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Budget committee invests in sustainable savings

Thank you to the Lake Oswego Citizens Budget Committee for voting on May 2 to not adopt the decision package which would have eliminated funding for the sustainability coordinator’s position and most of the sustainability program. Castle

This package of decisions was based on the idea that our staff had been working on sustainability for some time now and doing a good job, so it must be integrated enough into their operations that they could continue on without needing someone to coordinate efforts. That is exactly where we want to end up, but unfortunately, we’re not there yet. Honestly, no one is at this point.

No business or municipality operates sustainably yet, because our economy is based on an unlimited supply of things we’re running out of, like cheap oil and water. So we have to be constantly re-evaluating the way we do things in order to adapt to the changing realities of the marketplace. A coordinator who is well trained over multiple disciplines can support and coordinate efforts across all departments, and keep everyone thinking outside the box. This is a small investment that can reap critical savings.

For example, our public works department is doing an analysis about the most cost-effective way to switch our street lights to LED bulbs, for significant savings on both electricity usage and maintenance costs. According to billing records, Lake Oswego spends $316,000 per year on street lighting. An experiment the department did by switching 57 lights to LEDs yielded a 61 percent savings. If we get a similar return on all 3,456 of our street lamps, our savings could be $190,000 per year.

We have a culture within the city organization that encourages that kind of thinking, and we want to keep it going to find other solutions that could also save us money. The decisions in this package would have sent a signal that this council does not value sustainability and brought that culture to a halt because no employee wants to pursue something that their bosses don’t support.

Having a strong sustainability program is like having an R&D department in a business. It constantly challenges staff to up their game in finding new ways to do things. We’re going to need this if we expect to maintain the services that citizens want with a smaller staff. The budget committee adopted all of the other decision packages it considered, which will reduce the number of city employees. By retaining the sustainability program, it has provided for one source of R&D that can incubate new ideas to streamline our operations and put us on solid financial footing into the future.

Jan Castle is a resident of Lake Oswego.



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