Kissimmee, Florida is the second largest city in the Central Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area. It was incorporated in 1883 and has a current population of around 60,000. On its southern border sits one of the United States most popular freshwater fishing destinations, Lake Tohopekaliga and the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. From dealing with the State of Florida and other Cities to ensure clean water discharge into its major bodies of water to designating and maintaining (since 1991) the entire city as a Designated Bird Sanctuary; Kissimmee residents and government officials are no strangers to working for the protection of its valuable resources.
Whether natural or manmade we know there are finite resources in all aspects of life. In 2008, 1 in every 25 homes in Osceola County received a foreclosure filing; by 2010 the number was more like 1 in every 20. The foreclosure crisis hit Central and South Florida the worst in the state, leaving government organizations in a tough position; maintaining critical services with fewer funds. At the same time sustainability markets were growing with the opportunity for long term servings in energy coupled with considerable investments in startup costs. How then were local governments dealing with budget reductions supposed to take advantage of these new opportunities? The City of Kissimmee, Florida had a clear answer; slowly and conservatively.
While the City Commissioners knew that they wanted to pursue responsible construction of new facilities they also knew that it came at a price. Early on the commission took a stance that they preferred to avoid the high cost of designations and certifications. Thus when the City’s new LEED fire station was built the architect took on the responsibility of the application at a much lower cost. As the City continues to slowly build new structures we take into account sustainable principles without necessarily seeking certifications if they cannot be obtained at a low cost. At the end of the day what’s important is the savings in energy and the low impact of the new development on the environment. While the plaques and certificates are great we know we are being responsible and we will make it known to our residents and businesses.
Another opportunity was taking advantage of the Federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program. As an organization we saw this as a chance to once again reduce the cost of doing of business in the long term to help lower the financial burden of energy on our organization. After enlisting some help, the City was able to pinpoint the heaviest consumers of electricity within its group of properties. The biggest concern was the heating and cooling of some very large buildings. Once again we were able to take advantage of the cost savings which new sustainable technology makes available while making a positive environmental impact. All in all $600,000 worth of improvements were identified and made. Aside from the reduction of internal costs we look for other grant opportunities to enhance the level of service we provide.
In 2011 we pursued and received an allocation from the Chargepoint America Grant program. This program provided us three electric vehicle charging stations, which were installed in our downtown. For the time being we have left them free and open to anyone who may like to charge their vehicle. This was great for the public image of the City and exciting to some of our residents. We have even had some people pass by and take a picture with one of the units. When completed the only cost to the City was the installation of the units which was minimal when considering the $8500.00/unit cost if we had purchased them ourselves.
We all know that minimizing our impact on the environment takes changes in behavior as well, as a City we have begun to address that in our routine purchases. As we move forward we will continue to change the standards of doing business. Simple changes like asking that all new purchases of light bulbs be LED bulbs and slowly incorporating the costs of these new technologies into the standard replacement schedule will allow us to build from the larger changes we have made at a rate we can afford. Our goal is to continue to implement sustainable technology in a very practical way as our local economy continues to recover. In the end we’ll be able to preserve finite resources using finite resources.
Written by Mayor Jim Swan. Swan was elected as Mayor of Kissimee on 2008.