meetings

Port of Olympia Commissioner Michelle Morris.
Port of Olympia Commissioner Michelle Morris. Michelle Morris

Since 2010, the Port of Olympia commission has taken its commission meetings on the road during the summer months, visiting the communities of Yelm, Rainier, Tenino and Bucoda.

But Port of Olympia Commissioner Michelle Morris on Thursday questioned whether those gatherings were meeting their original goals. She said the meetings are poorly attended, and there are travel costs associated with setting up meetings in outlying communities.

“Why do we do it, and is it working?” she asked the commission during its work session.

Commissioner Bill McGregor said the original goal was to get out to those communities rather than always forcing those residents to travel to Olympia to address the commission.

Commissioner George Barner echoed McGregor’s comments, saying the goal was to “establish some rapport with those communities.”

The port has provided grant funds to those communities in the past, so there was an “expectation to have interaction with that community,” Barner added.

Morris suggested some alternatives: A commissioner could attend a council meeting in one of those communities, perhaps as often as monthly. Or port Executive Director Ed Galligan could attend those meetings, she said.

Galligan said Thursday that he was receptive to the idea.

Morris also is concerned that there’s a community perception that the port deliberately schedules important decisions at those poorly attended meetings. Morris doesn’t share that belief, she said, but she acknowledged that the perception exists.

Olympia resident Bev Bassett, who frequently attends port meetings, said some in the community do feel that the port takes advantage of those on-the-road meetings.

“That’s absolutely false,” McGregor said.

However, he acknowledged that the commission will take action to update the state Environmental Policy Act as it relates to the port when the commission meets in Tenino on Monday (Sept. 28).

The port has been working on the SEPA update for two years, but did not arrange to take action on the SEPA update in Tenino, McGregor said.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403