Many Voices Working for the Community

Oak Ridge
Site Specific Advisory Board

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Summary of the Annual Planning Retreat of the

Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board

August 13, 2005


The Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (ORSSAB) met for its annual planning retreat on August 13, 2005 at Pollard Auditorium on the campus of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities in Oak Ridge.


In attendance were:

Ben Adams

Dave Adler, Department of Energy - Oak Ridge Operations (DOE)

Rhonda Bogard, ORSSAB secretary

Darryl Bonner

Donna Campbell

Heather Cothron

Amy DeMint

Steve Dixon

Steve Douglas

Luther Gibson, former ORSSAB member

Linda Grandage

Spencer Gross, Spectrum, ORSSAB support staff

Chris Grove

Pat Halsey, Federal Coordinator, Department of Energy - Oak Ridge Operations

Pat Hill

Steve McCracken, Deputy Designated Federal Official, Department of Energy - Oak Ridge Operations

Lance Mezga

Norman Mulvenon

Tim Myrick

Bob Olson

Pete Osborne, Spectrum, ORSSAB support staff

Sandy Reagan

Ken Sadler

Ralph Skinner, Department of Energy - Oak Ridge Operations

Kerry Trammell, ORSSAB chair

Catherine Whitworth, Spectrum, facilitator


Morning session


The meeting began with facilitator Catherine Whitworth asking everyone present to say something about themselves.  Prior to the meeting she had asked everyone to wear a T-shirt or bring an object that had special meaning and explain to the group what it meant to them.  The exercise was a way for everyone to learn something they might not otherwise know about their colleagues.


After the introductions Ms. Whitworth reported the results of a telephone survey she conducted with present and recent former members prior to the retreat.  Her questions focused on collaboration among members of the Board, processes for doing work, and resources.  The results of the survey are noted on Attachment 1.


Review of survey results


In general she shared some of the main points of the survey with the group.


Her interviews revealed overwhelming support for the mission of the Board.  It was noted that there was some work done outside the scope of the mission, but it was not considered a negative.


Board meetings

Respondents were generally satisfied with Board structure, although there were some concerns that Board meetings were too highly structured.


Some particular points about Board meetings:

  • Reports from DOE were valuable although there was inherent bias in the reports
  • Some members wanted more information from the regulatory agencies -Environmental Protection Agency and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (EPA and TDEC)
  • Some comments made at Board meetings were off topic
  • Some believed decisions had already been made about Board business before it was presented to the Board membership
  • Board meetings were too long – there was little need for committee reports unless something needed reported that was not in the minutes included with the meeting packets.
  • There should be more interaction and less discussion (discussion should take place primarily at the committee level)
  • If scheduled presenter is unable to attend, perhaps it’s better to postpone the presentation rather than have someone less informed do the presentation
  • Sometimes an issue arises with not enough time for presentation and discussion before comments are due


Committee meetings

Respondents, for the most part, felt that presentations done at committee meetings clearly defined problems or were properly related to committee work.


Regarding standing committees, comments included:

  • Less than half of the members were satisfied with committee structure
  • A few respondents felt Environmental Management and Stewardship should be combined
  • A small number of respondents wanted more detail from presenters and felt more guidance should be given to presenters concerning content
  • Some noted the best aspects of the committee meetings were having representatives of DOE, the regulatory agencies, and Bechtel Jacobs, Co., present, although there was expression that those liaisons should be more forthcoming during the meetings.


Access to materials

Regarding access to materials, most agreed that materials were accessible, if not readily accessible.

  • Too much material provided to read
  • There were some concerns that information was only available at the DOE Information Center
  • Some felt much of the material was too tedious and summaries would be helpful
  • Some members may not know what is important and what should be questioned


Most felt access to key personnel was available, but they may not know whom to call.


Public outreach

There is support for of outreach efforts and more is needed:

  • The solicitation of outside comment can be gathered through public outreach



When questioned about how disagreements are handled, most felt that differences were usually handled well.  Some thought conflict was handled better at the committee level because of the less formal structure and the absence of cameras.


Member participation

On the questions of member participation, a little more than half of the members said it takes one to two years to understand the issues and learn other members well enough to participate fully.  Some said they felt overwhelmed, discouraged, or lost during the first few months.


When asked about the work load, almost everyone said the work load was not shared equitably, but there was no resentment associated with those responses.  Most recognized that a small number of people do most of the work, so there is understanding as to why it is not shared equitably.


Ms. Whitworth said there seemed to be a concern there would be a loss of history and knowledge as those who provide significant input rotate off the Board.  There were questions concerning who would take the lead.  One suggestion was to have a non-voting technical advisor to keep the membership informed on issues.


Strategies for solutions

After going over the main points of the survey Ms. Whitworth used the information to identify issues and devise strategies to implement solutions to those issues.  She asked for additional ideas from the group and then established ground rules for participation during the day.


From the survey results, Ms. Whitworth drew some general conclusions she felt should be discussed more by the members.


She suggested a number of topics the group should address.  From that list she suggested selecting no more than three for the day’s work.


