CIRCLE PINES – A local 10-year-old girl’s letter was the final push for the city to join the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program.
The letter was written by 10-year-old Numa Zahra, who attended Golden Lake Elementary this past school year. The handwritten letter was brief: “My name is Numa and I am about to turn 10 next month. I am worried about the climate change. It would be wonderful if the city could declare a climate change policy. Please think about it.”
Before the letter arrived at City Hall, City Administrator Patrick Antonen and Councilmembers Dean Goldberg and Matt Percy attended the annual League of Minnesota Cities conference in Duluth, where they learned about the GreenStep program. The program does not address climate change per se, but aims to help cities achieve environment sustainability and reduce energy use. After the conference, the council began discussion about possibly joining the program. Then Numa’s letter arrived.
The conference was June 26-28; Numa’s letter was dated June 28. The timing compelled the council to take action.
After many meetings about the process of joining and following the program, the council invited Numa and her parents to its July 23 meeting, where the council unanimously passed a resolution to join the GreenStep program. Numa was also given a copy of the resolution.
“You can feel really good and proud because you did something,” Mayor Dave Bartholomay told Numa. “You wrote a letter, you expressed your concern, and now things are happening.”
“(Your parents are) obviously extremely proud of you, and they should be,” added Percy. “It takes a lot of courage to reach out to the council to come here and present to us like this.”
In the GreenStep program, cities can choose to implement up to 29 “best practices,” or goals that encourage cost-efficiency and energy use reduction in five categories: buildings and lighting, land use, transportation, environmental management and economic and community development. Participating in the program is voluntary; not every practice has to be fulfilled, nor does every action within a practice have to be fulfilled. Cities receive recognition within the program just for meeting minimum program requirements.
According to Antonen, Circle Pines is an “environmentally conscious city already”; the city has already met many of GreenStep’s best practices because of previous city policies. Some examples include replacing the streetlights with LED bulbs, stormwater management and parks and trails management. Though the city partakes in sustainable purchasing practices, this is not backed by an actual written policy. By passing a resolution to join the GreenStep program, the city can create an official policy for sustainable purchasing and other environmentally sustainable resolutions to keep the city accountable.
Antonen noted that some cities “have trouble with this (program). There (are) some folks that think there’s a conspiracy theory behind joining this group, which is completely voluntary.”
In response, Percy said the program “is not some environmental conspiracy. When you get right down to it, it’s all about efficiency, which means cost-savings. We’re saving money, and who doesn’t want saved money?”
In other action,
the City Council:
• Announced a policy change that allows Utilities to enter into a “gas prepay” arrangement. The arrangement allows Utilities to group with Utilities from other cities as a single purchaser in order to receive discounts on gas. This policy will be in effect for the next five years and is renewable every five years. The city had considered entering such an arrangement about a decade earlier, but decided that the gas market was not stable enough then.
• Reviewed a report from the Police Governing Board that included an approved change to the police department’s IT system. The IT system will be transferred from an independent server to Metro INET, a system also used by Lexington, Centerville and the Centennial Fire District. The current IT system is manned by a local sergeant; with the transfer, the system will be run by full-time IT professionals so that the police are more readily available to respond to emergencies. The transfer will also allow the police to more effectively respond to the increase in calls. The transfer is planned to take effect Jan 1.
• Acknowledged Night to Unite on Aug. 6. The number of parties are unknown at this point but a list will later be posted on the city’s website. The council discussed visiting parties as a group throughout the night, as they did last year.
• Announced the city’s decision to end its 35W construction coalition. The coalition will be disbanded due to having successfully garnered the needed funds from both Congress and the state for construction and seeing that construction is well under way. The leftover money will be returned to those involved based on their share of how much effort they put into the coalition. Paperwork will arrive soon for the council to sign to make the coalition’s dissolvement official.
• Councilmember Matt Percy updated the council on efforts to promote an open house for the 2020 Street and Utility Improvement Project. The open house will be 7 to 8 p.m. Aug. 1 at City Hall. The council discussed possibly recording the event and also serving cookies and punch.
• Mayor Bartholomay advertised the Anoka County Historical Society’s need for more volunteers. Anyone who loves local history is welcome to join, and can fill out a volunteer application on the Society’s website: anokacountyhistory.org.