East Grand Forks is close to being Minnesota’s latest “GreenStep” city.
After a meeting at which no objections to the environmentally minded program were raised, East Grand Forks City Council members are expected to formally vote on a resolution to join at their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
“How excited are you about us being part of it?” Mayor Steve Gander asked Kevin Hatcher, an energy and customer service specialist at East Grand Forks Water and Light, the city’s public utility. Really excited, replied Hatcher, who’d coordinate the program if Council members agree to enter it next week.
GreenStep, Hatcher told council members, establishes a step-by-step way for the city to work together to be environmentally sustainable, suggests projects that city or utility staff might not have otherwise considered. He told Gander the program “absolutely” would make East Grand Forks a more welcoming place for people to live or do business.
The program is a product of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. As cities take on “best practices,” they ascend a set of five figurative steps. Those practices range from relatively simple ones, such as using LED bulbs in city offices to sweeping initiatives, such as adopting a comprehensive land-use plan.
Some cities have shied away from the program. Plymouth, in suburban Minneapolis, forewent joining the program in July after a series of speakers questioned how voluntary GreenStep actually is and how much the projects it outlines would cost the city.
“That was one of the fear factors that came up right away: Is this something that’s going to cost us money to do?” said Council President Mark Olstad.
The 130-plus cities that have signed on are under no obligation to undertake any of the tasks outlined in the program. City Attorney Ron Galstad was tasked with reviewing a model resolution provided by the state to see if there was any binding language within it. He did not return Herald requests for comment on Thursday.
Hatcher told the Herald he wasn’t aware of any binding language in the model resolution, but city and utility leaders, nonetheless, edited it for simplicity.
“Just making it easier to read,” he said. “More understandable.”
The modified resolution council members will consider next week is effectively the same as the model one, Hatcher said.
Cities ascend to “Step 1” when their leaders approve a resolution to join the program. City leaders estimate that they’d automatically reach “Step 2” because East Grand Forks already does several of the items needed to hit that mark.
If the city wanted to hit “Step 3,” it could begin analyzing its monthly energy and water usage, install “no/low cost” indoor lighting in city buildings, or adopt a “complete streets policy” that would coordinate landscaping and stormwater systems, among other projects.
Most GreenStep cities are in the Twin Cities metro area, but nearby Northwestern Minnesota cities Crookston, Warren, Hallock and Mahnomen are members.