Fairfield looks to make improvements through sustainability projects

After a pair of City Council members urged Fairfield leaders to develop “a comprehensive roadmap on sustainability,” a 12-to-18-month course has been laid out.

Vice Mayor Tim Meyers and Council member Gwen Brill co-authored the letter asking the city to consider sustainable options for things from reducing Fairfield’s overall carbon footprint to community engagement and education.

Meyers said the topic of sustainability has become divisive and political, but in his mind, “It’s very contrary to that.”

“If you look at the core of sustainability, it’s building efficiency into your general processes that you have that makes sense for the environment, that makes sense for the community, it makes sense for the business owners,” he said. “This is the right thing to do for this city.”

City Manager Scott Timmer said this year to 18-month multi-phase comprehensive sustainability plan will be an outline of how they can improve citywide efforts. Its development will essentially include stakeholders from all corners of the city, including City Council, residents, the Environmental Commission, and city staff. A city sustainability team made up of city staff has also been formed.

Timmer said stakeholder engagement is key to the success of this plan, and their involvement will help “get the most information from the most sources to guide us in how we develop this plan.”

“Our efforts will impact all levels of city operations,” he said.

The city’s Fairfield Forward comprehensive plan highlighted five areas the city will explore for sustainability, which are air quality and climate change, community health and safety, energy conservation and efficiency, green initiatives, and water quality.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Timmer said the city’s still in the early stages of this initiative, and it’s being approached with deliberate intention “so we can give this the proper attention, the proper focus it’s going to deserve.”

The cost of this plan’s execution will be up to the city’s appetite for sustainability, which will be determined during the early planning sessions. City Council will have a strategy session soon to evaluate that appetite.

Development Services Director Greg Kathman said in a recent meeting with a member of Cincinnati’s sustainability department, it’s believed the Federal Inflation Reduction Act that passed a couple of months ago “is going to change the game, change the landscape for this over the next decade or more.”

It’s expected that the federal bill will help create new programs, grants and funding sources. So while there are already some highly competitive programs out there that provides free money, there’s an expectation more money will be made available.

Planning Manager Erin Lynn said the federal transportation bill that also recently passed also includes new money for transportation enhancement projects, which can fund a lot of connectivity, a big component of sustainability efforts.

Sustainability isn’t a new concept for the city. Fairfield has, internally, agreed to use 100% renewable energy sources, signed an agreement with the city of Dayton to use their lime recycling program, and is a member of the Hamilton to New Baltimore Ground Water Consortium.

Externally, the city has replaced street lights with LED lighting systems, installed an electric vehicle charging station at the Community Arts Center, established an Environmental Commission, has a curbside residential recycling program, and uses a wind turbine to power the pond aeration system at Huffman Park.

There are five stages to this initiative, but once the city hits that fifth stage, which is program management, “The project portion of the initiative has concluded, and at that point, sustainability will become integrated into our daily operations. We will continue to have continued measurements, we will continue to have continuous monitoring, but at that point, this initiative has become a part of how we do business every single day.”

Meyers said over the next year to 18 months, the city will have “some hard decisions” around funding and competing against other projects that also have to be done.

“But this is an attractor for the next generation that’s going to live in this city. I think it’s vitally important that this council takes this up. We’ve had this. We’ve taken this up to some level,” Meyers said. “This is not going away. This will be at the forefront.”

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