By B.C. Manion
When city officials in Zephyrhills decided to amp up efforts to go green, they asked citizens to help them come up with ideas.
The city hired Tammy Vrana of Vrana Consulting, Inc., to lead the process, which yielded a sustainability plan, ranking priorities and offering steps to carry them out.
The Sustainable Zephyrhills Community Action Plan has seven guiding principles, said Todd VandeBerg, the city’s director of development. The idea is for the Zephyrhills City Council and mayor to consider those principles when making budget decisions, VandeBerg said.
When the plan was being developed, residents were invited to offer suggestions and weigh in on priorities, Vrana said. They expressed substantial interest. One idea that gained substantial support and is already in the planning stages was the creation of a community garden.
The garden is expected to begin this year, VandeBerg said.
Vrana said the exercise has broadened the city’s view when it is taking on new projects.
Zephyrhills City councilwoman Jodi Wilkeson said community interest goes beyond merely cutting energy use and costs.
“It’s all kind of big picture,” Wilkeson said, noting people are interested in finding ways to improve health and wellness through initiatives such as a community garden and bicycle trails.
Younger people, in particular, want to find ways to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, Wilkeson said.
Besides giving people an opportunity to voice their opinion, the city’s efforts have also garnered positive attention and captured awards from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the American Planning Association and the American Public Works Association.
Vrana, who is an urban planner, said she was pleasantly surprised by the recognition the plan has received.
She thinks it demonstrates that a small government can be proactive about sustainability efforts and can work toward those goals, even with limited resources.
Vrana’s contract for $28,000 was paid with proceeds from a $250,000 grant the city received from the U.S. Department of Energy through the state of Florida.
The city also used some of that money to pay for an energy audit of city hall and the library and to subsequently install high-efficiency air conditioning units, programmable thermostats and more efficient lighting in both buildings.
The city also added a Chevy Volt to its fleet and purchased an electrical charging station.
It costs $1.25 to charge up the car to drive 40 miles, compared to about $3.40 a gallon for gas.
As another plus, the city allows people to use the charging station free of charge, VandeBerg said.
The city is also looking at ways to increase its recycling efforts, VandeBerg said. The possibilities range from simply stationing more recycling bins around the community to taking a more aggressive approach and having recycling bins at individual households.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.