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CAG plans to continue meetings

by Canda HarbaughWestern News
| November 22, 2009 11:00 PM

“So, CAG lives,” Mike Giesey said at the conclusion of Thursday’s Community Advisory Group meeting, the first time it convened in three months.

The group, which has discussed Superfund-related issues at monthly meetings for the past nine years, decided last week to work through dwindling membership and continue to meet.

“We … asked ourselves if CAG should continue, in any form, and the answer was a resounding yes,” Giesey reported through e-mail to other CAG participants. “We all feel CAG is an important forum for folks to share information and ask questions.”

Some of the ideas that were mulled over by the six attendees – such as only meeting bi-monthly or combining CAG with the Technical Advisory Group – were eventually discarded. Others are still on the table.

Professional facilitator Virginia Tribe led the last two CAG meetings in July and August to help strengthen the group, and was due to finish the three-meeting reorganization series in September, but the meeting was cancelled due to low turnout.

With no formal structure or leadership, no one is in charge of organizing meetings and no one has the authority to vote to disband the group. Consequently, CAG was in limbo for a few months and appeared doomed to fade away.

But Giesey reluctantly took charge, organizing and leading Thursday’s meeting without Tribe, who is unavailable until January. He made it clear, however, that leadership would have to be shared.

The group did not reject creating a formal board, although low participation and the tone of Thursday’s meeting suggested that an informal forum would be more suitable.  

Giesey proposed that CAG have the EPA hire a full-time facilitator and that members alternate directing meetings.

“It would give everyone a little more ownership,” he said.

The group agreed that CAG may soon be valuable to a new wave of people when property cleanups take off in Troy. They even pondered alternating meetings between Libby and Troy.

“Troy might be Libby all over again,” Giesey said. 

CAG is unique from other Superfund-related groups, attendees said.

“If we do away with the CAG, what sort of conduit is there to get information out to the public?” asked Betty Challinor, indicating that she doesn’t believe the City-County Health Board could serve the same purpose.

Because related organizations are becoming more active and visible, such as TAG, the health board and the Operations and Maintenance group, Giesey suggested that CAG not try to tackle every issue by itself.

“… CAG’s role could be simpler than in the past,” Giesey said. “CAG could ‘forward’ issues on to the appropriate group to deal with.”

In addition, Mike Noble pointed out CAG’s importance in keeping a record of its communication with the EPA, which can be used later if necessary.

The group plans to skip December’s meeting, in lieu of the holidays, and meet back up in January with hopes to finish up the reorganization series with Tribe.