Two initiatives could help Richmond with the city’s tree and recycling programs.

Common Council on Dec. 4 voted 9-0 to allow a proposal submission to Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute for assistance valued at $142,000 and a grant application to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for $100,000.

Richmond has previously participated in two Environmental Resilience Institute cohorts regarding greenhouse gas and climate action planning. It’s now hoping to be selected for an urban green infrastructure cohort to facilitate a tree canopy assessment, planting 100 trees and three years of tree maintenance. Alison Zajdel of the city’s Environmental Sustainability Commission said the assessment is valued at $17,000, and planting and maintenance is valued at $125,000.

The city must provide $3,200 that will come from the street department’s tree planting line item. That money pays for an intern to do the program’s legwork during the summer.

“We think that for a $3,200 investment it’s an extremely good deal, and it’s work that we need to be doing anyway,” Zajdel said.

The assessment will identify priority areas, including low-income neighborhoods, for tree planting to best utilize shade and cooling effects and to beautify the city. Information from the Beat the Heat program that concluded this year will inform the assessment. Zajdel said native trees with a good chance of survival will be selected for planting.

The city has built momentum regarding trees, Zajdel said, with the creation of its Tree Tenders volunteer planting program, designation as a Tree City USA and the city’s Street Tree Commission.

Richmond Sanitary District is trying to build momentum for recycling. Pat Smoker, the district director, said the $100,000 Community Recycling Grant Program money would help with branding and marketing of the recycling program and expansion of efforts to divert waste from the landfill.

Smoker said diversion is necessary to prolong the landfill’s life, and he expects Environmental Protection Agency concepts that could divert 50% of waste from landfills to soon become mandates. The sanitary district has completed an audit and is waiting for data to develop recycling plans.

City recycling equipment dates to 1990, Smoker said, so developing programs that align with EPA goals before purchasing new equipment is important.

The required $25,000 city match is included in the sanitary district’s 2024 budget.

In other unanimous actions, Common Council amended the tax abatement ordinance approved earlier this year by eliminating errors and vagueness. The ordinance established scoring criteria for businesses requesting tax abatements, and the corrections come before the city receives two possible abatement requests.

Council unanimously appointed Stasia Veramallay to the Morrisson-Reeves Library board of trustees at the recommendation of Dena Little, the library’s director. Kelley Cruse-Nicholson resigned her position from the four-member board. Council appoints two of the positions.

Airport Manager Rodney Mayse received permission to keep seasonal employee Jeff Ballard through the end of the year. Ballard will become a permanent part-time employee in 2024.

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A version of this article appeared in the December 13 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.