Residents asked to gauge environment priorities

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Marcia Nelesen
Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sustainable Janesville, a committee created by the council in 2008 to advance environmental issues, is sponsoring an online survey as the committee continues to identify its goals.

The council created the committee after designating Janesville an ecomunicipality.

The committee had a rocky start. Friction arose between some council members and even committee members as they grappled with the panel's mission.

Al Hulick, who until recently was the committee's city staff liaison, said the group's initial travails are understandable because, unlike other committees, Sustainable Janesville has no legislative edict or scope of services.

 “So, it was kind of difficult to wade through that without that clear goal or objective,” Hulick said.

“When you are talking about a concept so nebulous as sustainability, it becomes very difficult.”

The committee has over the years worked toward defining its mission and has some major achievements, Hulick said.

“The group we have now is much more understanding of their place in the process,” Hulick said.

The committee, with the approval of the council, has:

--Developed the Recycling Away From Home program, now a part of the city's special events permitting process. Groups that receive permits from the city, such as the Rotary Club for its corn roast, must have recycling plans.

--Worked with staff on a green building resolution that requires all city public construction projects to follow energy conservation standards.

--Developed the Sustainable Janesville Awards that honor organizations, individuals and businesses for sustainable practices.

--Recently partnered with community members to designate Janesville a Bird City Wisconsin.

The committee last year failed to convince the council to designate Janesville a Green Tier City, which members said could have helped the committee create a working outline.

When that didn't go through, “they kind of had to get back to the drawing board,” Hulick said.

Councilman Jim Farrell is the council representative on Sustainable Janesville.

He said the survey is a way to gauge community interests and priorities in sustainable practices and would also help the committee define its goals.

Questions on the survey ask residents how important they believe it is for the city to:

--Consider renewable energies, such as solar, to power city facilities.

--Consider efforts to improve air quality by, for example, encouraging alternative transportation.

--Consider a program to provide a storm water utility discount for residents who install rainwater retention systems.

--Consider a bicycle advocacy plan to encourage bike riding.

--Consider efforts to improve surface and drinking water quality.

The survey would tell committee members what areas residents believe are worth pursuing, Farrell said.

One question asks residents to rate the importance of sustainable initiatives.

 “I think the city could take sustainability more seriously,” Farrell said.


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