Her suggestions included:

  • member participation
  • “passing the keys” – conferring knowledge to new members
  • shortening the effectiveness curve – instituting a program to get new members knowledgeable on the issues as quickly as possible (to include training and mentoring)
  • length and conduct of Board meetings
  • volume and accessibility of material
  • what is needed from the DOE, the regulators, and contractors


Ideas that came from the floor included:

  • How recommendations are identified and developed

1.      what topics are selected and studied?

2.      who analyzes the topic?

3.      how are issues prioritized?


  • Committee structure


After some discussion the group decided to work on three areas:

    1. the process of developing recommendations
    2. committee structure and member participation
    3. shortening the effectiveness curve


The group divided into three smaller groups to discuss the selected issues.


Process for developing recommendations


The result of this group’s work was the development of a flow chart (Attachment 2).


In presenting their work to the group they reviewed the process of identifying topics.  Many topics for consideration come from suggestions by DOE, the regulators, and from results of the stakeholders’ survey.


Topics are assigned to the appropriate committee and the committees develop their work plans.  From the work plans the committees gather information about topics through presentations and other sources and decide if a recommendation is needed.  Someone is assigned to write the recommendation, which is submitted to the Board through the process spelled out in the bylaws.


Ideas to improve the process include:

  • develop criteria on what to consider and what to discard
  • precisely define the issue and determine exactly what DOE is looking for when it asks for guidance on a topic. Define the scope of the issue
  • formalize the process to revise the work plan when an unexpected issue comes up
  • involve more committee member participation when developing a recommendation
  • the issue manager should have sufficient information to determine if additional input from DOE or other sources is needed
  • preparation should be sufficient to make an effective presentation to the Board so everyone understands the issue
  • develop a method of tracking the response from the DOE.


Ms. Whitworth asked what the next step should be.  Ms. Bogard suggested assigning the issue to Board Process for discussion and implementation.


Committee structure and member participation


The group working on key roles identified responsibilities of members, committee chairs, project liaisons, and issue managers.



  • all Board members should serve on at least one committee
  • members should participate
  • members should communicate with other members
  • members should study and prepare for presentations
  • members should accept more responsibility as experience is gained


Committee chairs

  • preside at meetings
  • support the presentation topics
  • conduct the pre-meeting conference call
  • prioritize the work plan
  • coordinate with issue manager
  • develop concise committee work reports


Issue manager – all committee members should serve or at least try to serve as an issue manager

  • pick an issue to work
  • use staff, DOE, liaisons
  • complete the assignment (determine what is needed – a recommendation or no action)
  • keep committee informed of issues ongoing in nature


Project liaisons – provides link between committee, DOE, Environmental Protection Agency, and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

  • use DOE contractors and federal officials to support the issue development and resolution.


Shortening the effectiveness curve


This group developed ideas to shorten the time it takes for new members to understand the issues and be able to participate in a meaningful way.


The group suggested specific person-to-person mentor assignments to be either Board specific or issue specific.


It suggested that the mentoring program be structured to:

  • provide orientation in phases

1.      new member orientation

2.      initial two-hour training session

3.      assignment to a mentor


  • have specific activities assigned to the “freshmen class”
  • provide a written mentoring plan for consistency

1.      initial assessment of individual training needs

2.      mentor rotates

3.      multiple readings of committee and Board issues

4.      new members given homework and track time.


The group also suggested creating a list of contacts for resource.  Contacts should be familiar with the ORSSAB, be friendly toward the ORSSAB, and consist of key personnel of DOE, regulatory agencies, and primary contractors.  Mr. McCracken suggested not only developing the list but actually introducing new members to key contacts.


This issue was not assigned for further development, although the Board Process Committee was looking at new member training and continuing education prior to the annual meeting.


Afternoon session


After lunch the group reconvened and each Board committee chair reviewed committee accomplishments for fiscal year 2005 (Attachments 3-8).


Following the committee reports the group looked at all the suggested topics for consideration from DOE, EPA, TDEC, and the results of the stakeholder survey.  With assistance from Dave Adler, the group discussed each issue and assigned it to a committee or to the Board for further consideration during fiscal year 2006.  The issues identified and the committee assignments are included in Attachment 9.


Summary of the day


Ms. Halsey noted that the committees and the Board will take assigned topics and prioritize how those topics will be placed on the work plans.  She said DOE and Bechtel Jacobs liaisons will assist with prioritization. 


She reminded everyone that the committees will begin developing the work plans at the August meetings and committees will elect new chairs for fiscal year 2006. 


She said upcoming events included a scheduled tour September 10 of the facilities on the Oak Ridge Reservation for new and interested current members.


At this point Board members were asked to declare what committees on which they would like to serve (if they had decided).  It was noted that new members in particular could visit committee meetings before they decided which committees to join.


Mr. Trammell concluded the annual planning meeting by saying it was a productive day and much was accomplished.  He said he hoped the Board would be successful in implementing some of the ideas discussed.


He concluded the annual meeting and immediately convened the Board for its monthly meeting.


Attachments are available through the ORSSAB Support Office.