As Mayor of the City of Peoria, it is with great pride that our organization “walks the talk.” City Council, management and city employees are committed to providing an environment in which Peoria’s natural resources, residents, and economy are balanced.
As a city, we have decided to not negotiate away our future by solely focusing on today’s needs. We aspire to make Peoria a regional leader that develops, promotes and improves the quality of our community through sustainable practices. For Peoria, sustainability means a change in the way we do business, a change in the way we deliver services, and a new emphasis on encouraging community-wide sustainability – both commercial and residential. One perfect example of how we do this is our new approach to how we build buildings. We have committed to new facility construction standards by implementing a policy in which newly constructed facilities will be built to a minimum of a LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Silver standard. The Municipal Court Building for instance, just recently received a LEED Gold Certification and our Development and Community Services has received a Energy Star rating. I credit our city employees with their hard work and dedication in achieving this high level of success.
Just as we are proud of our building practices, we are proud of every accomplishment and make sure to celebrate all successes, big and small. For example, Peoria has won the 2010 Big Green Award for Corporate Green Programs & Practices by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Arizona Chapter, won two statewide awards from the Arizona chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA) and the Charles Walter Nichols Award for Environmental Excellence and the Transportation Project of the Year Award, just to name a few. Peoria has also reached out to the community through our education and outreach efforts. We have provided community events that demonstrated the interconnectedness that occurs in the area of sustainability. To accomplish this we provided residents access to a broad spectrum of vendors and educational opportunities that touch on various environmental areas such as transportation, energy, recycling, water conservation and renewable energy among other topic areas.
What is Peoria’s Energy and Sustainability strategy? The City of Peoria has been in the sustainability business for quite sometime now. With the recent heightened environmental awareness sweeping across society, we have made it a priority to enhance our existing environmental practices and develop a comprehensive Sustainability Action Plan. This plan allows departments throughout the city to have a hand in it and call it their own. To go a step further, an action plan doesn’t foster future success if accomplishments cannot be measured. The city has also implemented a matrix which details individual goals and focus areas with forecasts for completion and quantifiable measurements. With that said, not everything can be measured; there is an element that is intangible such as pride, morale, and passion for the cause.
How much energy does the city spend on energy costs each year? The most recent figures show that from calendar year 2009 to 2011 the overall amount the city paid in electric dropped 1.8% ($129,450/yr) and the actual energy usage dropped a total of 7.7% (5,434,848 kWh/yr).
From January to December:
- 2011 $7,275,919 65,560,098 kWh
- 2010 $7,293,624 68,244,573 kWh
- 2009 $7,405,369 70,994,946 kWh
These figures include total electricity costs for water treatment and distribution, waste water collection and treatment, buildings and street lighting. City initiated water and waste water efficiency efforts have resulted in a 7% reduction in utility energy expenses from 2009 to 2011 despite increased power rates. The City has worked proactively with our energy providers, APS and SRP and is involved in a number of energy efficiency and power savings programs with each. In 2011, the City received over $49,000 in energy rebates as a result of our participation in these programs. Additionally with a federally funded energy grant, the City of Peoria has been able to invest in more efficient lighting and perform energy audits in order to identify additional energy savings. For example, since February of 2008 we have reduced our energy consumption at the City Hall Complex alone by 22% while adding an additional 18,000 square feet to the Court building. We have accomplished this reduction by replacing site lighting with LED fixtures, upgrading our central plant to more efficient equipment, removing personal electrical devices from office areas, reducing light levels while maintaining appropriate work levels, and adjusting temperature set points.
- What political tools can you take advantage of that will help you make your city more sustainable/energy efficient? Keeping an eye out for any opportunities that can be leveraged to be greener. The federal government has been focused these past few years on livable and sustainable communities. There is definitely an interest there to help cities provide a better quality of life for its residents.
We also need to collaborate with state policy makers and continue to move forward with laws that put Arizona in a competitive position to capture businesses that are innovative, bring jobs and invest in our communities. There are certainly environmental challenges that have a significant impact on the future of our communities and with inadequate laws in place; we may be behind the curve for years to come. We can’t afford to let that happen. The City of Peoria is a partner in the Sustainable Cities Network which falls under Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability. The network provides communities with a wide array of environmental information. One of the many tools they offer is awareness of global, national and local trends and initiatives that may counter our ability to promote sustainable practices.
- What can businesses do to help the city achieve success? Sooner or later, (hopefully sooner) businesses need to realize the triple bottom line to achieve total success. That means being on good terms with the green environment and not just the green dollar. There are other factors that go beyond dollars and cents. As a city it is important for us to model what we hope to see from our business community. That is why we encourage the three basic principles of recycling. Reduce, reuse and recycle. We also encourage businesses to conserve water either through the installation of water fixtures or to adopt practices that curtail heavy water use. Our motto in Peoria is “Water. Enough to use not enough to waste.” Water is a valuable resource and how we manage it helps us protect one of our most valuable commodities in the desert region.
Peoria residents demand more out of us. We owe it to them to have a well run and efficient city to call home. We have adjusted our model beyond our internal practices and are well underway to taking our show on the road by kicking it up a notch through increasing our citizen involvement. Achieving the title of a true green city certainly presents its share of challenges, the bar is high, the standards are tough, but it is through a fully engaged community and government that will get us there.
Mayor Barrett was first elected to the City Council representing the Ironwood District in 2001 and was reelected to a second term in 2004. A resident of Peoria since 1993, Mayor Barrett served in the US Army and was awarded the Bronze Star in Vietnam in 1971. He graduated with honors from Arizona State University with a degree in Mass Communications-Journalism and worked for the Arizona Republic for more than 20 years as a magazine writer, reporter and editor. He currently works in the Communications Department of Central Arizona Project. Mayor Barrett received the Meritorious Service Medal from the Army National Guard in 2001 for his work as the Media Relations Coordinator for the International Workshop for Emergency Response. He is currently a member of the Peoria Sunrise Lions Club and is a Melvin Jones Fellow.