Legislature considers county-wide Climate Smart task force

Cortland County. (Photo via the Cortland County Convention & Visitors Bureau).

Elected leaders and county officials are seeking to create a task force to bring sustainable investments to Cortland County.

Officials discussed the matter at Thursday’s Agriculture, Planning and Environmental committee meeting. 

“In our conversations with the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board (RPDB), we are really revisiting the state’s Climate Smart Communities initiative,” County planning director Trisha Jesset said during her monthly report.

Climate Smart Communities (CSC) is a New York State program that helps local governments take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate, according to the state’s website. The program offers free technical assistance, grants, and rebates for electric vehicles. Registered communities, according to the program’s guidelines, have made a commitment to act by passing a CSC pledge through their respective bodies of government. 

The state considers certified communities as the “foremost leaders in the state.” 

“They have gone beyond the CSC pledge by completing and documenting a suite of actions that mitigate and adapt to climate change at the local level,” according to the program’s guidelines.

The program’s website indicates the city of Cortland registered for the program back in 2010. Most recently, the village of Homer was certified bronze under the CSC in 2020. The village of Homer has taken 20-environmentally friendly actions and accrued 132 points as part of the program. Some of the village’s accomplishments through the CSC include training for code enforcement officers, establishing a CSC taskforce and naming a CSC coordinator, and establishing an organic waste program for residents.

“My email and conversations are peppered with available funding for Climate Smart Communities,” Jesset said. “The money is really being allocated in this direction. Not only is it environmentally responsible for us to look into this initiative, but it is also an area in which the state is making a big investment. We are going to reach a point where we are really doing our community a disservice if we let these opportunities pass us by.”

The RPDB, Jesset added, has hired staff to help municipalities tap into these funds. 

Legislative Minority Leader Beau Harbin (D-LD-2) said the next step for the county will be to create a task force.

“We have to have a task force,” he said. “I’d like this committee to designate that taskforce in the next month or so so we can actually get things moving. We cannot do much else until we have a task force and a chairperson for that task force.”

The taskforce, Harbin said, will likely include anywhere from five to seven members and meet “a couple of times a year.”

“A lot of groups like the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District are already doing all the actions, we just need to coordinate thru the RPDB and then we get credit for these things and money can start coming into Cortland County,” Harbin added.

Some of the projects Harbin said the county has already discussed are charging stations for electric vehicles, which could be financed in part with CSC state funds. 

The committee is set to bring this discussion item back next month, Harbin said.