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Green Print plan takes step forward

Committee OKs Dimitrijevic's proposal

July 12, 2007

A plan to make Milwaukee County more environmentally responsible was unanimously approved by a County Board committee Tuesday, July 10.

Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic, whose 4th District includes Bay View, has been working on the green initiative since February in cooperation with a coalition with 13 citizens groups.

The legislation, known as Green Print, passed through the Parks, Energy and Environment Committee, and now must be reviewed by at least one more County Board committee before it goes to the full board on Thursday, July 26.

"Currently we have a super-majority of co-sponsors," Dimitrijevic said. "I feel that at this point it will pass through legislative level."

She added the fate of the initiative will be up to County Executive Scott Walker. Walker could not be reached for comment before the South Shore NOW deadline.

If adopted, Milwaukee County would utilize more renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, and would modernize its infrastructure by taking steps such as using energy-efficiency light bulbs and windows.

"We have 800 buildings and hope to modernize about 20 percent each year," Dimitrijevic said.

The plan also calls for the county to update its fleet with hybrids and alternative-fuel powered vehicles. None of the county's 2,500 vehicles are hybrids, said George Torres, director of Transportation and Public Works. However, some vehicles do make use of low sulfur-burning fuels.

One route to using additional renewable energy sources, such as geothermal or solar-thermal energy, would be to make use of the Mitchell Park Domes, Dimitrijevic said.

"We could use that energy to run the operation of that facility ... and We Energies may even want to purchase energy from us," she said.

The Green Print legislation also includes converting unused park land back into native grasslands, and managing stormwater runoff differently. Finding solutions to the runoff problem is Dimitrijevic's top priority, she said.

Finally, a new cabinet-level position would be created to oversee implementation of Green Print. That position would be similar to the one held by Ann Beier, director of the city of Milwaukee's Office of Environmental Sustainability.

Dimitrijevic said the actual cost estimates implementing all the provisions of her legislation wouldn't be known until the next county budget is developed.

"By no means is any of this going to be free," she said. "We are saying to the public: We're making an investment. While it may cost a little bit more to buy the fuel-efficient vehicle, the payoff would be there. I don't know that you can really put a cost on conservation and being a good environmental citizen. The environment is priceless."

Those groups supporting the plan include the Sierra Club, Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful, The Parks People, Milwaukee County Conservation Coalition, the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, Friends of Milwaukee's Rivers, Groundworks Milwaukee and the Urban Open Space Foundation.

Bradley Wooten can be reached at bwooten@cninow.com or (414) 315-4232.

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