Mayor and Commission 101221

The Athens Mayor and Commission met virtually for its Oct. 12 work session. (Screenshot/Jake Drukman)

At a work session Tuesday night, the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission discussed its plan to reach 100% renewable energy by 2035. The commission also looked at park improvement projects. 

Road to 100% renewable

In May 2019, the commission unanimously committed to clean energy. After internal discussion and community input, the commission is developing a plan to reach the commitment’s goals.

The commitment sets a goal of obtaining 100% of energy needs for ACC government properties and 100% of electricity across the community from clean and renewable sources. By 2050, all community energy needs should be met by clean and renewable energy sources, according to the outline.

The commitment also has a goal of limiting third-party renewable energy to no more than 40% of the total energy portfolio of ACC government buildings by 2050. 

This is an effort to increase the amount of energy produced locally rather than outside of the county. According to the presentation, nearly $500 million leaves Athens annually to pay for energy sourced outside of the community.

The ACC government partnered with Southface Institute, a non-profit based in Atlanta to consult with the commission on creating a renewable energy plan. 

Megan O’Neil, a program manager at Southface Institute, gave a presentation about creating the plan during the meeting. According to the PowerPoint, clean energy sources do not create greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy sources can be replenished in a human lifetime.

Accepted sources, which are both clean and renewable, include solar power, wind power and hydropower but not nuclear, biomass, natural gas or coal. The current forecast for 2035 predicts that coal, gas and nuclear will compose 77% of energy used. 

According to two surveys conducted by Southface Institute, more than 60% of community members and 62% of businesses are very supportive of the goal.

According to O’Neil, there is potential for 9,750 new jobs by 2035, which are typically higher paid. This is 6.5x the size of the ACC government's current workforce. 

The language of the plan will be finalized in collaboration with the Citizen Advisory Board and will be presented to the commission for approval in early 2022. 

Park improvements

The SPLOST 2020 program referendum, approved by voters in 2019, includes improvements to Athens-Clarke County Parks. 

Sub-project one of the referendum, an access path to the Rainbow Forest, was approved by the commission on Oct. 5. The remaining nine sub-projects were discussed Tuesday. 

Mel Cochran Davis, assistant leisure services director, presented the commission with the overview of each of the individual projects and an explanation of future steps.

At Bishop Park, the BBQ Pavilion would be renovated to become open air and two large shade structures would be replaced. At Sandy Creek Park, 1980s-era basketball courts would be resurfaced and a rotting bridge on the lakeside trail would be replaced. 

Other projects include updating the Memorial Park Dog Park, replacing water fountains at Bishop and Memorial Parks, creating a multi-purpose field  at Southeast Clarke Park, doing maintenance at the Skate Park of Athens and installing signage on the North Oconee River Greenway.

District 8 Commissioner Carol Myers asked Davis about how projects are prioritized.

“This fiscal year, the items that we have on here, with the exception of a couple of the field renovations, those are coming from hearing from our constituents,” Davis said. “The equipment, the resurfacing, the shade structures, those are all in our capital life cycle plan.”

Davis said that, because funds are limited, areas of parks that are in poor condition are placed as higher priority. 

The projects will go before SPLOST 2020 Oversight Committee on Oct. 18 and is planned to be voted on by the commission on Nov. 2.

Nathalee Simoneau began her foray into journalism at The Red & Black in spring 2021 and is the current assistant city news editor. Specific areas of interest include food insecurity, housing/land development and local government ordinances.

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