OSSINING, N.Y. – More than 200 Westchester town, village and school officials made a pledge Thursday night in Ossining to reduce energy waste in their respective communities.
The pledges occurred during one of the largest gatherings of Westchester officials for the 2012 Regional Leadership Summit at the Ossining Public Library. The event, hosted by the Northern Westchester Energy Action Consortium, focused on energy initiatives and sustainability concerns. Village, town and school officials from Somers, Pound Ridge, Croton-on-Hudson, Peekskill, Briarcliff Manor, Mt. Kisco, North Salem, Peekskill, Tarrytown, Yonkers, White Plains and other Westchester municipalities met with dozens of nongovernmental organizations and nonprofit organizations to share ideas for Westchester’s future in energy sustainability. The evening included several informational sessions on municipal government planning, energy efficiency in schools, healthy transportation and energy efficiency in the home.
After becoming the first community in northern Westchester to become a part of the energize movement, Bedford Town Supervisor Lee V.A. Roberts said she was impressed with the number of officials attending the summit.
“I am amazed and excited that there are so many interested people in these initiatives tonight,” Roberts said. “When we got into this, we were really hopeful it would snowball into the surrounding communities but we never could have imagined the level of interest we’re seeing now.”
Village of Ossining Mayor William Hanauer commended Bedford for leading the way on the energy movement.
“Bedford is the beta for the various projects that we’re working on,” Hanauer said “It’s tremendously important to get everyone involved so that we can learn from each other. I think we can immediately begin to change the carbon footprint of our villages and towns.”
But becoming more efficient and earth-friendly is only half of it, said Ossining Trustee John Codman.
“I did an energy audit on my house as part of Energize Ossining,” Codman said. “I was one of the first people that volunteered to do it in Ossining. I’m going to make an investment in my home and lower my carbon footprint but I’m also going to save money. Everybody these days wants to and needs to save money on their fuel budget so it’s definitely something everyone should do.”
Lewisboro Council member Dan Welsh hosted the segment on healthy transportation and agreed the benefits reach far beyond someone’s carbon footprint.
“This is one area that involves a lot of stakeholders,” Welsh said. “You might not necessarily be focused on climate change, but it stimulates local commerce and is healthier for people. This is an area that’s going to be vital in the near future and I think it’s something communities can look into and see tremendous benefit.”
But there’s also something residents can do, Welsh said.
“Residents should go to their respective council members or other representation and let them know what steps they need to be taking,” Welsh said. “A lot of times it takes one or two people to get it started.”
Heather Flournoy, chair of the Lewisboro Sustainability Committee, said that even though Thursday’s event wasn’t open to the public, she hopes residents get a clear message from their officials.
“Our rivers, our roads, our forests and our electrical grids don’t recognize municipal boundaries,” Flournoy said. “We want residents to understand that municipalities can work together to make this change happen but we have to come together and work at it if we’re going to see that change.”