Bicycles ridden by city employees are parked next to city of Steamboat Springs vehicles outside of the parks and recreation building. The city's Green Team promoted biking and using public transportation to get to and from work and for running errands. The city is working to form a new advisory committee on sustainability.

Photo by Scott Franz

Bicycles ridden by city employees are parked next to city of Steamboat Springs vehicles outside of the parks and recreation building. The city's Green Team promoted biking and using public transportation to get to and from work and for running errands. The city is working to form a new advisory committee on sustainability.

City of Steamboat Springs will create new environmental sustainability committee

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— Four years after its popular and productive Green Team faded away, the city of Steamboat Springs is getting ready to form a new advisory group to help make the city more environmentally friendly.

The city's Green Team used to be one of the hottest sustainability groups in town before it disbanded in 2010.

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Informational posters about composting line the walls of a kitchen inside City Hall in Steamboat Springs. The city soon will form a new environmental sustainability committee.

The team of city employees and community volunteers had an annual budget of $20,000 and realized a number of accomplishments that ranged from obtaining bikes that employees could share to purchasing renewable energy credits at Centennial Hall and Howelsen Hill.

Under a program conceived by the Green Team, city employees also received incentives in the form of prizes if they commuted to and from work without driving a vehicle.

Then came the recession.

In 2009, city employees' hours and pay were cut, and the Green Team started to wilt.

"Our Green Team is defunded and dissolved," council member Sonja Macys said succinctly earlier this month when other council members inquired about the downfall of the team.

Council members were less interested in discussing how the group disappeared in recent years than they were about talking about a new, more expansive sort of Green Team that is in the works at the city.

City staff is moving ahead with a plan to form a new group of city employees and community members who will advise the city and the council on sustainability-related efforts.

In the coming months, city staff is gathering all the data it can on the city's air quality, waste stream, water quality and energy use to establish baselines that will help guide future sustainability policies and operating decisions.

Staff will turn to the council for guidance and to set targets on those items.

"You could tell us that you just want to simply reduce energy expenses, or you could tell us you want us to reduce our carbon footprint no matter what it costs," City Manager Deb Hinsvark told the council. "Or you could go somewhere in between all of that. What we would like to know is where you want to hit."

The council is expected to start having that conversation in the fall.

The committee would be formed around the same time.

Hinsvark said the new committee the city will form will be different from the Green Team in that it won't focus just on facilities and operations at the city.

"We were a Green Team trying to figure out how to green up our own activities, without looking outward to the community," she said. "I think this new committee will go beyond just the city's operations, because they will have the ability to suggest both policy to the City Council and procedures to the city manager."

The idea to put a new focus on sustainability and lead by example was one of the goals the City Council agreed to this year.

The council was supportive of city staff's plan to form a new advisory committee.

Some council members recently have lamented that they do not have any sort of plan for how to weigh whether to invest in sustainability opportunities like a new solar garden that was previously planned to be built near Craig.

City staff asked the council in March to come up with a new energy purchase and usage policy that could help to prioritize and guide future spending decisions.

City Planner Bob Keenan, who coordinated the Green Team for five years, welcomed the council's recent resolve to focus on sustainability.

"I think it's pretty exciting, and I think it's great for the city as a government organization but also for the community," Kennan said. "I think it's important for us to demonstrate good leadership for sustainability efforts. It's also important for our visitors to understand we embrace that because it's part of our livelihood."

Keenan said that although the Green Team disbanded after employee furloughs were enacted and budgets were cut, sustainability efforts at the city have not stopped.

He said city staff continued to complete a number of items that were recommended in a 2006 Sustainability Management Plan, including performance contracting that aimed to reduce utility bills at city facilities.

"We've also provided a sustainable purchasing policy for the city that focuses on our business practices and making sure the products we use and the products we buy are sustainable," he said.

