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4.14.2023 Climate Pledge 01

The City Council continues to question the city administration regarding the proposal to adopt Jamestown’s Climate Smart Communities Pledge in New York State. One of the council’s main concerns is how the undertaking might affect the Utilities Board. Pictured is Sarah Swinko, an environmental planner from the Southwest District, and members of the City Council. PJ image by Timothy Frudd

Jamestown City Council members still have a lot of questions about the city’s proposal to adopt the New York State Climate Smart Communities Pledge.

One of the most important is influencing the Public Utilities Board and who will lead the required task force from among the city administration. Council members discussed the Climate Smart Communities Pledge twice this week, with many questions from previous discussions echoing.

What does BPU say?

During a recent city council finance committee meeting, city resident Doug Champ asked if the Utilities Board supported New York State’s Climate Smart Communities pledge.

“If they don’t transfer this, the biggest source of greenhouse gases is turbines,” He said. “They need to understand this. The BPU Board of Directors should pass this. If they haven’t passed this, why was this brought to you?”

City Councilwoman Mary Karuba, D-Ward IV, acknowledged that Champ submitted “a good question.” She stressed the need for Dave Leathers, BPU general manager, to present BPU’s perspective of the Climate Smart Communities Pledge at the City Council meeting.

Champ suggested that the city council float the resolution so that they receive input from the business management unit regarding how the Climate Smart Communities Pledge will impact the utility company’s day-to-day operations. Champ added that the pledge is “unclear” And it will require Jamestown to pursue future projects to address climate issues.

“I often say that what we have are programs and projects and opportunities, but no one knows the return on investment and what it will cost the city and taxpayers in the future,” He said. “It can’t be done until you know what you need to do.”

City Council President Anthony Dolce, R Ward II, acknowledged that the Climate Smart Communities Pledge would affect the business controller more than anyone else if the city decided to adopt the pledge.

Champ also noted that the “the whole purpose” A pledge for climate-smart communities is for municipalities to not only adopt a pledge, but move forward with climate change initiatives and projects.

“If you’re not going to do any of it, why would you want to pledge to?” Asked.

Attempted rewrite

Elliot Raimondo, a city corporation counsel, told the finance committee that he did Some major controversies With the Climate Smart Communities Pledge Resolution when it was previously brought up and introduced by the City Council. In the time since the decision was first submitted, Raimondo said he’s tried to rewrite the decision from more than “conservationists” Point of view.

“I think from a grants perspective it would be great to adopt some kind of climate or environmental solution, especially with Earth Day approaching,” He said. Having said that, I tried to rewrite it.

Both Raimondo and Finance Committee Chair Kim Ecklund, MD, noted that the resolution proposed to the City Council this month is “exactly the same” As the first time it was proposed to the city council, which indicates that none of Raimondo’s changes were included in the decision by the city administration.

“I think the intent was that there were grants or things that could be done in the future but you have to start with some kind of, I don’t know it has to be quite literal like this, but you have to embrace the thing that lends itself to that is where you’re going to a better climate or A city with a better ecological structure and far away from it ”, Karuba said. “I get that, but then again, if he doesn’t answer our questions, if the BPU isn’t brought into the discussion, we’re putting the cart before the horse.”

on the right track

During the City Council’s plenary session, Sarah Swinko, environmental planner from Southern Tier West, gave a presentation on the New York State Communities Climate Smart program and answered questions from city council members.

Soenko described the Climate Smart Communities Program as a “guideline” With a checklist of any potential projects municipalities can complete in order to file “more sustainable” society through climate action. While Swinko acknowledged that not every climate action would be possible for a city like Jamestown, she said the city has already completed many climate action tasks.

“You guys are a clean energy community because you are mandated to implement four actions,” She said. These four actions were clean fleets, charging stations, LED street lighting and Energy Code enforcement training. These four actions in a clean energy society are also important in climate-smart societies.”

According to Swenko, some of the tasks of climate action are “very easy” to accomplish. For other tasks, such as a greenhouse gas inventory, Soenko said the city will not be obligated to do so “Do every building.” However, the number of points for the Climate Smart Communities Program will change based on various factors, such as the number of buildings included in a city in a greenhouse gas inventory.

But let’s not get down to business. Swenko said. “The first step for this program is to register, and to register you want to pass on the solution.”

Soenko told the city council that the climate measures included in the Climate Smart Communities Program are “Not mandatory,” there is “not implemented” And that the city will be able to do that “totally ignore” certain aspects of the programme.

“It’s all about how you create this program,” She said.

Types of procedures required

The Climate Smart Communities Program has two different levels of certification for municipalities. The Bronze level of certification requires the city to complete approximately 15 climate actions to achieve 120 points. The Silver level of certification requires the city to complete about 30 actions to achieve 300 points.

There are 115 procedures in total. Swenko said. “It’s as if you can pick and choose what you want to do or which ones you’ve already done.”

While the CSM program includes grants linked to different climate actions, the city will be required to have a 50-50 match for each grant opportunity. In addition to giving opportunities through the program, Soinko said another “bonus” From the program is that he will give the city “five points” towards future grants, allowing the city “You look a little better.” on grant applications.

Although Soenko said the climate tasks of the Climate Smart Communities Program are “Not mandatory,” She said there are two mandatory actions the city will have to take if the climate pledge is adopted.

“There are two mandatory procedures, which are the creation of the working group and the selection of the coordinator.” She said. “The task force has to be literally one person from the local government and one person from the community to be represented. The coordinator can be whoever is passionate about it; You don’t have to meet all the time. This staff is a double check for procedures.”

Soyenko said that staffing and the coordinator position are the only two compulsory measures of the program. In addition, once approved by the municipality, the city’s climate program must be updated every five years.

“For example, in that first year, if you want to take a greenhouse gas inventory of a building, you don’t have to do it for another five years, and then to get certified again, do the same thing or just update the procedures,” She said.

Eklund asked the city administration if they had a plan in place to fulfill the mandatory requirements for the task force and coordinator position if the city council voted to approve the decision. While Crystal Surdyk, the city’s director of development, said the city administration does not currently have a plan to meet the mandatory requirements, she said Swinko’s bid was merely “The first step” As the city administration tries to address city council questions and uncertainty about the climate pledge program.

“While I think our ultimate goal is to be able to get to a place where it can be supported and pass a resolution that feels comfortable to everyone, my goal is not to rush the council into making that decision this month or even next month if we’re not there,” he said. She said. “I think the next time we have a conversation about that decision we have to get back to you what we’ve accomplished so far and what that plan is, who the right person is to be the coordinator and then what does the force need to look like.”

Dolce added that he is working with Leathers in order to get a presentation from the BPU during the first City Council session in May in order to get the BPU involved in the perspective of the program.

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