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Sole board member working to rebuild Indianola Port Commission
UPDATE: Indianola could have a new District 2 port commissioner on Sept. 4.
A special meeting of the Port Commission is scheduled for Aug. 29, 7 p.m., in the Indianola Clubhouse for the purpose of interviewing applicants for appointment to the District 2 commission post.
The interviews will be conducted by Port Commissioner Jeff Henderson and Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder. As of Friday, there are two applicants; Henderson said a third candidate is possible.
The interviews are the only agenda item. The meeting is open to the public.
Henderson said Gelder will take a resolution to the County Commission on Sept. 4, followed by a vote appointing a port commissioner.
The port commission’s Sept. 3 meeting is canceled, Henderson said.
INDIANOLA — Jeff Henderson returned from his job selling fire safety equipment in the Midwest to find another big job awaiting him at home:
Getting the Indianola Port District’s government functioning again.
Henderson received word in his Green Bay, Mich., hotel room Wednesday night that Joan Wald had resigned from the Indianola Port Commission, leaving Henderson as the board’s sole member.
It was the second resignation from the commission since July and, with only one commissioner, port business is at a standstill. RCW 53.12.246 states, “… no business shall be transacted unless there are in office at least a majority of the full number of commissioners fixed by law.” A representative of the state Attorney General’s office interpreted the law to mean a sole commissioner cannot transact business — such as signing a contract — that requires a vote of the commission.
Topping Henderson’s agenda Friday was calling County Commissioner Rob Gelder. Henderson said the port district received several applications for the District 2 position vacated in July by Judith Frank. The application deadline is Aug. 28. Henderson hopes the County Commission will quickly appoint a District 2 commissioner. Then, the new majority of two can begin accepting applications for, and appoint, a District 3 commissioner.
The appointed commissioners “will serve for a very limited period of time, because we have two positions up for election [on Nov. 5], but we have some pressing issues in front of us — the suspension of the dock, an assessment of the condition of the pilings, engineering criteria to strengthen the existing structure — and we need to make a decision on what do with that data,” Henderson said.
The port commission voted June 27 to close the dock to the public in response to an engineer’s concerns about the ability of the dock to accommodate large crowds, spurring protests from some residents. The closure, initially proposed for a month, continues until an engineering firm determines the best way to improve the 100-year-old iconic dock and so it is more stable.
Frank resigned July 29, and Wald four weeks later, citing harassment from people opposed to the dock’s closure. Frank and Wald’s positions are on the Nov. 5 general election ballot; they had chosen not to run. The candidates are Eric Cookson, Matthew Smith (write-in), District 2; and Patrick Hatchel and John Lane, District 3.
Once a functioning commission is in place, Henderson hopes to begin the process of healing the rift in the port district.
“The harassment is — I can’t think of the right adjective,” Henderson said Friday. “It’s disturbing and sickening that it came to that point. I am absolutely committed to moving forward to make some decisions based on specific information we have and try to get the community on the same page as to what we’re going to do and move forward.”
He said he’s “encouraged” that 15 residents stepped forward earlier this month to serve on an advisory committee to help the port commission. The committee is tasked with hosting fundraisers, writing grants, and helping the port prepare the dock for inspection.
The advisory committee “can do some wonderful things for us,” Henderson said. “I hope people stay engaged in the port. It’s a very healthy way to do some healing. It’s impossible to please everyone, but it’s not our job to please everyone. It’s our job to manage the Indianola dock and adjacent stairway and do it in a prudent manner to make it safe and viable. It’s not only the Indianola community that the dock belongs to, it belongs to the public. That’s the nature of a port district — it’s public.”
WHO'S WHO AT THE PORT OF INDIANOLA
— Commissioners: Jeff Henderson, District 1; Districts 2 and 3 are vacant.
— Auditor: Jessica Olanie, a contract employee who is assistant business manager of the Port of Kingston.
— Secretary: Paige Savage, a contract employee who is also employed by the Port of Kingston.
— Maintenance: Richard Stice, a contract employee who is also employed by the Port of Poulsbo.