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Wausau forms committee on energy, sustainability and environment

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By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — A new six-member committee focusing on energy and sustainability will meet for the first time this week.

The Sustainability, Energy and Environment Committee is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 11 in the second floor board room at City Hall. Members of the public can attend, but meetings held in the board room are not televised.

The committee, proposed in May, is “basically another idea that myself and Pat Peckham had some time ago in trying to find ways to save the city money and lower our energy costs, as well as making things somewhat better for the overall environment,” said Wausau Mayor Rob Mielke, in an email to Wausau Pilot and Review.

Peckham represents Dist. 1 and chairs the parks and recreation committee, which has been central in recent discussions surrounding environmental concerns in Riverside Park. In addition to Peckham, citizen members Lisa Siewert, Paul Kage, Mary Kluz, Claire Meney, and Benjamin Lee were appointed to serve on the committee.

“For consideration of possible members, both of us knew of some regular residents that had an interest in trying to move the city forward in this direction and focus on a variety of issues facing the future of Wausau,” Mielke said.

According to a May 16, 2018 memo, the group will focus on “issues that affect public health, welfare or safety relating to energy, sustainability, resilience, the environment and energy.” In addition, the committee could play a role in strategic planning for sustainability initiatives.

Peckham said he supports pushing for conversion to LED lighting and find ways to explore solar power, provided that any project would see fewer costs for the utility.

“I don’t sense in Wausau a strong enough desire for green energy that we would pay more for it,” Peckham wrote, in an email to Wausau Pilot and Review. “One way this could happen would be through a partnership with private investors who would install the solar photovoltaic arrays and, unlike a government entity, be able to get the tax credits and depreciation benefits.”

Peckham later noted that the county already has a policy regarding alternative energy projects.

“If it won’t pay for itself in seven years, it won’t be considered,” Peckham wrote. “That sort of thing is what killed the idea of solar for the new west-side fire station. The weight of the structure to hold the panels would have driven up the cost of the roof, so the panels would have had to pay for themselves, for the structures to hold them on the roof and the fortified roof.”

It is not clear what, if any, role the committee will play in the issue of potential environmental testing for Riverside park and the Thomas Street controversy.

At Monday’s meeting, the group will select a chair, discuss the committee’s authority and responsibilities, and determine priorities for 2019, according to the agenda.

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