‘I’ve never seen anything like it’: In the months since its formation, the Inland Port Authority Board has faced near nonstop chaos

This article originally appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune. Read it in its entirety here. 

Last week, as the Inland Port Authority Board considered its last agenda item of the night — one that needed to be reconsidered, since it seemed to have been put on the agenda incorrectly at the group’s August meeting — the power went out.

That meant a board that has faced accusations of operating in the shadows was literally working in the dark.

The lights came on a short time later, along with microphones and a tape recorder. But it was a moment emblematic of the chaos the board has faced as it has attempted to build itself up from scratch since the end of July.

“The best analogy I’ve heard is they’re trying to build an airplane at the same time they’re trying to fly it,” said Deeda Seed, who works with the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity and has been helping organize community pushback on the port. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The port, a planned distribution hub for goods to be imported and exported via rail, truck and air, will be located on approximately 20,000 acres in Salt Lake City’s westernmost area. It is expected to be the state’s largest-ever economic project.

As the port authority faces continued criticism, its meeting Wednesday may have represented a change of pace. The monthly gathering concluded with little action, and board members appeared to pump the brakes on a project that’s faced constant rush since its conception.

The board created a process for handling requests under the Government Records Access and Management Act but paused on passing its $2 million proposed budget — a half-page document criticized for lack of specificity — until it could add more detail. It’s also working to create rules for conduct at its meetings and hire an executive director, which will likely not happen before the Nov. 1 deadline set in statute.

“We’re on step probably three or four now of a 100-step process, so I know there are a lot of questions and many members of the public who are eager to get to step 35, 50, 99,” said board Chair Derek Miller at Wednesday’s meeting. “So we’ll take it one step at a time.”

Chase Thomas, policy and advocacy counsel for the progressive group Alliance for a Better Utah, attended the meeting Wednesday and said he hopes the difference in pace represents a sign of meaningful change.

“How much they slowed down this past meeting on the budget and different things, I think they really are realizing the concern from the community and also just the impact that this project is going to have and they want to do it right rather than just rush to get it done,” he said.

This article originally appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune. Read it in its entirety here.

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