The first meeting of the Water Treatment Advisory Committee (WTAC) was held on 7/26/13. This meeting was the first of 5 meetings to develop a recommendation for the Bend City Council.
With only 10 weeks to develop a recommendation, it was essential to ‘hit the ground running’. With that in mind, I interviewed each committee member by phone to answer these questions:
Where are you on the engagement curve?
Why did you volunteer?
What questions need to be answered?
What are you concerns?
What other questions should I ask?
What is your comfort with online technology (like google docs)?
I summarized the interviews and sent a summary spreadsheet to the committee and other stakeholders. In addition we posted the “What questions need to be answered?” responses online (this google spreadsheet was updated throughout the 10 week decision process).
Focus of the meeting: Tour of the water treatment facilities, establish a foundation for moving forward, and getting to know each other.
The weather was fabulous.
We all met at city hall and took two vehicles to the treatment facility and intake area out of town (about a 30 minute drive).
Two City Councilors and the City Manager kicked off the session by thanking the volunteers.
One of the goals of the tour was to walk through an area of the watershed that burned in a 1979 wildfire. This was a bit over ambitious requiring a lot of walking up a fairly steep hiking trail. Everybody did walk through the burn area but we did not get to the view point we had hoped.
We then returned to city hall and the technical consultant presented an overview.
The tour and presentation went longer than planned so Greg and I had very little time to generate committee conversation about how we would come to a recommendation.
Observations and Assessments
The interviews were essential part of getting the decision process moving. The major benefits were:
- I developed a personal relationship with each committee member which was invaluable over the next 10 weeks
- By reviewing the interview summary the committee members understood other perspectives prior to meeting
- Posting the summary on Google docs demonstrated transparency
The field trip felt like the first day of camp. It was a great way to get committee members to talk with each other and begin to develop personal connections.
The technical staff on the city and the hired contractor underestimated the time for the tour and the presentation.
Our approach of open conversations seemed to make the city staff uncomfortable. Prior to the meeting we had numerous meetings and phone calls about confining the conversations to specific topics. The idea that certain related topics were undiscussable (or off the table) was a recurrent theme. There was a strong desire on the City’s part to engineer the committee activities, as apposed to our more organic approach.
All in all it was a good start to the process.