Lake County Board forms committee to tackle energy, climate change issues

 
 
Updated 1/3/2019 4:40 PM
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  • A comprehensive retrofit of the Lake County administrative building in 2014 included energy efficient features. The county board this year will launch its first energy and environment committee to tackle climate change impacts and sustainability issues.

    A comprehensive retrofit of the Lake County administrative building in 2014 included energy efficient features. The county board this year will launch its first energy and environment committee to tackle climate change impacts and sustainability issues. Courtesy of Lake County

  • Timing traffic signals is an example of energy saving measures, Lake County officials say.

    Timing traffic signals is an example of energy saving measures, Lake County officials say. Courtesy of Lake County Division of Transportation

Among the changes initiated by the newly reconstituted Lake County Board is the creation of its first energy and environment committee to deal with the impact of climate change, the county's carbon footprint and related matters.

Sustainability, which encompasses a range of actions to save natural resources, has been among the county board's goals since 2013, when it approved the inaugural Lake County Strategic Plan.

But there has not been a specific county board committee meeting regularly to discuss related issues.

"I think you'll see a lot of things come out of this committee," said Terry Wilke, a county board member representing portions of Round Lake and Round Lake Beach. "I think it's going to be a much more proactive environmental policy."

Wilke, who is part of the first Democratic majority on the county board, suggested the committee to board Chairwoman Sandy Hart. She agreed and named him chairman.

"We are looking forward to having this increased focus," she said. "They're going to be looking across the board."

John Wasik, a Grayslake Democrat who defeated Republican incumbent Jeff Werfel in November, will be vice chairman.

"Since I've been an active environmentalist and former president of the nonprofit Citizen Action Project, taxes and the environment are two of my passions," he told constituents in a newsletter.

The committee as created must meet a minimum of four times a year. It will address sustainability and climate change impact, environmental health, energy management, the county's carbon footprint, policy and legislation related to energy and the environment, and recycling.

Wilke expects meetings to be more frequent to start, but he said there is no defined list of topics to tackle. The first meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday, at the Central Permit Facility, 500 W. Winchester Road, Libertyville.

The county in 2013 hired a sustainability coordinator at a starting annual salary of $85,000 plus benefits to lead and increase green initiatives that previously had been undertaken by various staff members as extra duty. But the coordinator was fired in 2016 in what was described as a personnel matter, and the post dissolved.

In October 2017, the county board approved a one-year contract for sustainability services with Quercus Consulting of Chicago for $189,616.

Quercus focuses on four areas: funding opportunities, energy audits, food composting at the Lake County jail, and the county's carbon footprint. The contract was renewed through October 2019.

At some point, the committee is expected to discuss whether its goals are being met or if there is a better alternative.

Longtime Republican board member Ann Maine of Lincolnshire said last month that even though there hasn't been a specific environmental committee, much has been accomplished.

The Lake County Division of Transporation, for example, has been incorporating sustainability into its operations for many years by timing traffic signals and installing bike lanes or shoulders in road projects.

"We have not been remiss at looking at what is happening in the environment and our use of energy in the county," she said.

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