Dan Hust | Democrat
LEGISLATOR RON HIATT, right, listens as county Research Analyst Heather Brown discusses the coming Office of Sustainable Energy, of which she’ll be coordinator.
County focuses on saving, creating energy
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO They’re calling it the Office of Sustainable Energy.
And its job will be to investigate and recommend ways to conserve, generate and efficiently utilize energy within county government.
Actually, it will be Heather Brown’s job.
The county native is currently a research analyst for County Manager David Fanslau. She’ll continue to work under his supervision, but about half of her week will be devoted to the new duties.
Though her title has yet to be set, Fanslau said he already considers Brown the coordinator of the Office of Sustainable Energy.
On Tuesday, she talked with legislators, who unanimously approved the office’s creation (and made it official at Thursday’s full Legislature meeting). On Wednesday, she discussed it with many of the town supervisors.
Though she acknowledges it’s going to add to an already busy schedule, the new responsibilities will dovetail well with her research-oriented job. (And at least initially, her salary will remain the same.)
The basic goal is to save the county money while promoting the “green vision” legislators approved last year.
It’s a direct outgrowth of the Sullivan County Sustainable Energy Commission, which has met three times in the past year to determine how to create a sound energy policy.
Legislator Ron Hiatt, with commission members Denise Frangipane and Dick Riseling present, distributed the commission’s findings to legislators Tuesday.
While applauding the county’s participation in bulk purchasing of electricity, the following recommendations were made:
1. Energy use needs to be reduced as soon as possible. Through energy audits and employee training, equipment and lighting can be utilized and installed that will dramatically reduce energy costs.
2. Sustainable building techniques should be part of every construction and renovation project (the jail was specifically mentioned), using LEED standards.
3. Alternative energy generators like windmills, solar panels and hydroelectric/geothermal systems can be used to power county facilities in appropriate locations.
4. Should the proposal to generate hydroelectricity from the Neversink Dam move forward, the county should explore how local municipalities could tap into that source.
5. Dedicate staff to investigate, promote and implement energy conservation and generation.
6. Create an Energy Advisory Board to explore initiatives and make recommendations to county leaders. Such a board should be comprised of representatives from townships, villages, school districts, economic development agencies and “green”-oriented groups, though membership should not exceed 15 to maintain a manageable level.
The commission urged that recommendations #1 and #5 be implemented immediately, and Hiatt said that’s exactly what’s happening.
“We’re at the point where we’re just about ready to weigh anchor and launch the ship,” he said.
Though Fanslau does not anticipate “a big jump” in costs to start some of these initiatives in next year’s anticipatedly tight budget, no new staff are being hired at this point.
Grants and low-interest loans are being sought, and legislators expect the savings realized from energy efficiencies will make room for more staff.
But save for officemate Ellen Cutler, Brown is currently on her own.
Hiatt’s not worried.
“She’s full of energy and enthusiasm,” he told supervisors a fitting but unintended pun.
And she welcomes calls with any ideas or questions. Brown can be reached at 794-3000, ext. 3210.