Village awarded for fighting climate change
MONTOUR FALLS-- Despite having one of the smallest populations and average median income Montour Falls joined 33 other municipalities in New York by completing certification for New York's Climate Smart Communities program.
Mark Lowry, assistant director of the state Department of Environmental Conversation, drove in from Albany to hold a press conference during the Falls Harvest Festival to personally award Mayor John King and Deputy Mayor Jim Ryan Bronze level certification in the program.
"It is inspiring to see these leading municipalities face the challenge of climate change with clear-eyed determination and creative solutions," Lowry said.
He added that the qualification for the certification, which is voluntary, is very strenuous, especially for smaller communities. Of the 34 municipalities that have qualified, Montour Falls is 33rd in terms of size.
"It's clear that the larger governments have the advantage of staff and financial resources... but Deputy Mayor Ryan assembled a team that went about it in exactly the right way," Lowry said.
King also singled out Ryan for praise.
"I think we should be very proud as a village, we put a lot of hard work into it especially led by Mr. Ryan. We have done a lot of work looking at the future health of village and this is just one of those steps," King said.
Ryan though was eager to share the praise.
"Today's award is the culmination of a lot of hard work, not just on the villages part but the people in the village we brought together. I also can't say enough about our cooperative extension and the support of the village board to make the resolutions and maybe local law changes to get this award," Ryan said.
The purpose of the program is to reduce greenhouse emissions on a local level while at the same time offering grants, technical assistance and rebates for electric vehicles.
"Over the next 20 years, we estimated that the village will save over $310,000 by converting all of its streetlights and building light bulbs to use LEDs, an estimated 55 percent reduction in lighting energy use," said Katherine Herleman, clean energy communities coordinator at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schuyler County and member of the Montour Falls Sustainability Committee.
Herleman said she was in awe of how quickly the village came together behind the leadership of Ryan to benchmark the villages energy use, streamline the solar permitting process, have the code enforcement officer attend special training, and site and install the village's first EV charger.
"Jim's team completed high impact action items within six weeks when other communities generally require six to 18 months. I was absolutely stunned," Herleman said.
While they could not attend, local State Senator Tom O'Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano released a joint statement congratulating Montour Falls.
"This important recognition is a well-earned and well-deserved tribute to the commitment, vision, and hard work of all of the concerned community citizens and regional organizations who joined together to achieve this remarkable goal," the statement said.