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Council ponders environmental committee

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
January 16, 2008
— Janesville’s city council might go green.

Member Amy Loasching has suggested forming an environmental committee to advise the council on eco-issues.


Loasching said she’s had several residents contact her about environmental issues.


The environment is not an area of her expertise, Loasching acknowledged. And city staff struggles to find the time to address pressing issues.


“I thought if we have the citizens out there (with) obviously a passion for this, why don’t we tap into this passion?” Loasching said. “Why don’t we find out what they’re saying? There’s a lot of untapped potential out there.”


Loasching said she recently had an informative meeting with a resident who brought her concerns about the landfill to the council.


She suspects Janesville’s recycling program could be more efficient and progressive, as well.


“I know I’ve had complaints about the plastic bags,” Loasching said.


“If they are coming up with these ideas, they could be ideas our administration hasn’t thought of. They (staff members are) so focused on getting done what they have to get done they don’t have the time to focus on extra things we could be doing.”


A committee would give residents a voice and a platform to educate city residents, Loasching said.


Julie Backenkeller recently appeared before the council because she is concerned about the city recruiting outside trash that fills the landfill.


“I think (the committee is) a step in the right directions,” Backenkeller said. “I think they have to do something.”


The committee also could give the council feedback on how council actions impact the local environment, such as how some of the new subdivisions are being built on some of the finest soil in the world, Backenkeller said.


“I just hope I can get on this committee,” she added.


Loasching talked about the committee at Monday’s meeting, and City Manager Steve Sheiffer termed it an “excellent” idea.


He said the next step is writing a policy to define the committee, its responsibilities and the appointment process. He wants to gather information from other communities on similar committees.


Sheiffer estimated that would take a couple of months.


Committee composition

In other committee news, member George Brunner at Monday’s meeting suggested trimming the number of council members on some committees to relieve members of work and to give residents more chance to become involved.


Brunner asked that the council review the city’s overall committee structure and the number of council members who serve on some committees.


The transportation committee, for example, consists of three council members and two residents, Brunner said.


“I don’t think we need three council members. I’d like to see more citizen involvement.


“Also, committee work can become kind of a burden on council members,” he said.


The two council members on the Community Development Authority also might be too many, he suggested.


Again, Sheiffer said he would compile a report to show what other communities do and list the pros and cons of any action.



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