The high cost of public advice

Faced with shocking costs, the county will try to consolidate advisory boards

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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At the Feb. 7 Board of Clark County Commissioners meeting, giddy members of the Aging Readiness Task Force celebrated the approval of the Clark County Aging Readiness Plan and encouraged commissioners to let them form a Clark County Commission on Aging.

Sure! commissioners said. Why not?

On Feb. 8, commissioners heard one reason why not.

During a work session on the county’s “reconfiguration” efforts to bring revenues in line with expenses, commissioners were reminded that while enthusiastic volunteers might want to put in their time for free, there’s still a cost.

Within just five county departments — Environmental Services, Community Development, Community Planning, Community Services and Public Works — there are more than 50 active task forces, commissions and advisory boards.

Kevin Gray, director of the Environmental Services Department, said it costs an estimated $1.4 million a year to host these meetings. He said that figure includes roughly 28,000 hours of staff time, including prep time and post-meeting work.

So the county will test a new approach.

For more on the story, read Sunday's Columbian.