DISCOVERY – Levi Webb, 2, uses a rubber mallet to crush a clay rock in order to find  the plastic toy hidden inside during the Babies and Books event outside the Sitka Public Library Saturday. The theme of the event was “Rumble in the Jungle,” and it marked the beginning of the summer reading program. Babies and toddlers received a free book, an activity packet and a stuffed animal. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Assembly Approves Sustainability Goals

By SHANNON HAUGLAND

Sentinel Staff Writer

The Assembly gave unanimous approval Tuesday to a work plan for the Sustainability Commission that prioritizes renewable energy strategies and “a shared vision for Sitka’s energy future.”

The other two top priorities are analyzing opportunities for diversion of city solid waste. The third goal is to create a plan to integrate electric vehicles into the city fleet, and create a strategy for public electric vehicle charging stations in Sitka.

The Assembly passed the 10-page work plan on a 6-0 vote. The work plan included an additional 27 pages of supporting material, including appendices and community survey results.

“When I looked through these I was really impressed,” Assembly member Thor Christianson said. He said sometimes he feels goals are set at a “pie in the sky” level, but that was not the case here. “These things are to varying degrees attainable. We may not get perfect, but it will make a difference even if we get halfway. ... They focus on things that we can actually do, which is nice.”

Tim Pike agreed and said he appreciated that the goals are prioritized.

“If we pull ourselves too thin, we’re not going to get much accomplished,” he said. “I think our first goal is probably a really good start, build some success and work our way through the rest of them.”

The commission had nine goals to start out with, combined some and reduced them to the top three.

The first goal is related to Sitka’s energy future. This could include an assessment of community emissions, forecasting energy demands, improving energy efficiency and weatherization measures. 

The second goal calls for identifying ways Sitka can “increase waste diversion,” starting with a baseline assessment of solid waste.

“We’re really going to try to take a look at the whole picture of where the waste is coming from, where can we just cut it off at the source ... and what are the sources that we can reduce the inputs for,” commission chair Katie Riley said.

The third goal involves initial steps for installing EV chargers for private vehicles in Sitka. “This will lead to development of a broader EV charging infrastructure strategy to inform installation across Sitka,” the work plan says.

Reacting to a comment that the goals seemed too large to accomplish in a year, Riley agreed and said the panel’s plan is to work on the first priority, and the others as time allows, and report back in a year.

Riley answered a number of questions from Crystal Duncan, who said she supported the plan. 

“It’s going to be a huge undertaking,” Duncan said. “So I appreciate the volunteerism and focusing on this is something that, again, comes through as a passion on the part of the commission members.”

Chris Ystad voiced his support for the plan, particularly anything that increases the efficiency of the electric grid and plans for the future, he said.

“I like anything where there’s the potential to save money and with our shipping getting more and more expensive. I like the idea of trying to find new ways of dealing with our solid waste and maybe not shipping out quite as much,” he said. “So I think that’s a good thing.”

As for the EV charging stations, one of the goals should include finding funding outside the city budget, he said.

“I’m excited to have other eyes on this and it’s trying to make ourselves more efficient,” Ystad said. “So I definitely approve of this.”

The work plan can be found at cityofsitka.com, under the link for the meeting details for Tuesday’s Assembly meeting. The next commission meeting is 6 p.m. April 4 at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Some members of the public also spoke in favor of the work plan or various elements of the plan, and had suggestions for areas of focus, and on ways to reduce waste.

In other business Tuesday night,  the Assembly:

– presented a service award to Robert Sam, longtime member of the Sitka Historic Preservation Commission.

– approved an ordinance, on first reading, to give a tax exemption for the Sitka Historical Society for its leased office and museum space at Harrigan Centennial Hall. It will be up for second and final reading April 11.

– approved a match commitment for the Katlian Street paving and improvement project. Assembly members agreed to continue forward with the project, and approve a higher match than required in order to make Sitka’s application for the state funds more attractive in the competitive process. The $10.6 million project requires a 9.03 percent match, or $956,187. Matching funds would come from the Visitor Enhancement Fund, which is city bed tax revenue; and the cruise ship passenger tax.

Assembly members concurred but did not vote on a higher match, which city officials said would make the city’s application for funding more competitive. The item will come back to the Assembly as a resolution, with a total proposed match of $1.496,225 million, for three more points in the application. Some members said they would consider a higher match if they had information about what local programs would be cut in order to put more money into paving project.

 

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20 YEARS AGO

May 2004

Sitka High sophomore Dianne Chong was named Athlete of the Meet at the Region V track and field championships in Juneau, as she won the long jump, triple jump and 100-meter IM hurdles. Other Wolves winners were Joy Ribao, Megan Lehmann, Greg Hunter and Kyle Ainslie.

50 YEARS AGO

May 1974

 The new Sheldon Jackson College Library will be officially dedicated Friday. Remarks will be made by Elmer Rasmuson, National Bank of Alaska; Dr. Orin Stratton, SJC president from 1966 to 1973; Mrs. Betty Stratton; and current SJC president Robert C. Uddenberg. Keys to the $675,000 building will be presented to Mrs. Evelyn Bonner, head librarian.

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