Updated, 3:22 p.m., comment from John Kydes
NORWALK, Conn. – High hopes have been expressed by the Mayor’s Energy and Environment Task Force regarding what has been a Mission Impossible for years.
“I am confident that we will have a (school) recycling program in place city-wide by the end of 2015,” Common Councilman John Kydes (D-District C), task force chairman, said in a recent email to PTO members.
Kydes’ task force has quietly been at work, tackling projects that include keeping track of progress (or lack thereof) in the Manresa Island power plant disposition, getting solar panels on the City Hall roof, studying Norwalk facilities for energy efficiency and applying for grants that were unavailable prior to the formulation of a task force, Kydes said.
Kydes said at a recent task force meeting that the school recycling goal is near and dear to his heart, as he has two children in the schools and his wife is in the PTOs. But, “I have come to find this has many pieces of the puzzle in it,” he said. “… For the most part, there is no recycling being done at any of the schools. But everyone right now, they’re like, ‘It’s 2014, we gotta do it’ and they’re all looking at us to do it.”
There’s an obvious financial incentive for the Board of Education, he said. “I have spoken to (Superintendent) Dr. Rivera and he is eagerly awaiting for us to bring him a plan on what we believe will best work,” he said.
But, he said, working out the details is “not as easy as it sounds.”
This is a sentiment that task force member Diane Lauricella echoed several times.
The League of Women Voters has pushed for school recycling for 10 years, she said. She spoke to then-BoE Policy Committee Chairman Steve Colarossi about it last year, she said.
“There were attempts in front of the Public Works Committee to have the subsequent chairs meet with Steve Colarossi,” Lauricella said. “I have spoken with Steve Colarossi a lot, because it’s been frustrating over many years; however we have new administration” — a phrase the Democratic Town Committee member repeated several times — “we have this task force and we also have some people on the Board of Ed, who I know I have spoken to, including Heidi Keyes, who is the new policy chair. Part of it is literally the problem is that the policy that has been written is hindering this from being done in a proactive way.”
She got then-Board of Estimate and Taxation Chairman Fred Wilms to agree to a presentation at one point, she said.
“At the time, (DPW Chief) Hal Alvord dodged it and said he needed two years to assess the situation which, at the time, I felt, being in the waste management business, was ridiculous. So for the last two or three years — it depends on who is in the leadership and their will. So I am so happy you are interested in this, John. I am interested in it. And then you have a list of people. There’s many more.”
“If it’s going to happen, this task force is going to pull it off this time,” Kydes said. “Knowing all the pieces of this puzzle, I can see why people get discouraged and past attempts have failed.”
Alvord said Monday that a meeting on the topic is planned for next week. But he scoffed at the idea that Rivera is hoping the task force will come up with a plan.
“I’ve been around that horn a couple of times. But we’re going to meet with whoever (Kydes) wants to meet. I know (BoE Facilities Manager) Bill Hodel told me today he’s going to be there. But honestly, if the superintendent is not there, and the superintendent is not prepared to tell principals to do it, it’s not going to happen,” Alvord said.
He agreed there’s a financial incentive.
“I think there is a lot of potential there,” Alvord said. “Last year I wanted to find out what is actually going on at the schools, recycling-wise. We do, I want to say, about 6,000 tons a year in recycling in Norwalk. We had less than a ton come in from the schools over the period of a week.”
Kydes and Lauricella tossed around $100,000 as a possible return on school recycling over the course of a year.
“Initiating city-wide school recycling requires a collaboration between the City and the Board of Education. We have had overwhelming support from both sides and I am confident that we will have a recycling program in place city-wide by the end of 2015,” Kydes wrote to the PTOs. “A two-month pilot program is planned to begin with the next school year, followed by one school being added each month thereafter.”
On Tuesday afternoon Kydes emailed an additional statement: “A city-wide school recycling program must be a collaboration between the City and BOE in order to function. No one party should be held solely responsible for the failure of past attempts. The Task Force’s role is to act as a mediator and help get the job done.”
• A solar pilot program is planned for the summer of 2015 that will include City Hall and up to two additional locations. “Everyone seems on board with this so I feel confident that come next summer we will have solar panels on City Hall,” Kydes said.
The hope is to package Norwalk High and City Hall together and get a better deal, he said.
• Norwalk Community College (NCC) Director of the Building Efficiency & Sustainable Technology program Eric Gribin is leading an effort to benchmark all city and school facilities. “After we have completed this benchmarking process, the Task Force will have pin-pointed which facilities are the least energy efficient and be able offer our recommendations for improvement,” Kydes wrote.
Gribin said at the task force meeting that NCC had received a grant for benchmarking, and had been working on Waterbury and other cities. The Norwalk BoE buildings have never been benchmarked, he said, indicating that progress was being made.
• “The Task Force is applying for state and federal grants that prior to the formation of the Task Force, were not accessible to Norwalk,” Kydes wrote. “These grants can be applied towards energy saving projects, such as heating and cooling system upgrades, lighting, window replacement and programs that will educate residents on energy savings.”
• “The Task Force is working in collaboration with the Manresa Association and (state) Sen. Bob Duff to formulate a plan on how to best approach the remediation and future use of the Manresa Island Power Plant,” Kydes wrote.
Kydes said at the task force meeting that it’s cheaper for the power plant’s owners to “sit on it” now that it’s been shut down, as “lots of ideas float around.”
“They’re trying to find a way to find the money to remediate the property,” he said. “Not much progress, but this is going to be a hot topic in Norwalk for the next few years.”