Monday, November 07, 2005

My First Attendance at the City Council Meeting--Focus: Utility Worker Wages, Golf Course Fees, Walkable Trails

Tonight, I attended my first City Council meeting. Quite interesting. It was much more lively than the Utility Service Board meeting I attended awhile ago. The room was full due to an amendment regarding local salaried & non-union hourly employees' wages to approve a 3% wage increase. Recently, the local utilities union employees received a 3% increase as well. The local utility is municipally-owned so the City Council had to approve or disapprove the increase. As it appears, some of the council members did not want to give these city workers the full 3% raise. Some of these council members were looked at as discriminating against women because a majority of the workers who would receive the raise are women. The opposing members contended it was because the manager of the utilities (who makes a 3-figure salary) would be included in that 3% raise. My suggestion: Couldn't an ordinance be made that wouldn't include the top-salaried in this ordinance? Couldn't these considerations be made separately?

Anyway, the next heated debate that came up was raising some rates for golf fees at our local municipal golf course. One council member claimed that the golf course has lost a considerable amount of money in the past year. We are also without a pro. Some protesters to the raise in rates included a man who worried about people who play that are on fixed incomes and how they wouldn't be able to pay to play anymore. He argued that this would actually decrease the revenue for the golf course in the long run. I don't ever play golf and I'm not familiar with the course that well. From my perspective, why couldn't they implement greener energy-saving and cost effective measures to save money? I have several ideas. One would be using rainwater capture & greywater irrigation systems. This would cutdown on water usage and costs. What about using composted fertilizers instead of expensive fossil-fuel produced fertilizers? It would be much cheaper and better for the environment. I also thought about all of the mowing. Wouldn't it be more cost effective to switch to diesel-powered equipment? Last, wouldn't composting toilets save on water and sewage costs? I know golf courses aren't the most environmentally-friendly places but it would be impossible to just say to the dedicated golfers, "No, we'll just have to shut the course down now because it's not high on the list of priorities one will have in a post-peak world!" The next thing would be to either implement these lower-tech, lower-cost measures for the golf course or to just let it go until it can't sustain itself anymore.

When I came home, I did a search on sustainable golf courses to see what I could find. I didn't find much but I did find this book that I wish I had the money for to give to the local Parks Department for ideas:
Sustainable Golf Courses: A Guide to Environmental Stewardship
It costs $70. Just published in January 2005.


I'm joining some local revitalization groups to try and introduce some of my ideas. One of the groups is called "Friends of Banker's Row". It is basically a group of homeowners who are trying to refurbish some old homes that some of the rich in our community lived in around the early 1900s, I believe. Many of these old homes have become severely distressed. Tonight, an ordinance was approved declaring the area as "residentially distressed" for tax abatement purposes. This ought to help the homeowners in their plight. It is right in the heart of the city. This group, FBR, will be combining efforts with another group called the Historic Preservation group. I'll meet with them on the 16th. We'll see what's going on.

Another group I'm going to join is called The Little Turtle Waterway Project. Much has been done already to create a walkable area along the banks of our rivers that run directly around the heart of the downtown. Presently, there is a push to combine two separate trails, thus, creating an opportunity to walk along the banks of the rivers for miles right into the heart of the town. We already have a trail called River Bluff Trail that our local hospital engineered and developed. The new trail connecting River Bluff with the Little Turtle Waterway will most likely be called the Historic Mill Race Trail. At least that's the name it's been given at this point. The name may change. But I will be happy to be a part of its development, even to the physical point of clearing the brush! I'm going to the meeting with the intention of introducing the public composting toilet idea as one of topics will be the discussion of public toilet facilities along the route. It may not "fly" but at least it will be a cost-effective and environmentally friendly idea in a post-peak future. Hope they will listen. All of this development most likely will not be the exact picture of my vision for my hometown but I'm willing to compromise for the walkable part of the projects! Here are pictures of some of the riverbanks that will be affected by the new Historic Race Mill trail to be developed:
Peaknik's Picture Place (will update with more accurate pictures as soon as I get on my other computer!!)

At the Council meeting, an ordinance was approved for the commitment of Rainy Day Funds for this new Mill Race Trail

All in all, I feel like I'm beginning my journey of helping my community to become more sustainable in a world where energy will be on the low side in the near future.

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