Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hailey City Hall gets greener

Hailey Climate Protection Committee presents findings

Express Staff Writer

Susan McBryant

The city of Hailey reaffirmed its commitment to reducing impacts on the environment following an Al Gore "Inconvenient Truth"-style presentation on the impending threat of climate change by members of the Hailey Climate Protection Committee. The presentation was made during a City Council meeting on Thursday, Dec. 20.

The committee found a receptive audience with the council, which took steps last year toward energy efficiency at City Hall, saving $13,000 in the process.

"This is something I am fairly proud of," said Mayor Susan McBryant, who signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in February, joining more than 700 other municipalities in the United States committed to meeting or beating the Kyoto Protocol. "We are getting our own house in order so we can be an example for others."

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement established to set standards for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, the primary cause of man-made climate disruption. The United States has not ratified the protocol, which became binding in February 2005 for the 141 countries that have.

The Hailey Climate Protection Committee, which consists of city staff and one citizen liaison, was formed last winter to implement the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in Hailey. Five members of the committee attended the Idaho Energy and Green Building Conference in Boise in October and reported on Thursday that urgent measures must be taken to offset man-made changes to weather patterns due to the emission of greenhouse gases.

The committee reported that spring is coming 10 to 20 days earlier to southern Idaho than it did in 1948, resulting in lesser snowpack and a drier climate. It also reported that due to a lack of extreme cold during Idaho winters, pine beetle infestations have spread, causing increased risk of runaway forest fires.

In response to these issues, the city of Hailey is moving quickly to make changes to four city buildings, including authorization Thursday night of a $40,000 lighting retrofit, which the committee says will be paid back in energy savings in 18 months.

According to committee member and City Clerk Heather Dawson, city-owned buildings are using 28 percent less energy than they were in 2000 due to the implementation of energy-savings programs. She also pointed to city-sponsored transportation programs: Smart Moves, Twin Falls van pool, Bike to Work and the city bus, which are reducing C02 emissions by 1,000 pounds per month.

Working with the Environmental Resource Center in Ketchum, the committee has also initiated a community-wide electronics-recycling program, which has diverted 4,200 pounds of discarded computer equipment from the landfill.

Dawson said future goals for the committee include promoting energy-efficient guidelines for new construction, including the use of Energy Star and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification guidelines to improve building efficiency. Energy Star is a U.S. government program and LEED is a program of the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council. According to Dawson, Hailey City buildings could meet Energy Star certification by replacing an old furnace and submitting to an insulation leak test, for a total cost of $3,000.

LEED certification is based on a five point survey of building systems: site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. The city is already using many of these guidelines in its decision-making.

"We should be talking about this," said Mayor McBryant after commending the committee for its presentation. "With our educated community, builders will recognize that if they follow these guidelines they will have a premium product."

Council members were in agreement that implementing the committee's guidelines will be a gradual process that will need to include a great deal of public education.

"When we put forward water metering in the city there was resistance," said Councilwoman Carol Brown, "but it was the right thing to do."

According to City Engineer Tom Hellen, water-metering in Hailey has resulted in a marked reduction in water use since its inception in 2006, including nearly 40 million gallons of water saved due to the discovery of leaks in the municipal water system. Most of those leaks have been repaired.

The Hailey Climate Action Committee will carry forward in the 2008 under the title of the Hailey Environmental Leadership Program (HELP). According to Dawson, the name change signifies an expanding role in implementing community programs.

"We are a grassroots effort with support from City Hall," she said. "In the coming year we will be following up with concrete proposals based on our findings."

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