Starting in April, the Port of Galveston’s governing board will hold its meetings at city hall, at least temporarily.
The Wharves Board of Trustees, which governs the port, in a 5-2 vote Monday settled a monthslong controversy by deciding to move board meetings to city hall for a six-month trial period.
The board’s newest trustee, Jayson Levy, was the deciding factor after having previously voted against such a move.
“I think it’s worth trying this for six months,” Levy said. “I know I voted the other way on this last month, but I don’t care. I love being here, and I don’t really want to leave, but I think it’s worth a six-month experiment.”
Monday’s conversation was the fourth time trustees had discussed whether to keep board meetings at port offices at Shearn Moody Plaza, 123 25th St., or convene them somewhere else, interim Port Director Peter Simons said.
City hall is at 823 25th St., a few blocks south of Shearn Moody Plaza.
Trustee Elizabeth Beeton, who initiated the conversation in June, presented the board with multiple options for holding meetings and the prices of each choice at an earlier meeting. Trustees had then whittled down the options to either moving to city hall or staying put.
Beeton had argued the meeting room in Shearn Moody Plaza was too small to accommodate very many public observers and not arranged very well for meetings of a public governing board. Trustees and port staff members sit facing one another around a table, for example, rather than facing the public. Security measures at the building also made it less welcoming to the public than civic buildings such as city hall, Beeton has said.
Also, Beeton brought the issue up because the port was preparing to buy new cameras to record meetings.
“City hall has already invested in high-quality cameras and has all that infrastructure installed there,” she told The Daily News in an earlier interview.
The port is a utility of the city.
Discussions about the move have not been without controversy.
“I just hate to lose this as our headquarters,” Trustee Richard DeVries said of the current meeting location. “I want to run this like a business just like everyone else, but sometimes I think you cut off your nose to spite your face.”
DeVries created a motion to keep meetings at port offices that was backed by Vice Chairman Albert Shannon and Trustee Todd Sullivan, but was voted down.
Sullivan later also supported a motion, created by Levy, to move meetings to city hall on a six-month trial basis.
Mayor and Trustee Jim Yarbrough requested the move not begin until April’s meeting to allow for some time to prepare for the move and Levy agreed.