By Bailey Buckingham
Recent debates in Buda over the sustainability features of design plans for the new municipal buildings sparked conversation June 21 about the possible establishment of a sustainability commission in Buda.
Planning department employee Meredith Johnson presented the Buda City Council with options regarding the possible establishment of a sustainability commission and direction on what the commission’s duties would be.
Council took no action on the topic, but listened to Johnson’s presentation.
Johnson referenced many cities in Texas and their sustainability measures to gauge what options would best suit Buda. Referenced cities included Austin, Plano, Bellaire, San Marcos and San Antonio.
Johnson, with the aid of Planning Director Chance Sparks, presented possible ways to organize and govern the commission. That could include having the commission report directly to the planning department, with the council serving as the approving body, much like existing commissions in Buda.
Referenced cities had sustainablility commissions structured after actual governing bodies, as well as advisory committees made of staff and/or citizens, Johnson said.
Johnson stressed the importance of having a two-year plan in place for the sustainability commission to identify specific projects to work on, to avoid redundancy within city departments.
An example of a two-year plan could have the commission reviewing current bond projects, such as the design of the new municipal buildings, Johnson said.
It would be done in order to ensure that the sustainability wishes of council are met during the design process before advancing to the construction phase.
Drawbacks to creating the sustainability commission included increased staff hours and cost.
A few of the cities Johnson reached out to spent an average of 25 staff hours per month on the commission. That number can vary depending on the specific project under consideration.
Council members provided positive feedback about the possible establishment of a sustainability commission, but had other alternative names for it.
“I would like for this to be called an Environmental Commission,” council member Eileen Altmiller said.
Council member Angela Kennedy, who proposed the creation of a sustainability commission, was pleased with the thoroughness of Johnson’s presentation.
“This presentation shows that there are other cities who have established commissions like this and the need is there for Buda,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy echoed Altmiller’s request for a name change, but wanted it to be renamed the Environmental Sustainability Commission.
“We need to express to the public that these efforts (sustainability) are in order to maintain our economic and community sustainability,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy was encouraged by the presentation and suggested if the commission were established, that it have once a month meetings in order to reduce required staff time. Staff hours could then be built up as the staff grows.
“I’m looking forward to some cost estimates to hopefully act on this later on in the year,” Kennedy said.
Mayor Todd Ruge suggested a member of city council serve on the sustainability commission or committee in order to reduce staff hours and cost.
Ruge said he is “100 percent behind this (sustainability commission/committee).”
Council member David Nuckels suggested the commission be relabeled a ‘committee’ to reflect the advisory capacity it serves. Council member George Haehn cautioned to “avoid redundancies.”
Discussion of cost aside, Kennedy reminded council why the commission was needed in the first place.
“I’m interested in the solution that addresses Buda’s needs and to address those issues that are currently falling through the cracks,” Kennedy said.