WALLA WALLA -- Major changes are in store for Port of Walla Walla meetings in 2012.
Port commissioners said they will invest in audio equipment to record their minutes. They also are shooting to decrease the length of their meetings and relocate all their work sessions to the port's administrative office.
The changes were agreed to during a daylong budget retreat earlier this week.
The cost of the equipment and reconfiguration of the port's meeting room to make the changes will not be cheap, said Commission President Mike Fredrickson.
Port officials have tentatively budgeted $100,000 to buy equipment and to redesign the room at the administrative office, 310 A St. But he believes based on attendance at meetings few people will likely turn to the digital recordings to listen to the meetings.
"I'm just frustrated," Fredrickson said. "Is it really worth $100,000 to rearrange our meeting room so that can happen?"
He said he is skeptical residents will use the recordings. However, he said he did not speak out against recording meetings at Monday's meeting.
The retreat came on the heels of a re-election campaign in which Fredrickson's opponent, Barlow Corkrum, and Corkrum's supporters criticized the economic development agency about its transparency and said the port should do more to engage the public. Fredrickson said he believes the port already operates openly and that the cost associated with the new recordings is a big expense to satisfy a relative minority.
"The frustrations are the accusations without basis," he said. "If people want to sit in their own home and listen to it on a Tuesday night, great."
Numerous details about how the port will record meetings still would need to be determined, commissioners said.
The changes largely were championed by Commissioner Paul Schneidmiller, who said this morning that he has been wanting to make the change for the past three or so years.
He said commissioners plan to record the regular, twice-monthly port meetings. Whether they will include work sessions is not yet known. Port officials also haven't determined whether they will record Economic Development Advisory Committee minutes. Those meetings take place six times a year and are attended by about 50 or 60 business representativess from the community.
In addition to the minutes, Fredrickson, Schneidmiller and fellow Commissioner Ron Dunning also agreed to shoot for shorter meetings. The length of port meetings has averaged five or six hours each. Though commissioners often move items on the agenda to accommodate either special guests at their meetings or those interested in a certain topic, the length of the meetings may deter some from attending for the duration.
Schneidmiller said commissioners are going to try to keep the meetings at three hours. Fredrickson said he's not sure whether that will be possible.
Meeting times will change slightly. The work sessions that run the hour before the regular sessions no longer will take place offsite. In the past, work sessions were at restaurants and conducted over meals.
Now they will take place at the administrative office and lead right into the regular session. Meetings still will be on the second and fourth Thursdays. One of those still will be in the afternoon and the other in the evening.
The evening work session would likely begin at 6 p.m. with the regular session at 7. The afternoon meetings would kick off with a 1 p.m. work session and 2 p.m. regular session.