From putting up solar panels to changing the frequency of trash pickup, Frederick County and several of its municipalities have made progress on sustainability issues to affect climate change, but more work needs to be done, according to local officials.

“We don’t have a choice. The change is not coming. The change is here,” Frederick Mayor Michael O’Connor told the audience at an event Wednesday night at Hood College.

O’Connor spoke on a panel along with County Executive Jan Gardner, Frederick County Councilman Kai Hagen, Emmitsburg Mayor Don Briggs, and Myersville Mayor Wayne Creadick.

Each official talked about steps their jurisdiction has taken to increase its sustainability efforts.

Gardner said the county has installed a solar hot water system at its adult detention center, added hybrid vehicles and electric buses to the county’s fleet, and set a goal of getting 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2022, among other things, Gardner said.

The budget she recently proposed to the County Council includes $300,000 for a composting demonstration project, which should extend the life of local landfills and improve water quality, she said.

Hagen noted that it was exciting to know that there are officials at the county and municipal levels who care about the environment.

The county is moving in the right direction, but more remains to be done, he said.

“It’s not nearly enough. It’s just not,” he said.

But he said he takes heart from recent polling that shows that coverage on traditional media and social media of weather-related disasters is having an impact on more people taking the issue of climate change more seriously.

Emmitsburg has spent millions of dollars on a new wastewater treatment plan that gets almost all of its energy from solar power, installed electric vehicle charging stations, and installed 14 miles of multi-user trails, Briggs said.

“We’ve got to jump in front of this thing and pull it along,” he said.

As a public official, Creadick said it’s easy to get people to make a commitment, but harder to get them to actually act.

Among other steps, Myersville changed trash pickup from twice a week to once, a step that O’Connor said Frederick has also taken.

That wasn’t a politically popular decision, but has made people more conscious of the amount of trash they produce, he said.

The town’s council and staff has also gotten iPads, and greatly reduced the amount of paper they produce, Creadick said.

While the challenge of climate change can seem daunting, O’Connor said there are no small steps that counties or municipalities can take.

The city has upgraded streetlights in several neighborhoods to LED lights, and is always looking to add pedestrian and bike trails to get out of cars and walk or bike, O’Connor said.

But he said governments will always face obstacles to doing everything they’d like to increase sustainability.

“The challenge, of course, is financial,” he said. “There’s no lack of will among our residents and our elected officials to meet the challenge that’s ahead of us.”

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP.

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.

(6) comments

saygrace22

This coverage misses the mark on a critical topic and a forum full of substance. Climate change/sustainability has been a steadily rising conversation for years now and yet I don't get that impression from my local paper.

Think about how many times last night's panel asked the audience to help foster that conversation in the community, about how public awareness has steadily increased but more conversations need to take place, and that the time is now to keep talking.

To quote Mayor O'Connor, "the time is not approaching, it is here." Where is your voice in this call to action by local officials?

MD1756

The time has passed and we need to play catch up. Population growth is the biggest problem and governments at all levels need to discard their policies and taxes that support having more children. Good luck finding an elected official that will address that issue.

gabrielshorn2013

Population growth is at the lowest point it has been for over 80 years (at 0.62) and the curve is strongly negative. The majority of the growth being from immigration.

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/12/21/us-population-growth-hits-80-year-low-capping-off-a-year-of-demographic-stagnation/

By 2050, it is estimated that the American population will surpass 398 million citizens. The U.S. census also projects a regressing annual growth rate, starting at 0.8 percent in 2015 and decreasing to 0.46 percent by 2060.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/183481/united-states-population-projection/

MD1756

I'm not sure why my previous reply didn't make it, but Garielshorn, even if you/Brookings are correct, what's your point? The population is still growing in the US and the world. According to world meters (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population/) The US population is currently estimated to be 328,719,414 and the current growth rate is 0.71 (higher than the estimate you've provided and the trend they show is that the rate has increased slightly since 2014). The US population is projected to be 389,591,663 or roughly 60 million greater than today. How does that help us solve our environmental problems when even if we had no growth, we aren't doing enough. I'm also not sure how they predict a decreasing growth when it seems that immigrant are having larger families than those born here (just look at MoCo statistics where Hispanics represent 19.6% of MoCo population but 30% of the enrolled students). People should be reducing their own carbon footprints before having children and adding to the problem. New construction (including residential) should be required to do as much as possible to offset their adverse environmental impacts (install solar and geothermal for example). I've installed solar and geothermal on my house (built in 1973) and have gone carbon negative (in a good year) with a HERS score of -11. That is something state and local governments could push along with eliminating taxes and policies that help promote population growth (i.e., subsidizing child care, etc.).

saygrace22

I understand the frustration over officials only doing the minimum to keep the flock pacified. However, I observe that Kai Hagen is willing to take the large steps. I'm interested in seeing how much he's able to push the county into faster more bold actions. Now that he's back in office, I'll be watching to see what he does.

kaihagen

I appreciate that.

And I will be doing all that I can.

But few things will help more than active and visible support from county residents/voters.

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