ROCKLAND — The city committee that has provided Rockland with a roadmap to becoming less reliant on fossil fuels as a way to combat climate change is urging the City Council to preserve the sustainability coordinator.

The proposed 2022-2023 budget submitted last week by City Manager Tom Luttrell cut the position that has been vacant for a year.

“The Rockland Energy and Sustainability Advisory Committee strongly advises the City Council to ensure the position of Sustainability Coordinator is retained in the 2023 budget,” a letter from the Committee states.

The committee met Friday, May 6, in order to get their sentiment to the Council before it begins its budget review. The Council will begin its budget review Wednesday, May 11, at a 5:30 p.m. meeting.

Energy Committee Chair Ret Talbot read the letter to the Council at its Monday, May 9, meeting.

“When this committee proposed climate action planning to Council in the spring of 2019, committee members clearly laid out why the climate action goals they recommended necessitated dedicated roles and positions in city government, and they made one very specific ask: ‘Hire a sustainability coordinator,'” the committee stated.

The committee argued budgets show its priorities,” the letter stated.

“If we are to prioritize the planet and our health and survival, we need to budget for the item,” the committee stated. “They were also clear, however, it wasn’t just about saving the planet. The committee provided data showing a sustainability coordinator would represent a net financial gain to the City. In short, a sustainability coordinator would be a win-win for the City, both advancing Rockland’s ambitious climate goals and positively affecting our bottom line.”

In August 2019, the Council committed to the ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2045.

The City hired a part-time sustainability coordinator, Davis Saltonstall, in December 2019.  The Committee noted over the next year, Rockland made significant progress on its climate action goals, including securing $16,000 in grant funding and saving $135,000 in estimated annual energy costs. In spring 2021, the City reported a 54% estimated carbon reduction from city government’s total energy use over the 2018 baseline.

“While not all of these grants and savings were the direct result of the Sustainability Coordinator, clearly Rockland’s $25,000 investment in a part-time position was a good investment and a step in the right direction toward achieving the City’s stated climate goals,” the Committee stated in its letter.

The Committee also pointed out Rockland will soon adopt a new comprehensive plan representing the community’s sustainability goals.

“It’s clear the draft comprehensive plan assumes a sustainability coordinator will be on city staff. Close to a third of the actions and strategies outlined in the sustainability chapter are identified as the responsibility, at least in part, of the Sustainability Coordinator and/or our committee,” the Committee stated.

“As a committee, we understand these are difficult economic times. We also understand, as the Budget Working Group explained in their preamble to the proposed budget, a driving force behind the 7.2% increase in municipal appropriations is ‘outrageous fuel prices.’ While we acknowledge fuel prices are high and volatile, we maintain that eliminating the sustainability coordinator position will only perpetuate the problem. We affirm, as the Council did in 2019, a sustainability coordinator is crucial to successfully lowering our energy costs by improving our energy independence and reducing our energy consumption. Further, the interests of the voters will be improved by having this dedicated staff person working on their behalf to lower both municipal and taxpayer energy costs, in addition to undertaking multiple initiatives that will relieve future budgets from similar outrageous expenses.” the Committee stated.

Councilor Nate Davis praised the Committee for its feedback and noted its passion about the issue.