La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat hopes to step up sustainability efforts to go green through the creation of a green team to oversee a comprehensive approach to energy efficiency.
The measure, which will go before the Finance and Personnel Committee Thursday, will set aside an estimated $165,000 facilities credits from Xcel Energy and bring together city staff from several departments to work together to build upon the city’s ongoing sustainability efforts and goals set in a strategic plan that dates back to 2009.
“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made to date, but I’m very excited for these next steps,” Kabat said.
In the nearly 10 years since the city’s plan was put in place, it has made energy efficiency a priority, taking such steps as installing sensors on lights in city buildings, converting to such new technology as LED light bulbs and fuel-efficient city vehicles.
“We’ve been making those changes, and, as we track our progress every year with our indicators report, we’re making good progress,” Kabat said.
However, Kabat, who signed on to a pledge to support 100 percent clean, renewable energy in La Crosse earlier this year, says the city can do more with renewable energy options, which are good for the city’s budget, as well as the environment.
“I think it’s important to set very aggressive goals when it comes to these types of programs because they do save taxpayer dollars and reduce our carbon footprint,” Kabat said.
With aging buildings, there are a number of opportunities for improvements, from updating the boiler and air handler at city hall to adding solar arrays to the top of city buildings or parking ramps to using grant funding to purchase electric buses for the Municipal Transit Utility.
“It’s big projects, little projects and things in between. When you add them all up, it makes a big difference,” Kabat said.
The city staff who work in the facilities are the best people to find potential savings, Kabat said.
“That team will be charged with being the project leaders and making sure that we’re working between the departments, between the facilities to identify potential projects and to actually have them implemented,” Kabat said.
Among the team members will be La Crosse environmental planner Lewis Kuhlman, who said the main idea behind the group was to build on the strategic plan with input from each city department.
“We want to keep the momentum going,” Kuhlman said.
The city has met a lot of its goals in individual departments, he said, but wants to ramp up its coordination. Finding more efficiencies will be helpful as city staff work with the mayor to keep the city budget and tax rate steady.
“Being able to do more with less, maintain our quality of services without making cuts to other areas, I think is really important,” Kuhlman said.
While the city has done a lot to track energy usage, waste and emissions in its sustainability indicators report, it can step up efforts to measure how policies affect those things, he said.
The resolution going before the committee Thursday sets aside the city’s funds from Xcel Energy to invest in its sustainability efforts, particularly if any grants require the city to chip in.
“We’re hoping to utilize those savings as basically a starter fund if we need local matching funds to help with some of these,” Kabat said.