By: Justin West, Charlottesville Field Officer Intern
It is one of Charlottesville’s goals to be the one of the worlds greenest cities and City Council took another step in trying to make that a reality during its Monday May 4th meeting. In January of this year Council signed a resolution to work with the County of Albemarle and the University of Virginia to create a joint proposal to get the $500,000 Southeastern Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) grant. On Monday, they unanimously and enthusiastically agreed to endorse the SEEA grant proposal letter of support. A similar proposal letter is also working its way through the County’s legislative system [and was approved on 5-1 vote (Boyd opposed) on May 6- nw].
The grant is designed as a “call to cities and counties in the eleven southeastern states to design and implement an effort to achieve unprecedented gas, electricity, and water savings by retrofitting buildings and installing renewable technologies in all end use sectors” according to staff reports. If the grant is awarded to our locality the money will go towards establishing a local energy alliance program or LEAP. Membership in LEAP will include the City of Charlottesville, County of Albemarle, University of Virginia, Charlottesville Community Design Center / SPARK! Initiative, Piedmont Virginia Community College, and Dominion Virginia Power. With all of that backing city staff believes LEAP will have all of the resources it needs to establish a powerful community-based coalition that can put the Charlottesville-Albemarle area at the forefront of the drive for a sustainable energy future.
The eventual goal of the program is to lower the areas greenhouse gas emissions by 80% before the year 2050, an ambitious goal that the City believes will only be accomplished with the formation of the alliance. Councilor David Brown spoke to the necessity of LEAP by asserting that “we [the city] are going to more forward with this whether we get the grant or not”. Brown wasn’t alone as all members of Council spoke of the alliance with pride and enthusiasm, projecting it as a critical part of the regions future.
Staff Proclaims Downtown Mall Rebricking Completed, a Success
In other news, staff came before Council towards the end of Monday’s meeting to claim victory on the Downtown Mall rebricking project that began just five months ago. Director of Neighborhood Development Services Jim Tolbert was proud to announce that the project was finished on time and 10-15% under budget, while not having “a business closed a day” due to its effects. Among the highlights of the project were the intricate electrical work done, which was the largest expense involved in the rebricking, improved fire access, replacing rather than refurbishing the malls lights as was originally planned, and repouring the slab at street crossings. Tolbert was quick to thank Barton Malow and all of its subcontractors for their stellar work. Staff seemed quite pleased with the timeliness of the project, which at its fastest was able to lie over 10,000 bricks a day.
Staff and Council were simply glowing about the success of the project. Councilor Brown claimed that “in my time in Council I don’t think there has been anything like this, as far as the City exceeding expectations”. With the rebricking done, not all the work on the Mall is complete there are still a few of what staff calls “punch list items” and the interior refurbishment of the fountains still remaining. The City will conclude work and have a rededication of the mall on May 29th at 4:45, immediately preceding “Fridays After Five” for the public to explore the finished product.