Picture of Susan Sunflower at a previous council meeting
By Kristine Hall
On May 21, 2018 – 7 PM EST, multiple Moving to Conservers and Sierra Club members attended the monthly Brevard City Council meeting to show support for the Sierra Club Pisgah Chapter’s “Ready for 100 Campaign” presentation. If implemented, the suggestions within this proposal would transition all city operations to renewable energy by 2030 or sooner.
As people arrived to the meeting, Mayor Jimmy Harris welcomed each attendant individually, introduced himself and presented he or she with a commemorative 150th Anniversary City of Brevard lapel pin. He was friendly and joked with folks which provided a light and amiable mood at the start of the meeting.
As the meeting commenced, Mayor Harris introduced the city officials and our Councilmen and Councilwoman present at the meeting whilst explaining everyone’s role to the public attendees.
As a side note, Mayor Harris also took time to stop and explain all the proceedings throughout the entire evening’s meeting. Since I have not attended a City Council meeting prior to this one, I am unsure if this is a normal occurrence for him or he was doing it for the benefit of the lone high schooler that attended. He was excited to see the youth’s interest – (and she was actually there to support our speakers and the Sierra Club proposal!) Mayor Harris’s additional commentary throughout the evening was definitely welcomed by me (the newbie) to help understand all the nuances of the meeting’s proceedings.
Prior to our group’s agenda, the first part of the meeting included an informative public Q&A session on changes to water and sewage impact fees and a presentation regarding the proposed purchase of Mission Hospital by United Healthcare System. Both great topics which I encourage everyone to investigate further 🙂
During the public Public Participation time, there were 3 people who spoke, all who were wonderful and insightful.
The first addressee was a former councilman. He spoke of the business opportunities and monetary gains that exist with replacing fossil fuels with alternative sources. He talked about a local woman who contributed to a book that he had in hand: “Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era” by Amy Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute. He had some great real-life examples, the main one being the recent Duke Energy program for reduced or free LED bulbs.
Next up was John Wiseman who passionately spoke regarding the recent rainfall we’ve had here in Transylvania county, and how it has negatively impacted the local farming businesses which, in turn, impacts our own financial investments in those local businesses. Since many crops were destroyed with the recent flooded fields and overflowing rivers, the entire community will feel the impact with a smaller harvest. He discussed how the city needs to enforce LEED certified construction going forward to help prevent even worse future flooding. If everything is paved over – the water has nowhere else to go!!
Kim Coram was the third speaker, and she discussed the recent composting efforts spearheaded by Moving to Conservers and all the environmental benefits of composting. She highlighted the locations of the composting sites that have been created and, how, after 4 short months, there are not enough compost repositories to support the volume of the restaurants that want to participate. (How amazing is that?!?) She offered our group’s expertise and requested a future symposium so we can discuss ideas and solutions. She also pointed out that there is obviously demand for composting and the soil it produces so it could also be a business and employment opportunity for the city. The counsel was very interested and specifically asked for the group’s name again (Moving to Conservers). Several board members physically wrote it down – so that was encouraging!
It was then time for the Sierra Club presentation. Jim Reynolds, Chair of the Pisgah Group of the North Carolina Sierra Club kicked it off with an overview and presented the City Council with the challenge of “do we want to be a follower or a leader” of the energy and environmental changes that ARE coming. After his introduction, Jim Hardy assumed the podium to present the proposal specifics. (Please refer to Kim’s prior post for the specific action items he discussed. http://berightthere.info/environment/sierra-club/is-brevard-ready-to-transition-to-100-renewable-energy/.)
It was a well-planned and passionate presentation. At one point in his speech, he asked all the attendees who were present that night exclusively to support these changes to please stand up – and it was so wonderful to see (what felt like) at least half the room stand up. What an impactful representation!
As Jim’s presentation wound down, a few of the council members had questions. City Manager
Jim Fatland asked if the group that had previously committed to providing free electric charging stations was still intact because they had found a city parking lot spot to install it in and are fully onboard to support it. Mr. Hardy and Mr. Fatland’s exchange exposed that talks had dissolved and there had not been any further communication on it and they agreed to connect further after the meeting to pursue implementing the charging station.
Next, Councilwoman Maureen Copelof spoke, asking, since limited budget is always a concern, what could be the “biggest bang for the buck” to make positive changes. Jim talked about a device that could be installed on city vehicles (i.e. fire trucks, police cars) that monitor battery levels and could shut down the engine when it hits 100% charge to reduce idling, hence reducing carbon emissions. This would cost about $500.
After these points, Mayor Harris alerted Jim that his presentation time was about up – but Mayor Harris also wanted to point out to the audience, specifically to “newcomers,” that the city has indeed done quite a bit in recent years to become more “green”:
- Brevard was one of the first cities to sign onto the “Cool Cities” initiative back in 2005
- The city sponsored and completed Bracken Mountain Trail. Mayor Harris talked about how there was interest in building condos there but he wanted to preserve “the view” from downtown. He also talked about his vision to be able to walk or bike from downtown to the forest and how that has guided his decisions.
- The city previously replaced light bulbs for more efficient ones (although Mayor Harris acknowledged that technology and efficiency has since improved). Bulbs will also be reevaluated as the downtown street lamps are replaced in the near future (due to salt corrosion).
- The city appropriately addressed drainage issues of people rerouting their gutters into the city water systems.
- The city implemented a successful residential recycling program within Brevard city limits. He mentioned our city’s program has one of the highest participation rates within the state. Also cited they are looking to insource the program again to save money and possibly provide recycling in the downtown areas near businesses for patrons and visitors.
Mayor Harris then stated, although the city does strive to make “green” choices, they truly appreciate the ongoing reminders that more can always be done.
At this point, a break was called by Mayor Harris due to the time. Since our agenda had already been addressed, most of our crew said their goodbyes and headed home.
Reflecting on the evening, I am extremely appreciative of the presenters and their articulation of the issues that we face and for pointing out potential solutions. I am hopeful that the Council Members and Mayor recognize the severity of the issues from an environmental impact standpoint, but that they also see the economic benefit these positive changes could provide our city. I do think we need to persist. We need to follow up with our officials using email pressure and continue to push for our voices to be heard by calling for and attending future meetings en masse as well. I know I will!
Please refer to the previous article for the council contact information: http://berightthere.info/environment/sierra-club/is-brevard-ready-to-transition-to-100-renewable-energy/