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Milton council approves sustainability plan but nixes committee

September 11, 2020

Milton Town Council unanimously approved the town’s sustainability plan, but the committee that came up with the plan was miffed after the mayor did not appoint new members.

The sustainability plan is intended to be a guide for the town to create objectives, strategies and action steps to encourage more sustainable growth and development. Specific actions called for include good governance, community action, planning and land use, conservation of natural resources, and sustainable energy consumption. 

The plan grew out of the sustainability committee, a subcommittee of the town’s economic development committee, and in May 2017, the sustainability committee was made its own separate entity. 

The committee worked with the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland College Park and a national nonprofit, Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, with grant funding by Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. The fruits of the committee’s labor were presented in November to an enthusiastic reception by town council members, who praised the plan’s ambition and depth.

The plan calls for a three-year action program, with the first year dedicated to hiring a part-time staff member to identify grant opportunities and cost-saving measures to help implement sustainability projects. The plan called for having the sustainability committee provide quarterly reviews to the town council on plan implementation, and working with town staff to begin embedding plan goals into upcoming projects.

The second year, running through the end of 2021, would focus on aligning plan goals with the town’s budget, including purchasing more environmentally friendly vehicles for police and municipal use, creating sustainability scoring criteria for capital improvement projects, installing electric vehicle charging stations, and taking an inventory of the town’s environmental resources.

In year 3, the plan calls for developing a tree inventory, conducting a climate vulnerability assessment, and building a sustainability resource center where residents would go to learn about the town’s initiatives on energy, recycling, stormwater and climate change. 

While the plan included a role for the sustainability committee, at least in the first year of implementation, the fiscal year 2021 budget did not include any money for the committee, and town council did not appoint any members to the committee. 

This was a surprise to Michela Coffaro, a committee member and the original chairwoman. 

“This has been five years, so the lack of transparency now is shocking to me,” she said. 

Mayor Ted Kanakos said the committee had no new members and no one was reappointed.

“And why not?” Coffaro asked. 

Kanakos did not want to go through what his exact issues were with the committee in a public forum, but he hinted that his problems were with individual committee members. 

Coffaro asked for the remaining $350 in the committee’s budget to be forwarded into the fiscal year 2021 budget. Council agreed, and the committee was budgeted $350, but for the time being, it was essentially allowed to sunset.

 

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