You are a full-time professional facilitator who has been working with a range of public and private agencies and organizations as a solo practitioner for almost a decade. You have a master’s degree from a top urban planning school, where you specialized in environmental policy and planning, as well as independent certification as a mediator and facilitator. Your usual hourly rate is $100, plus expenses, and your time is fully booked for the coming year.
For the past three years, you have been facilitating the monthly meetings of the Westford Valley Water Advisory Committee—a body created by the formal Westford River Management Agency (WRMA). The Committee is a 20-member group with representatives from all of the cities and towns along the Westford River. Key state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, send representatives to the meetings from time to time. The Advisory Committee has received continuous funding from the state’s Natural Resources Department, as well as a grant from the Army Corps to prepare a new instream flow plan for the Westford River. The WRMA itself has a budget of close to $1,650,000 a year and is administered by an experienced civil engineer.
The Committee is in something of a quandary. The WRMA staff has prepared a draft plan for managing instream flow. It is a 250-page report with dozens of technical appendices. After just one meeting—at which the Director of the Agency offered a PowerPoint review of the management plan—some of the Advisory Committee members are ready to vote to approve it. Others, however, are expecting to spend the next six meetings (once a month) going through each section in detail. Almost all of the members will have to explain the plan to the group, organization, or municipality they represent. While the Advisory Committee has no formal authority (it is just advisory), the tradition has been that the WRMA doesn’t take any important steps without discussing them with the Advisory Committee first. While there is no charter describing the powers of the Committee, or even spelling out its operating procedures, it has taken votes from time to time.
The WRMA’s director has given you a proposed agenda for the next meeting which will take place next week. It includes a line that says, “Wrap up discussion on the instream flow plan.” There are two other scheduled (non-controversial) items on the two-hour agenda (after the “Wrap up discussion”). How will you proceed? Why?