Chatham County officials have not forgotten about a plan to become the “greenest” in the state; much of the work is just occurring behind the scenes.
“They have been very responsive,” said Larry Miles, a member of the Chatham Environmental Forum, a group of community volunteers that crafted the plan.
Henry Lewandowski, the county’s director of mosquito control, has been meeting with the forum’s various committees to go over the goals, Miles said.
One big step the county is taking is figuring out how much energy it consumes, said Pat Monahan, assistant county manager. Once that base value is established, the county can work to meet reduction goals set in the plan, Monahan said.
The county is aiming to achieve Partnership for a Sustainable Georgia’s bronze status in the next few months, Monahan said. Bronze status is the entry point for most applicants to Sustainable Georgia, which was established by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in 2004 to encourage environmental stewardship among governments, businesses and organizations.
Some of the recommendations of the plan – such as the ordering of hybrid dieselelectric buses for Chatham Area Transit – have already been implemented, but many will take more time, Lewandowski said.
Many of the goals are expected to be cost-effective. The up-front costs may be a little more expensive, but the county will end up saving money in the long run, Lewandowski said – citing a plan to replace traffic-light bulbs with LED bulbs, which supposedly last longer and use less energy.
Lewandowski has been coordinating with department heads since the plan was presented to commissioners on Feb. 27. So far, their reaction to implementing it has been positive, and Lewandowski said his initial apprehension toward achieving the many goals is fading.
“The more I’m getting into it and breaking this thing into more doable steps, I’m very excited about it,” he said.
County Commissioner Pat Shay, who is now serving as the environmental forum’s chairman, said he is pushing the group to become more active in the county’s longrange transportation plan and in water resource planning as Atlanta starts looking for ways to replace the water extracted from the Chattahoochee River and starts to eye the Savannah River instead.
The forum’s plan was also adopted by Tybee Island, and is expected to be considered for adoption by the Savannah City Council on Aug. 27.