Many Voices Working for the Community
Summary of the Annual Planning Retreat of the
Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board
August 12, 2006
The Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (ORSSAB) met for its annual planning retreat on August 12, 2006 at Pollard Auditorium on the campus of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities in Oak Ridge.
In attendance were:
Dave Adler, Department of Energy - Oak Ridge Operations (DOE) Liaison
Rhonda Bogard, ORSSAB Vice-chair
Becky Brunton, Spectrum, facilitator
Luther Gibson, former ORSSAB member
Spencer Gross, Spectrum, ORSSAB support staff
Pat Halsey, Federal Coordinator, DOE
Steve McCracken, Deputy Designated Federal Officer, DOE
Pete Osborne, Spectrum, ORSSAB support staff
Sandy Reagan, ORSSAB Secretary
Ms. Brunton opened the session by reading several well known quotations and asking participants to choose a quotation that best fit their approach to serving on the Board. She said as the day progressed participants could change their choice of quotation if they wished.
She then laid out the ground rules for the day (Attachment 1, page 2). The principle points were:
Ms. Brunton described the retreat and the new member training held the day before as a building block approach to participation on the Board. She said the new member training was the foundation. The retreat was part of the structure with the “11th floor” representing the 11 years the Board has been in existence and the “12th floor” as the plans and strategies for FY 2007, the 12th year of the Board’s existence.
Ms. Brunton reviewed the mission statement (Attachment 1, pages 3-4) of the Board and asked the group to consider the following questions:
She said the mission of the Board revolves around the environment and, using a graphical representation below, showed how the mission interests of the Board fed into the primary concern for the environment.
Ms. Halsey said the mission statement was developed when the Board was established and is based on the Federal Advisory Committee Act charter.
Mr. Stow asked if the charter of other Boards had been reviewed. Mr. Mulvenon said all mission statements were somewhat different.
Mr. Adams noted that the word ‘stewardship’ was not used in the mission statement. Mr. McCracken said the term was not used much when the mission statement was written.
Ms. Campbell said when the mission statement was written, stewardship fell under land use. She wondered if that was no longer applicable.
Ms. Brunton said perhaps the Board Process Committee might consider revising the mission statement to include the word ‘stewardship.’
Ms. Brunton asked the group to prioritize the issues from the graphical representation.
The participants chose in order:
Ms. Brunton said by virtue of prioritizing the topics, the Board was taking ownership of the top three issues.
Ms. Brunton then began a review of results of a survey she had conducted with Board members prior to the retreat.
The results centered on eight topics:
She reported that respondents said there was good support from staff (Attachment 1, Pages 5-6). Respondents said it was crucial to have staff present at all meetings, but there was recognition that staff only had so much time available for support.
A suggestion from the survey was to hire a technical support person (contractor) to review documents. Mr. Douglas said that might take responsibility off Board members who should be reviewing documents. Ms. Reagan thought it would be beneficial to have someone review documents. Mr. Olson said there was probably not a single person qualified to review all documents, but suggested DOE has personnel who could do that work. Mr. McCracken said there probably was budget to do that, but it was limited. He said perhaps there was a way to summarize documents for review.
Mr. Adler said a technical expert might have a chilling effect on the curiosity of Board members to explore topics. Mr. Mezga said using a technical advisor worked well for the Environmental Management Committee’s examination of the engineering evaluation/cost analysis for the ponds at East Tennessee Technology Park. He said the committee had done a good job in recognizing when to use a technical advisor. Mr. Adler said it was a good idea to use a technical advisor on large projects and when there is debate among DOE, TDEC and EPA about the right course of action.
Availability of documents
It was asked if documents could be put on the DOE-ORO website. Ms. Halsey said compact discs containing documents are becoming more available and a new web page was being developed for posting documents. She said older documents can be requested from the DOE Information Center.
Access to agencies and contractors
Survey respondents said there was good access to agency personnel and contractors (Attachment 1, page 7). Respondents appreciated agency participation at committee and Board meetings. Ms. Brunton said there were some concerns expressed about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) related to comments from those agencies regarding Board presentations. Mr. McCracken said the EPA and TDEC liaisons would prepare comments on Board presentations if they were asked. Mr. Adler said the EPA and TDEC often have a ‘wait and see’ attitude before commenting on issues. But he said they don’t mind contact from Board members requesting comments.
