After months of debating whether to call on the Waco City Council to commit to using 100 percent renewable energy sources for municipal purposes in the coming years, a city advisory board unanimously approved a letter Thursday that stops short of that goal.
The letter, assembled by City Manager Wily Stem III, who sits on the board, urges the city to consider 100 percent renewables in upcoming contract negotiations for its energy purchase contract. It also recommends that Stem’s office designate city staffers to work with the Sustainable Resources Practices Advisory Board to evaluate building energy audits, new construction requirements, power purchase agreements, transportation and more.
“We have a place to start,” board Chairwoman Janet Wallace said.
Alan Northcutt, a local physician and environmental advocate, said he is disappointed by the letter. It does not go far enough toward a commitment to renewable energy and has “no teeth,” Northcutt said.
Northcutt and board member Sarah Brockhaus kicked off the board’s consideration of renewable energy when they presented a proposal in December to urge the city to commit to renewable sources.
“Our main point is that this recommendation should be based on the science,” he said during Thursday’s meeting. “What needs to be done is for the city ultimately to go 100 percent renewable. We cannot continue to use fossil fuels indefinitely.”
Brockhaus, who represents Baylor University on the board, said she reluctantly supported the letter that was adopted. A timeline for the city’s objectives should have been included, she said.
Brockhaus also pushed for continued discussion on the original proposal, which includes a draft resolution on renewable energy for the council.
Other board members said they agree the letter should only be the first step toward a resolution for the council to consider. The board will meet again in April.
During a city council meeting Tuesday, Councilman Jim Holmes requested city staff prepare a presentation on the viability of renewable energy sources. Councilman John Kinnaird, who serves as the council’s liaison to the sustainability board, supported Holmes’ request and also asked for a summary of all of the city’s ongoing sustainability efforts.
In other business, Public Works Director Chuck Dowdell presented recommendations for the future of the Cobbs Recycling Center. He said the center has 18 to 24 months remaining at its current location, 2021 N. 44th St., because of expansion slated for the nearby Extraco Events Center and surrounding public property.
Board members said they would prefer one large recycling facility with multiple satellite facilities to increase accessibility.
“It has to be so the citizens are going to want to visit it,” Dowdell said. “If it’s in an odd location where people can’t get to it, then nobody can come.”
The Cobbs center had 25,926 customer visits last year, Dowdell said. It received 603.78 tons of recyclables, 457 tons of brush, 186 scrap tires, 1,286 gallons of used motor oil and 1,431 tons of bulky waste.
In April, Dowdell will update the city council on the relocation of the center and suggestions for the satellite sites.