Port of Siuslaw will include more public input starting Nov. 29

Commissioners believe meeting will begin an open discussion on the future of the port

Saturday, Nov. 18 — The Port of Siuslaw Board of Commissioners made an open call to the community during Wednesday’s meeting, requesting input on the future of the port.

The upcoming public comment meeting, which will be held Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 5 p.m. at the port conference room, will be what Acting Port Manager Dina McClure described as a “free-for-all” of suggestions.

McClure encouraged members to bring any and all suggestions to the meeting in an effort to broaden the port’s scope of ideas, and help find solutions for existing projects.

The genesis for the meeting came from the board in October, when commissioners looked at the future list of upcoming projects, which range from massive technical projects to classes and artistic endeavors. They made the decision that solutions should come from the public, instead of solely the five-person commission and small port staff.

“I believe there are a lot of people in the community, within this district, that have good ideas that we can listen to,” Port Commissioner Mike Buckwald said.

Aside from the planned projects, the commissioners felt that the public could provide input on plans that the commission may not have even thought of.

The public comment section will be the first part of a two-step process.

“I see this as an initial phase running the first couple of months,” Commissioner Bill Meyer said. “Then let’s get an advisory group and get some eyes on it, besides the commissioners’ eyes, and determine the path we’re going to take.

“We have to make some skillful decisions on what improvements we make to the port, how we fund them, what the return on investment is, what kind of infrastructure is needed and what it’s going to cost us.”

Of particular interest to the port are four areas commissioners and staff feel must be immediately addressed, including improvements to the marina and camping sites.

The port also needs suggestions on the upcoming Estuary Trail, in particular where the trail where be placed on the site, and how it stands in relation to the ongoing erosion repair project the port has been facing.

Finally, the commission wishes to broaden its educational and artistic opportunities, using the public’s knowledge of topics like fishing, clamming and various aquatic activities.

“We need to broaden our input to the entire district,” McClure said.

The Port of Siuslaw hopes to hold multiple input meetings in the coming months, with each meeting held on the first Wednesday of the month. Further meetings should begin after the holidays.

In other news from the night, commissioners reviewed the port manager job description in a work session before the public meeting.

In the coming months, the commission will be hiring a new manager after the dismissal of the previous port manager, Steven Leskin.

Currently, McClure is the acting port manager. Her official position is administrative assistant.

The work session was a reckoning of the past few years, examining both negative interpersonal and business issues the port had experienced with past managers. The goal of the review was to stave off future problems by taking each of the requirements of the management position and reworking them in an effort to avoid confusion on what the manager’s responsibilities are, in particular in relation to the commission.

For example, the original wording of the job description read, “(The manager) is responsible for ongoing planning, development and maintenance of Port facilities.”

The requirement put the primary onus of planning on the manager, essentially keeping the commissioners out of the loop until work plans had been finalized.

The wording of the rule had created friction in the past, with managers presenting future plans to the board as essentially final, with the commissioners making recommendations after the fact. At times, managers had already begun acting on future plans before discussing them with the board.

Instead, the commissioners said they needed to be more involved with the process, with both board and employees working hand in hand to shape the future of the port.

“My suggestion is, the manager brings the board project lists and provides recommendations so the board has more control over the planning and development,” McClure said.

In essence, it creates a concrete delineation between the essential duties of the board and the manager. The board makes policy; the manager maintains the policy.

Multiple other issues were discussed during the session, with the commissioners and McClure confident that the changes would quell future issues.

The process was not completed by the end of the session, and will be continued in further meetings.

The port plans to begin interviewing for a new manager in the first half of 2018.

Finally, the commission discussed the ongoing erosion project. Commissioners app-

roved the existing plan for the project submitted by engineer Jack Aiken, who has been working on the design for more than a year.

However, the design dealt solely with erosion occurring from the river, and did not account for drainage coming from the parking lot.

Commissioner Terry Duman requested grading and drainage plans from the lot be included in the plans.

In addition, the Port of Siuslaw will also co-sponsor the Light Up Your Boat Float on Saturday, Nov. 25, from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Boat displays will be docked at the marina.

The contest is also sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and Breen Marine.

For more information and to sign up, contact the port at 541-997-3040.

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