The Green Team and the public participation it attracted also spurred the creation of the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, which was able to turn its focus to sustainability efforts throughout the entire community.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

Comments

Joe Meglen 6 months ago

Sustainability is often code language for more control, government regulations, more taxes and lack of free choice. Let’s hope that sustainable means economic sustainability as its first priority. Business must operate with sustainability in mind every day or they fail. The last “Green Team” proved not to be sustainable.

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jerry carlton 6 months ago

Political correctness terms run amok. I turn off lights, turn off the water when I brush my teeth, have recycled for 25 or 30 years, combine my shopping trips, and do anything else I can to help save the planet but these politically correct terms make me want to puke.

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rhys jones 6 months ago

Sustainability!! Green!! Two lucrative buzz words, nowadays. Sure, I'll work to pay for your party.

This article disgusts me, actually. Green Leaches. With Friends In High Places.

PS -- In a previous capacity, I helped YVSC waste some of your money, so I got my slice.

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Steve Lewis 6 months ago

Local foods and efficient use of resources are good goals, not bad goals. We all have our view of conditions 10, 20 and 30 years out, and while the views are different each of us does apply them to our planning. That to me is the meaning of "sustainability".

My own view favors economic stability in these futures, and self-sufficiency in our remote setting would be some defense for that. I'm nervous about disruption and expect a big one when the flights become a marginal business proposition.

We may disagree about sustainable practices, yes. But the topic belongs on the table.

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Sam Jones 6 months ago

Hey folks, click on the link above "Our view" in which the Pilot expressed an opinion that our community did not need a sustainability coordinator way back in may of 2007. This is the not the time, they opined. Now, with perfect hindsight, we know that 2007 was in fact The Time to move forward with our community's sustainability efforts. Other mountain towns did so, took advantage of enormous available grants, both at the state and Federal level, developed an environment that was attractive for progressive clean tech and clean energy companies to do business (Carbondale, Garfield) and are now reaping the rewards 7 years later. Up here in NW CO, we are just barely scratching the surface of what can and should be done and I applaud the cities renewed committment to sustainability. We should all expect there to be a vocal few who can't handle change as well as others but clearly this is the right direction, if not a little late! Cheers

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Fred Duckels 6 months ago

Now I get it, we are talking grants from the bank of China. How foolish of me to assume that sustainability meant just that.

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Harvey Lyon 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Mark, you may be correct...but that's the problem. We are already unsustainable without putting our noses in the State and Federal trough and thusly beholding to our Government. In other words, we're well on our way to being slaves to our Government. Perhaps we can learn to do for ourselves a bit and do without a bit.

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Fred Duckels 6 months ago

This would be the unsustainability committee.

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Joe Meglen 6 months ago

Some are so embedded or invested in the state that an economic discussion of real sustainability absent redistribution by a ruling elite is heresy.

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Scott Wedel 6 months ago

"I think this new committee will go beyond just the city's operations, because they will have the ability to suggest both policy to the City Council and procedures to the city manager."

So it is a public policy board? Will it have open meetings, open records and so on? Is a public policy team of city employees operating on the taxpayer's dime even legal?

Green Team should be absolutely limited to city's operations.

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Scott Wedel 5 months, 4 weeks ago

In your world, it is important to be part of a bad idea and bad to criticize it.

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Scott Wedel 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Can't say I've seen you at any of the Oak Creek, YVHA, YVSC or county commissioner hearings that I've attended.

That said, there is really no point going to Oak Creek or YVHA meetings. Those boards basically ignore the public and see no need to answer direct questions. I know my commentary revealing issues has had more of an effect than attending their meetings.

YVSC will listen and respond and are good to attend.

County Commissioners are the best meetings to attend. They seem interested in ideas even if they don't agree and they are willing to express their thoughts on the issues and can change their minds. After they first came up with excuses on why their detailed budget wasn't online, they agreed to put it online.

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rhys jones 5 months, 4 weeks ago

"Sustainability" committees and organizations are remarkably self-sustaining, with a little help from bleeding hearts and us, the taxpayers.

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Fred Duckels 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Mark, Scott and I would never be selected to this board, it is reserved for the PC crowd. Only do-gooders need apply.

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