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New panel to provide 'green tech' guidance

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Wozniak

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Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the Lucas County commissioners, plans to announce today the creation of a commission that aims to develop the county's use of technology and practices that help the environment, including alternative energy.

Ms. Wozniak said she wants the new commission to serve as an information hub, providing tips to homeowners and businesses and researching ways the county can implement cost-saving technology.

"The taxpayers are interested in how to have greener homes and greener businesses," she said. "The wonderful side benefit is that we're doing the right thing for our planet."

The commission grows out of the "green-ribbon panel" Ms. Wozniak formed last year to develop ways to promote environmentally friendly technology and practices in the county.

The commissioners recently approved an environmentally friendly design for the new sports arena under construction in downtown Toledo.

They also signed off on a resolution requiring county officials to take sustainability into mind when planning building projects and another prohibiting county employees from letting engines idle in county vehicles.

Ms. Wozniak said she plans to ask the commissioners today to approve the allocation of $30,000 in start-up money for the office. It would be named the Lucas County Sustainability Commission and housed in the offices of the Lucas Soil and Water Conservation District.

A majority of the three-member board must approve the funding proposal for it to pass.

Commissioner Ben Konop said he supports the idea of environmental sustainability but needs questions answered before he can decide whether to support Ms. Wozniak's proposal.

Commissioner Pete Gerken did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday.

"My question here is, do we need another layer of bureaucracy?" Mr. Konop said. "Where does this funding come from? What's not going to be provided because we're creating an office?"

The commission's initial funding will come from an education and outreach program within the county sanitary engineer's office, Sanitary Engineer Jim Shaw said.

"The focus is going to be on the terms of our plan: to reduce, reuse, and recycle," he said.

The commission's members will come from several local agencies and organizations, including Toledo Area Metroparks, the Lake Erie Western Alliance for Sustainability, and the Urban Affairs Center at the University of Toledo. Marcus Ricci, an urban conservationist for the Lucas Soil and Water Conservation District, will serve as interim coordinator.

The funds will primarily be used to hire support staff, Ms. Wozniak said.

"It was smarter to get the groups to consolidate, focus, and collaborate, rather than create a whole new office," she said.

Lara Burkett, the administrator of the soil and water district, said local officials have the expertise to implement money-saving technology and to raise public awareness of sustainability issues.

Other counties and cities, including Ohio's Cuyahoga County, have similar offices.

"The structure's there," Ms. Burkett said. "We just need to get the word out and figure out how to work together."

Contact Gabe Nelson at:

gnelson@theblade.com

or 419-724-6076.

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