City Council Reverses Position and Votes to Retain Part Time Sustainability Coordinator Position

25 May 2022 City Council Budget Review Meeting

In last night’s Rockland City Council Budget Review Meeting, the Council voted to retain the sustainability coordinator position in a 3-2 vote. The part time position was eliminated from the proposed 2023 city budget, but Councilor Nathan Davis advocated for retaining it in a budget review meeting last week. At that time, the position’s elimination was upheld in a 3-2 straw poll vote with Davis and Councilor Sarah Austin voting to retain the position.

Last night, Councilor Louise Maclellan-Ruff switched her vote and voted for retaining the part-time position in the 2023 budget.

The vote came when the Council took up discussion around a full-time sustainability-communications position which was not in the proposed budget but which was previously suggested by Davis as a means to avoid the challenges associated with hiring part time positions. The proposed position would add $96,669 to the 2023 budget.

This was just an idea I think I threw out at some point,” said Davis when it came up. “I’m not going to advocate for it anymore though I would still advocate for the part-time sustainability coordinator.”

“I agree with Nate,” said Maclellan-Ruff. “For me personally sustainability is to make sure our residents and community are fed first, and for me that is the true definition of sustainability for us this year. It’s been a horrible year for our families, but I would also keep the part-time position open.”

Glaser pointed out that there is no part-time sustainability coordinator position in the proposed budget. “If you want to add a part-time position, or at least the opportunity to find a part-time position, that has to be added to the budget.”

“Then I would add the part-time,” Maclellan-Ruff said.

Davis said he would be “trilled” to add the part-time position back into the budget.

Glaser then turned to Councilor Nicole Kalloch who responded, “I would not support this position.”

“I’m not going to support it either just,” Glaser said, “because it’s not currently in the budget and that would mean adding another $30,000–or whatever it’s going to be–back to the budget.”

Austin, the last Councilor to vote, said she supported adding the part-time position back into the budget. “It is in fact probably likely that it won’t be filled and we won’t spend that money, but if we can I stand by that that is a department that can save us money.”

Austin was referring to the fact that the position was originally hired in 2019 with the understanding that a sustainability coordinator can bring money into the City through grant-writing and also cost savings related to electricity. During the time that Rockland had a sustainability coordinator from December 2019 and June 2021, the City made significant progress on its climate action goals, including securing $16,000 in grant funding and saving $135,000 in estimated annual energy costs. Not all of these grants and savings were the direct result of the Sustainability Coordinator, but the results suggest Rockland’s $25,000 investment in a part-time position was a good investment and a step in the right direction toward achieving the City’s stated climate goals.

Glaser pointed out that even if the position goes unfilled, the City still needs to tax for it.

Davis added that the Energy and Sustainability Advisory Committee (RESAC) has offered to help with recruitment and outreach. “That perhaps increases the likelihood that it will be filled,” he said.

The entire meeting can be viewed here. The discussion of the sustainability coordinator position begins at about 36:00.

RESAC, in its official advisory capacity, presented public comment to Council advocating for retaining the position.

The final vote on the proposed budget will come at the end of June.

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