MOUNT AIRY — Mount Airy is the latest Frederick County municipality to seek a designation that commits the town to environmental stewardship, economic awareness and social accountability.
The Town Council passed a resolution unanimously Monday to pursue Sustainable Maryland certification and accept those principles.
The town is the ninth municipality in the county to participate in the program. New Market most recently signed on, in February, preceded by Walkersville, Middletown, Thurmont and Burkittsville, which are working toward certification. Emmitsburg, Frederick and Brunswick have already received the designation.
Of the 65 municipalities in Maryland participating in the program, 30 have received certification, according to its website.
Sustainable Maryland promotes cost-effective and strategic ways for municipalities to protect the environment. It was formed in 2011 as a collaboration between the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland and the Maryland Municipal League.
The program offers free training and workshops with environmental experts as well as grant money to help finance a town’s efforts. To gain certification, municipalities have three years to earn 150 points through actions such as establishing a farmers market, creating community gardens and creating a wind energy project.
James Stargel, chairman of Mount Airy’s Recycling and Sanitation Commission, told the council before the vote that he was ready to lead the town’s efforts. Stargel, who proposed the resolution, said he had the idea for the town to join the program after speaking about it with officials in other municipalities.
Mount Airy already has a solid base of residents and businesses that are environmentally friendly, he said. The town just needs to organize its efforts.
“We’re ready to go at this,” he said. “It’s exciting. I think we’re going to do great things for Mount Airy.”
The resolution is the first step required for the town to participate in the program. The town must also put together a “Green Team” to organize its efforts, which it has done in the past month.
Stargel will lead that team, which includes three other members of the Recycling and Sanitation Commission, town staff and members of the public. Each member will focus on a different area of sustainability, such as business practices, farming and community outreach, he said.
Stargel said he welcomes ideas from anyone who has them. The group will hold its first meeting on Aug. 17 at Town Hall, where it will begin laying out its overall strategic plan.
Tom Neff, co-chairman of the Recycling and Sanitation Commission, who will also be on the Green Team, said the team doesn’t have a lot of early ideas for what actions it should take. Finding them will require the team as well as the public to put their heads together, he said.
Brunswick entered the program in 2012 and was certified in October 2015 after implementing practices such as putting pet waste stations throughout its many parks, and providing training programs in composting to residents. The town held “Sustainable Saturdays,” where educational material was provided and residents worked together on sustainable projects.
Bob McGrory, Brunswick’s city administrator, said the Sustainable Maryland certification has helped the city qualify for state funding to make its buildings more energy efficient. Brunswick’s City Hall and public works buildings are expected to undergo an HVAC renovation in the coming year, he said.
New Market’s Green Team has gotten off to a slow start but is beginning to move forward, according to Councilman Jake Romanell, who is leading the team’s efforts.
Since February, members have taken an introductory educational class on sustainable practices. The team is developing a business catalog for the town and is about to post a 10-question survey on the town’s website asking residents for their sustainability ideas in areas ranging from personal health and wellness to business and agricultural practices.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Romanell said. “But we’re moving along.”
Stargel said he will look at the efforts of other municipalities that have received certification to get ideas for Mount Airy. For now, he’s eager to get started.