By ASHLEY HELMS
In keeping up with its attentiveness to all things environmental, the Town of Mamaroneck is in the midst of ironing out a focus for its Sustainability and Resiliency Committee.
Though it was created two years ago, the committee is planning to kick-off two workshops in February so the public can throw out ideas for what direction the committee should go and what issues it feels are important in the community, committee chairman Tony Gelber said. The group plans to create a long-term sustainability plan.
The committee does have some preliminary ideas, according to Gelber, including reducing energy consumption at the Hommocks Park Ice Rink through its upcoming repairs. The repairs are aimed at cutting energy usage at the rink.
“We want to develop a resiliency plan by the end of 2014 and then we’re going to try to implement it,” Gelber said. “We came up with [a few] major goals; long term viability, quality of life and resiliency.”
The ice rink will be undergoing an environmental makeover in the next few years. Approximately $3.9 million is being used to upgrade the rink through an energy service contract with the town, along with other infrastructure upgrades to Town Hall and the fire department headquarters, located at 205 Weaver St.
One of the upgrades to the ice rink, according to Town Supervisor Nancy Seligson, a Democrat, is to use the same energy that keeps the ice cold to heat the stands next to the ice service so a separate energy source doesn’t have to be installed specifically for heat; therefore cutting down on energy consumption.
The committee is comprised of five volunteers—including an architect, engineer, planner, lawyer and financer—to tackle issues like building a strong resiliency to natural disasters, limiting the town’s carbon footprint and creating bike paths and other healthy, quality-of-life improvements, according to Gelber.
Supervisor Seligson will also be working with the committee. She has spent her professional career in advocacy work for Long Island Sound and with the county Board of Health.
Seligson said since the town was focusing on the parameters of the energy service contract last year, it decided the next step toward sound environmental practices would be to pinpoint a specific plan for the committee.
“It will set the stage for how we can save money going forward [as well as provide] energy savings and helping residents do better environmental stewardship for the town,” Seligson said.
Committee members haven’t discussed funding yet, but Seligson said the committee’s work will be funded by the town and a committee budget will be created if the group needs money for its projects going forward.
“Activities for the committee and overarching projects would have to be funded by the town. Smaller things could be from donations, but we haven’t talked about a mechanism for that,” Seligson said.
The Town of Mamaroneck is not alone in its endeavor. Many nearby municipalities have similar committees tailored to their needs.
The City of Rye started its sustainability committee in 2010 to take into account Rye’s unique natural characteristics, according to the city’s website. The Rye committee is made up of 10 members and approved a city-wide sustainability plan in 2013.
The Committee for the Environment is the Village of Mamaroneck’s frontline in sustainability management. The committee has 11 members and often watches over the village’s different governing boards to make sure they are supporting green initiatives, including the installation of solar panels on residents’ homes.
In the Village of Larchmont, its volunteer environmental committee has drafted anti-idling legislation for motor vehicles, put more recycling containers around the business district and written a pesticide reduction policy for all village grounds, according to the group’s website.
Every community’s environmental committee is specific and different, Seligson said, and the town’s collaborative is focused on “large-picture issues” rather than smaller, “ground issues.”
As evidence, she pointed to Larchmont and how its initiatives have been smaller and more focused.
The catalyst for the town committee occurred at a dinner for the Washingtonville Housing Alliance about two years. Gelber said he met Seligson there and they ended up chatting about what could be done to preserve the local environment.
“She has an environmental agenda,” Gelber said. “We happened to be at the same table talking about sustainability.”