Rockland residents turned out Monday evening, May 20, to give overwhelming support to a city committee proposal to combat climate change.

"This is Inspiring, a great turnout," Nate Davis, chair of Rockland's Energy Advisory Committee, said at the meeting. "This gives me some hope for the future."

City councilors also cited the turnout as giving them the ability to move ahead with the recommendations.

Davis said the primary obstacles to reaching the goals in the climate change plan are social and political. But he said after hearing all the support for the plan, the goals are "within our collective grasp."

Twenty-three people spoke at the start of the Monday evening meeting held solely to focus on the climate change plan. All but three speakers voiced support for the recommendations, with one expressing strong opposition.

The proposed Climate Action Plan calls for Rockland to be carbon-neutral by 2045. By 2025, the city of Rockland should obtain all of its municipal electricity from renewable sources, according to the plan.

City Manager Tom Luttrell has mentioned that if the city keeps its current municipal office building, a new roof will be needed, and that placing solar panels on the roof would be considered.

Lee Humphreys said she has been depressed over the lack of action on the climate at the federal and state levels, but was thrilled with what is being proposed by the Energy Committee.

Abigail Morrison said the recommendations would save money, even in the short run. The plan would also create good, local jobs, she said.

Jesse Watson called the plan "bold and ambitious," which he said was needed because there was no coherent leadership from the federal government. "This is best done at the collective, community level," Watson said.

Two residents spoke out with questions or outright opposition.

Rodney Lynch said any plan should include cost estimates for the recommendations and their impact on taxes.

Sarah Austin, a supporter of the proposal, said she was also concerned about the cost — the cost of doing nothing.

Michael Marsh said the City Council should be focused on roads and growing the tax base and that its record on those topics was "abysmal."

Marsh said the climate plan was opening the door to having the United Nations dictating to the community how to meet climate change goals. "The hiring of a climate change coordinator or commissar is the wrong way to go," Marsh said.

The Energy Committee's recommendations call for hiring a full-time sustainability coordinator to create, execute and seek funding for programs to help achieve the energy goals; and hiring a part-time staff member to perform marketing/public relations work to support those goals.

Councilor Ben Dorr said the council will need the voices of the people speaking at the Monday meeting if it moves ahead with the recommendations, such as hiring a coordinator, to explain the need for the job as taxes go up.

Councilor Valli Geiger said the small amount to be spent on the position would be recouped, but that she understood how people are frightened by rising property taxes and worried about their ability to afford to stay in their homes.

Councilor Ed Glaser asked whether the committee would support having a city planner serve as a coordinator. The council is considering adding a city planner. Davis said he would want to make sure that the duty was not just window-dressing for a planner, but would be a requirement of the job.

The committee's plan also calls for developing renewable local power generation. A first step would be to transition the city government’s energy needs to renewable sources. A next step would be to use renewable power to supply the entire community’s electricity needs, for example via a municipal or regional utility; and identify areas of the city that could be used for wind, solar or tidal power generation.

To reduce greenhouse gasses and improve energy independence, the plan says, the city should construct efficient buildings and update energy-inefficient buildings, adopt zoning requirements for renewable energy development, create a more walkable, wheel-able city and encourage more people who work in Rockland to live here. Creating a building improvement revolving loan fund via a bond and using this fund to upgrade building efficiency, insulation and heating sources is also one of the recommendations. This would expand the Weatherize Rockland program to include incentives for landlords to weatherize.

The committee said the city could reduce energy consumption by converting city streetlights to LED bulbs, a full audit of lighting needs, employing motion detection where appropriate, and adopting a dark sky policy, which both reduces energy usage and adds to the natural beauty of the city.

The panel also recommended eliminating the reliance on fossil fuels for home heating.This would have to be accomplished through a combination of improved efficiency and replacement of existing nonrenewable heating sources with those that are more renewable (heat pumps, wood, pellets, solar, etc.), according to committee's plan.

The city also should make transportation energy efficient, according to the plan, by implementing a complete streets policy that encourages walking and cycling and is welcoming to wheelchair users, supporting the community bus and helping increase its route and ridership, subsidizing taxi services, and adding electric vehicle charging stations to strengthen the electric vehicle sector. Any new municipal vehicle purchases should meet city-set standards for efficiency and consumption, the committee stated.

Glaser said the public will get to speak more about the proposal when the council places specific items on its agenda to adopt recommendations. No timetable for that was announced.