Why Does Rockland Need Another Staff Position?

Sat, 05/07/2022 - 10:30pm

Want to see our energy costs for Rockland shrink? Want flooding addressed? Want federal and state infrastructure money to come to Rockland? Want follow through on the 2019 Rockland Council commitment to be carbon neutral by 2045? Want rising sea levels in our harbor addressed? Want volunteer citizens on the sustainability committee to seriously address the climate emergency? Want a city staff person in a position that pays for itself? If “yes”…

Put a full-time sustainability coordinator into the Rockland 2023 budget.

When Rockland had a part-time sustainability person for a short time, it was a good beginning, but only a beginning. A half-time position was in the 2022 budget but who can live on half a salary? No surprise the position was not filled. Now is not the time to cut that budget line. Now is the time to make the position full time.

A professional is needed to dedicate themselves to the Rockland Comprehensive Plan’s goals, pursuing grant monies, guiding volunteers productively and looking far ahead by acting now on coordinated energy and sustainable practices in all areas. Let us interconnect the many good efforts begun so far into a cohesive vision to eliminate expense, waste and inefficiency.

Adding a staff person in a tight budget may sound like a wasteful mistake and sometimes it is. But if that position brings in money and covers its own salary, it is a mistake not to add that staff person.

When Rockland made climate action goals a priority in August 2019 through Resolve #31, the City subsequently budgeted for those goals by hiring a sustainability coordinator in December of that year, and the results speak for themselves.

In the FY22 Working Budget (published in May 2021), the Department of Economic and Community Development (under which the sustainability coordinator position is organized) highlighted how it brought state and federal dollars to Rockland, including:

  • $5,000 Efficiency Maine grant to help fund installation of an EV charging station at the Custom House Lot
  • $3,000 Bike Maine Community Grant secured for bicycle infrastructure
  • $8,000 Project Canopy grant secured for tree planting.

 

The Department also touted renewable energy and energy efficiency in City operations to the tune of:

  • $70,000 in estimated FY22 savings and more than $1.1 million (NPV) from going solar
  • $12,000+ estimated savings from LED lighting improvements (streetlights and buildings) in FY22 (and more than $1 million (NPV) over time)
  • $53,000 estimated savings from new electricity supply contract, and $100,000+ over its two-year term

 

Finally, the Department reported a 54% estimated carbon reduction from City government total energy use relative to 2018 baseline.

Today, the City claims $135,000 in estimated annual energy savings. Could we have achieved some of this without a dedicated sustainability coordinator? Yes, but it’s hard to see how the City’s investment of $25,000 (the sustainability coordinator part-time salary) represents anything but a good investment.

Without a sustainability coordinator and with staff already stretched thinly, we are in limbo without a person to follow through with collaborations, applications, implementations, incentives, volunteers and education for sustainability in Rockland.

Please do not make a big mistake now that will keep us from meeting the 2019 goal of carbon neutral by 2045, only 22 years away. Our gap without a coordinator has already delayed us, let’s catch up by making the right decision to put a full-time sustainability position into the 2023 budget.

Connie Hayes lives in Rockland