Residents needed for Environmental Citizens Committee

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published February 21, 2018

MADISON HEIGHTS — Madison Heights has had an Environmental Citizens Committee, or ECC, since 1989, but the group’s been inactive for years. 

That’s about to change. 

Newly elected City Councilwoman Roslyn Grafstein has called for its revival, and residents are needed to serve.

The Madison Heights City Council approved the group’s reboot Feb. 12. As City Councilman Robert Corbett recalled it, the ECC was originally formed in response to pollution concerns at the waste transfer site on John R Road, which belongs to the Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority, or SOCRRA. Back in the ’80s, the iconic smokestacks spewed fumes from what was then a trash-burning facility. The city created the ECC in response to public outcry. 

However, over the years, participation waned. Now environmental concerns are back at the forefront of the public’s mind amid overwhelming scientific consensus on global climate change. Madison Heights is currently involved in a “Recycle Off” competition with Royal Oak, where each city is competing to see who can produce the largest percentage increase in recycling rates.

The changes with the new ECC include the addition of composting, electronic waste and stormwater management under its advisory role; decreasing the number of voting members from 12 to 7 at-large; providing two alternates and a council alternate; and meeting quarterly for the first year.

But before the group can decide when and where to meet, it needs members. So far there’s Robert Corbett’s wife, Linda Corbett, who served on the previous ECC. And there’s also Grafstein, the council representative who called for the ECC’s revival. 

“I think we need to look into what options we have for replacing the trees that have been lost due to road reconstruction over the past 10-20 years,” Grafstein said. “Going forward, if you lose a tree, the city will give you the option to replace it. But my family lost our tree about 10 years ago. It’s expensive, though — about $250 per tree. And the city is not in the financial situation for that now.”

One goal for the ECC, then, could be to research a more affordable approach to restoring the city’s tree canopy. Another goal, she said, could be to better educate residents on recycling and composting — two ways to reduce the amount of trash that winds up in landfills. She also said the ECC could work on community events, like an “e-Waste Day” where residents could bring in their old electronics for safe disposal.   

“Any resident can join (the ECC),” Grafstein said. “I’d especially like to see people who have an interest in or experience with environmental issues, whether it’s at home or in a professional role, or involvement in other environmental groups. But really, anyone who has an interest can join.” 

City Manager Ben Myers said that while the city’s boards and commissions generally don’t make policy decisions directly, their research and recommendations help steer the City Council toward the best decisions.

“I value all of our volunteer boards and commissions,” Myers said. “I would note the recent contributions from the (Information Technology Advisory Committee), with their recommendations on the website redesign and telephone system procurement; the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, with their work on analyzing park and playscape amenities; the Planning Commission, which recently studied and recommended significant zoning text amendments … and the Downtown Development Authority, which recently undertook and completed a new 20-year Tax Increment Finance Plan.”

Corbett praised the return of the ECC.

“I think this is long overdue. It’s a great idea,” Corbett said. “It’s very much in keeping with the interests of people these days with ecology and improving the quality of the community.”

To apply for the Environmental Citizens Committee, visit the City Clerk’s Office at Madison Heights City Hall, 300 W. 13 Mile Road, or call the city clerk at (248) 583-0826. There is also a downloadable application at the city’s website, www.madison-heights.org.