Mr. McCracken said to influence decision makers, such as EPA and TDEC, it’s important to let it be known early what the public wants. If input is provided after a decision is made it’s difficult for the decision makers to change their decisions. He said perhaps the Executive Committee could ask EPA and TDEC liaisons for comments on Board presentations. Or they could be asked to discuss what’s important about an EM project and give their agency’s early position.
The issue was given to the Executive Committee to decide how and when to engage TDEC and EPA.
Responses to recommendations
Ms. Brunton said a review of outstanding recommendations is now a Board meeting agenda item. Ms. Bogard suggested Mr. Adler make comments about the direction a recommendation response is going when he makes his report to the Board.
Mr. Olson asked what if a response doesn’t properly address the recommendation. Mr. McCracken said discussion of the recommendation should continue between DOE and the Board until resolution is achieved. He also said that the board needs a process for evaluating the appropriateness of DOE responses to recommendations.
Survey respondents said committees are driven by issues and most of the issues are addressed by the Environmental Management Committee (Attachment 1, page 8).
There was discussion about involving local government officials in committees. Participants believed government should have representatives at committees. Mr. Mulvenon said the Public Outreach Committee makes contact with local government officials and local newspapers each year. Ms. Campbell said there has been a long history of reaching out to local officials and even moving Board meetings to other venues in different counties.
There was no resolution about how to encourage participation of local government in committee work. The item was put in the ‘parking lot’ for discussion outside of the retreat.
Roles and responsibilities of committee members
Ms. Brunton said survey results did not indicate any problems associated with roles and responsibilities of committee members, except perhaps committee members should do more preparation prior to meetings (Attachment 1, page 9).
Mr. Mezga said issue managers may not be taking enough ownership of issues and following a topic to closure. He also noted that not many people step up to be an issue manager. Some comments were expressed about how to be an issue manger. Mr. Mezga said there are a number of resources for issue managers to access to such as staff, committee chair, other members, DOE and contractor liaisons.
Ms. Mei suggested that newer members be paired with experience board member to help them with issue manager tasks.
Ms. Brunton said survey results indicated that members thought Board meetings were well organized with a structured agenda (Attachment 1, page 10). Respondents said meetings were orderly and finished on schedule. They said staff was helpful in organizing the meetings and food was a real asset. Respondents said the packet of meeting material sent out prior to meetings was helpful.
A comment was made that a strict time limit should be placed on speakers during the public comment period.
Mr. McCracken wondered why more people don’t attend meetings to make public comments. Mr. Mulvenon said if people are impacted by issues they will attend.
Ms. Brunton’s survey asked what barriers existed to Board meeting participation. Some respondents said the presence of cameras and microphones was a bit disconcerting.
The survey asked what barriers existed to effective Board meetings. Most respondents said members need to review the meeting packets prior to the meetings.
Board meeting presentations
A suggestion was made that Board meeting presentations go through a preparation process similar to what the committees use with an issue manager and pre-meeting conference.
Another suggestion was made to include historical background on an issue prior to the presentation. This idea was put in the ‘parking lot’ for discussion outside of the retreat.
And a suggestion was made that if presentation materials can’t be provided in the meeting packets then perhaps a summary of the main points of the presentation could be provided.
Ms. Brunton said the goal of member collaboration was to have an effective, cohesive Board. She asked the group to list positive behaviors. The group made the following suggestions:
Ms. Brunton asked the group to evaluate the list. The group generally agreed that the Board was positive on all points, with the exception of some members not doing homework.
Ms. Brunton distributed a list of Behaviors of Effective Team Members that Board members could use to evaluate their own strengths as team members.
Ms. Brunton said results of her survey indicated general satisfaction with the mentoring program (Attachment 1, page 11). She said the average frequency of mentor/protégé contact was once a month. Topics discussed during the first few contacts were agenda items, bylaws, and Board protocols. Later meetings included topics and rumors.
Protégés indicated that technical knowledge of mentors was helpful.
The barriers to effective mentoring occurred when a mentor resigned from the Board leaving a protégé without a mentor and when a new member came on the Board and was not assigned a mentor.
New Member Training
Ms. Brunton reviewed the elements of new member training, which includes a first meeting orientation, training meeting prior to the annual retreat, mentoring, and a tour of the Oak Ridge Reservation (Attachment 1, page 12).
