GOSHEN — Goshen City Council learned more Tuesday about plans to create a new department to handle environmental issues.
The Department of Environmental Resilience was proposed by Mayor Jeremy Stutsman as a way to help implement green initiatives like the city’s carbon neutrality goal and its aim for 45 percent tree canopy coverage in the coming decades.
He said the new executive department would connect other offices and streamline the city’s efficiency efforts without adding significantly to the size of government. It will focus on forestry, data collection, education and both environmental and financial effectiveness.
“We have learned that the quality-of-life projects that used to be considered luxuries are now essential building blocks for economic development,” Stutsman wrote in a letter pitching the idea to city council members ahead of the meeting. “Green projects used to be hard to justify in our budgets; now they are saving us money in the long run and ... are attracting both residents and businesses.”
The need for cost savings is seen, for example, in the city’s energy budget, which is close to $875,000 a year, he said. Stutsman pointed to the savings and efficiency Goshen saw after the creation of the Central Garage, the last new department to be formed in 2006.
The new department will be responsible for creating a climate action plan, which was called for by the carbon neutrality measure adopted in April, and for finding ways to implement the ideas in the plan. The carbon resolution sets a goal of making city government carbon neutral by 2035, and calls for development of a plan by 2021.
Other duties of the new office set out in the ordinance include educating city officials and the public on things like natural resources protection and waste reduction, and proposing annual goals for progress.
Part of Stutsman’s proposal was to make the city forester, a position in the Parks and Recreation Department, the head of the new environmental department. He also proposed moving an administrative assistant position from the parks department to the new one, with added duties such as being the city’s first in-house grant writer.
The two positions along with other City Forestry budget items would shift $373,927 to the environmental department. Stutsman also proposed a raise for the department head and extra money for consultants and other Forestry needs, totaling as much as $150,000.
In all, he estimated a total department budget of $600,000. About $230,000 of that would be new spending, which he proposed paying for out of the nearly $1 million the city earns on investments annually.
“It is possible to establish the Department of Environmental Resilience and only shift money currently being spent, but I believe that we need to make the additional Investment to make this work well,” Stutsman said in the memo.
While the mayor’s proposal was discussed Tuesday night, additional readings would be required to create the new department.