Sustainability is a word with multiple definitions. Mention the word sustainability to some people and they will think of it as something that can be maintained at a certain rate or level over time. Ask others to define it and they will refer to the need to conserve and balance natural resources. The Town’s responsibility for sustainability falls under both of these definitions. In the broadest sense of the word Town leaders must be diligent in creating a strong financial process that doesn’t compromise the stability of the Town by cutting the budget for the short term gain at the expense of future sustainability. We as leadership must be diligent in our commitment to sustain the quality of life of today for future generations. We are fortunate that 35% of Rocky Hill’s tax base comes from non-residential/commercial/industrial businesses, which is higher than the state average. The large nonresidential tax base combined with efficient operations takes a burden off the residents and results in a lower mil rate.
When it comes to energy and resource conservation the Town has a “Plan of Conservation and Development” that addresses sustainability and resiliency. The plan must be updated every ten years as mandated by the state in order to receive associated funding. These practices include energy and water conservation, waste reduction and recycling in addition to educating the public about sustainability concepts. The Open Space and Conservation Committee partners with the Community Development, Public Works departments, and the other Town staff in order to reach their goals.
Over the past two years we have made significant strides in leveraging new technologies to reduce our carbon footprint and therefore increase our sustainability. Projects that have been completed include the installation of LED lights in all municipal buildings, conversion to tankless (on demand) water heaters in four locations, and we’ve installed some high efficiency heating systems fueled by natural gas in several locations. Our IT department has converted to “virtual servers” that reduce the need for hardware which then reduces our cooling and electricity demand. Also, as I mentioned in my blog post on public safety, a November referendum has made it possible to “right size” the large number of fire department apparatus. These multi functional vehicles are smaller, more efficient and affordable, all without compromising the safety of our citizens and fire department staff.
The planned upgrading of field lights and police department parking lot lights to LED are two project that are under way. There is a proposal that is currently in front of the Town Council to convert street lights to LED as well. We are excited about a joint project with Solar City to create a 3 megawatt solar farm in the business park. The plan is to have it online in less than a year, generating significant savings for the Town over the next 20 years.
Financial sustainability and environmental sustainability will always be linked. Projects that are “green” reduce our carbon footprint, are more economical and efficient, and ultimately provide financial sustainability for our taxpayers.
Regardless of what definition of sustainability comes to mind, our efforts cover both, they are linked in our firm commitment to build on and preserve the quality of life that makes Rocky Hill an exceptional place to live.