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December 5, 2012

Roseville recognized for environmental leadership

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

ROSEVILLE — Roseville was recognized for environmental leadership with a member seal at the Michigan Green Communities conference in Lansing last month.

The member seal is the first of four recognition levels — member, bronze, silver and gold — awarded through participation in the Michigan Municipal League’s green community challenge. Roseville earned its member status for taking part in two energy-saving programs recommended in the challenge checklist.

“We had grant funding, so we converted all our city lights on municipal buildings to energy-saving LED lights,” said Mike Connors, Roseville’s community and economic development administrator. “In addition, we participated in the BetterBuildings for Michigan program.”

Roseville was one of the pilot cities for the BetterBuildings program, which offers low-cost energy audits and energy efficiency upgrade savings to residents through the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office.

“We are good environmental stewards, and we were part of the original steering committee when the energy office first started the program,” Connors said. “We try to be environmentally conscious in our operations and environmentally conscious in our development. Whenever we can do something that saves the residents money and is good for the environment, it’s a win-win situation.”

The conversion of 180 light fixtures in and around municipal buildings will bring an estimated $14,000 a year in savings to the city. “It’s savings that will go directly into the general fund,” Connors said.

The city plans on continuing to pursue energy savings and environmental projects in the future.

“We are going to be looking into more energy savings programs going forward,” he said. “We meet regularly with the energy folks, and we keep our finger on the pulse of what’s happening and what’s available to the community.

“We would like to be able to move up to bronze, or even silver, status in the next few years, but for now we are focusing our attention elsewhere. We are focusing on becoming redevelopment-ready certified. Once we achieve that, we will return our focus to environmental and energy savings efforts and pursue a higher status.”

The green communities challenge checklist details various ways communities can become more environmentally friendly on the MML website at mml.org/green. The checklist contains a variety of suggestions, ranging from street programs and recreation plans to alternative transportation and sustainability ideas.

“The challenge is to help communities develop goals and strategies to become more sustainable, to connect the people and communities that are working on these projects and to learn about all the great projects that are going on,” said MML project coordinator Luke Forrest.

The program started in 2009 in an effort to showcase various energy efficiency programs available to communities and help local municipalities apply for and make the best use of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funding.

“We have changed the program along the way to look at all environmental issues,” Forrest said, adding that water and air quality, green economic development and transportation are just some of the areas they expanded the green challenge to include.

Ann Arbor was the highest-scoring city in the state and achieved gold status.

“They have made a pretty intensive effort to tackle energy issues there,” Forrest said, explaining Ann Arbor’s high ranking.

“They have a full-time energy office with staff dedicated to reducing energy consumption and increasing sustainability. They do a lot to encourage walking, biking, taking the bus and using other means of alternative transportation. They have a set of sustainability goals for the community. And they just rebuilt their Justice Center, a city building, and it’s going to be (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, which is an energy efficiency certification for buildings.”

Forrest said that Ann Arbor’s success is at least partially due to the city’s partnership with residents and that the cities he’s seen with the most success are those that work with community members and residents to increase participation in programs, volunteerism, awareness and the development of new ideas.

BetterBuildings, which both Roseville and Eastpointe participate in, is just one of the many programs the challenge recommends to conserve energy and help build teamwork between municipalities and their residents.

“Both Roseville and Eastpointe are heading in the right direction to follow in Ann Arbor’s footsteps and be leading green communities,” Forrest said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.