Advocates for climate change awareness petitioned the Cottage Grove City Council at a Sept. 23 council meeting, testifying to the urgency of climate issues during public comments.
“We are living in a climate emergency,” said Cottage Grove resident Rosemary Foraker.
Participants asked the council to declare a climate emergency, host a town hall on the subject and look for solutions to make the city carbon neutral by 2030.
“How we reach that goal has the potential to be a beautiful example of how communities can rise to this challenge, collaboratively and justly for all people,” Foraker said. “This important step of declaring a climate emergency is the diagnosis we need as a community to get into action and become a resilient role model for communities around the world who all face the same crisis.”
The appearance of the speakers at the City Council meeting followed the wake of the Sept. 20 Climate Strike in which more than 250 students and community members gathered in Cottage Grove as part of a worldwide climate action event.
At times, testimony at the City Council meeting was emotional and young speakers expressed fear that they would not have a future.
“I’m filling out college applications right now and I don’t even know if it’s worth it,” said young resident Emma Burleson. “You have helped raise us, so we ask you to invest in our future.”
Resident Maia Wilhour appealed to the city to secure a future for her generation.
“I’m absolutely terrified. I’m young. I have a whole future ahead of me, but because of this emergency, I might not even have that,” she said. “I want us to invest in a good future — in a healthy future — where our carbon isn’t killing us all. ... I’m standing here because I know you think our future is important.”
Local resident Josh Fattal summarized the group’s appeal to the council.
“We’re not going to change the whole world right here, but this is something that we ask: that you recognize this reality,” he said. “We need to move all the resources you have toward addressing this. … If there’s not this money in the budget, this means finding it in the state budget. It means finding it in federal grants.”
Fattal encouraged the city, if nothing else, to hold a town hall to discuss the subject and bind the community in common cause.
Councilors responded to the speakers in turn.
“I’m certain it’s going to prove to be the biggest issue of our time,” said Councilor Jake Boone on the climate issue. “We have to do something, but the tricky part is figuring out what that something is. … What we do in Cottage Grove won’t fix the climate, but we can at least do our part to stop making it worse.”
Councilor Kenneth Roberts echoed Boone’s sentiment, expressing his interest in heading up a future town hall meeting.
“I would very much like to see a town hall with these people,” he said. “I think this is something we should be looking into.”
Councilor Mike Fleck agreed that creating a greener community was a worthy goal.
“I fully believe that our nation needs to join the world in making efforts to reduce our carbon emissions,” he said. “I certainly support doing things that make sense that we can do to improve our local area.”
Fleck also asked that solutions be economically sound and that the conversation remain measured.
“I understand young people can bring the passion, but to hear comments about not even going to school or having children, I think is emotion taking over rather than science,” he said. “Look at what we actually need to do to improve our situation in a way that’s going to be economically feasible and makes sense for a small town like ours. … That being said, we have a huge problem and absolutely we need to address it.”
Water Treatment Plant Bid Award
Councilors voted unanimously to award a bid in the amount of $1,005,654 to contractor Pacific Excavation for the expansion of the Row River Water Treatment Plant.
The plant’s expansion will increase capacity by two million gallons per day. Currently, two existing systems of membrane racks provide a total of four million gallons of water per day to the community.
“The city uses about three to three-and-a-half million gallons of water per day,” said City Engineer Ron Bradsby. “If one goes down, we will not have enough racks to filter the water, so it’s providing redundancy in the existing system and will help with growth.”
Pacific Excavation represented the lowest of eight bids. The current budget allocates $1.4 million for the project.
Swinging Bridge Name
Councilors voted unanimously to delay the official naming of the Swinging Bridge, which had been named Currin Bridge in 1965 after J.P. Currin.
Because the latter name has not been popularly used and may create confusion with a covered bridge, also named Currin Bridge, councilors elected to investigate if the Currin family still lived in the area, refer to the Cottage Grove Historical Society for guidance and put out a suggestion box for the public.
A name is scheduled to be chosen at the Oct. 14 City Council meeting.