Mr. Olson said the tour was too short and didn’t allow enough time for new members to really absorb what they are viewing.
Mr. McCracken reminded the group that DOE and Bechtel Jacobs personnel are available to take members on tours of the reservation at any time. Ms. Halsey said issue managers should remember that when they are working an issue for committees.
At this point, Ms. Brunton asked Mr. Douglas to talk about a plan he is developing for new member orientation, training, and mentoring.
Mr. Douglas described the process as a graduated approach to train new members.
He said it is a more structured plan during the first three months for a new member. The first month would use components of the current new member orientation. The first meeting would be an orientation conducted by an experienced Board member the day before the Board meeting. He said this would be done in a relaxed atmosphere, such as a restaurant dinner meeting. At subsequent meetings during the second and third months the discussions would cover the topic of the upcoming Board meeting and any recommendations – what they mean and things to consider. The new member would be questioned about the previous monthly meeting and asked if he or she had any questions. The new member would be asked if he or she had attended any committee meetings.
Ms. Brunton reminded the participants of the availability of outside training opportunities such as conferences, meetings, and other site specific advisory boards.
Mr. McCracken began the afternoon session with some general comments about work to be done on the Oak Ridge Reservation and how the Board can contribute in the decision making process.
He said work will cost more. He gave an example of the delayed defueling of the Molten Salt Reactor, and because more work has been added to scope such as disposition of U-233 at Building 3019 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In addition he said DOE has more work it wants to do as evidenced by the proposed Integrated Facilities Disposition Project (IFDP).
He said he believes the Board should provide input on the IFDP because it will have impact on how work in Bethel Valley and Bear Creek Valley will be approached.
Mr. McCracken said the Board must decide when to agree and disagree with DOE. He said when the Board disagrees he will try to adjust to gain agreement with the Board.
He said the Board needs to remain engaged. He said its role will become more important and more difficult. Choices must be made on budget and where to spend it.
Mr. McCracken said he believes there are opportunities to engage in more work as current projects begin to wind down, which will help keep budgets level in Oak Ridge.
He said the Board will be advised on FY 2008 budget and the progress of the IFDP, on which the Board can provide advice on the scope of work.
Mr. Myrick asked how previous recommendations from Board are viewed by DOE. Mr. McCracken mentioned some he thought were worthwhile recommendations:
· Haul road
· Independent verification at ETTP, which DOE has agreed to do
· Long-term stewardship – Mr. McCracken suggested modifying the mission statement to include stewardship. He said DOE must continue to explain stewardship activities at former waste sites.
Mr. McCracken said the Stewardship Education Resource Kit was a valuable tool for educating young people.
Review of Committee Accomplishments
Each committee chair went through the various accomplishments during FY 2006. Accomplishments are Attachment 2.
Key Issues for FY 2007
The participants reviewed the results of the Stakeholder Survey (Attachment 3) and the suggested topics for consideration provided by DOE, EPA, and TDEC and assigned topics to individual committees (Attachment 4). Ms. Brunton asked if there were any issues not mentioned in the survey or from the three agencies. Mr. Olson suggested life cycle baseline. It was decided that would be addressed at a Board meeting presentation.
The committees will use the table to develop their work plans for FY 2007.
Ms. Halsey reminded the group that the work plan for the Board must be submitted to DOE for approval. She reminded the committees to include carryover items from FY 2006 to FY 2007. She said committees are to develop their work plans at their next meetings. The Executive Committee will review the work plans. She said it may put items on the Board’s work plan that the committees cull and it may ask committee to put culled items on their work plans.
Board member participants were asked to declare what committee they would like to serve on. If they couldn’t declare at this time they were asked to visit the next committee meetings and try to declare by the end of September.
Committee assignments are as follows:
Board Process (ad hoc)
Sean Purdy (student representative)
Ms. Bogard said the meeting was successful because of the interaction of the group and the input from DOE. She encouraged everyone to play a part in planning the next retreat in 2007.
Ms. Halsey said participants would get a summary of the meeting and Ms. Brunton will be calling everyone for input on what worked and what did not work at the retreat.
Action Items/Follow-up Topics
Attachments are available through the ORSSAB Support Office