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Impacting Climate Change at the Local Level: Cranston council members want to reduce the city’s footprint

Steve Stycos

Two Cranston city councillors are taking the global, existential threat of climate change to the local level. Citywide councilman and candidate for mayor Steve Stycos has introduced legislation that would put a municipal bond on the ballot this November. If passed, the bond would provide a future city administration the option to borrow up to $5 million for green municipal projects.

“It’d be a way to reduce our emissions in Cranston,” said Stycos in a phone interview with Motif. “Taking the steps needed to reduce emissions that cause climate change. It’d save [the city] money because cooling and heating costs would go down.” The explicit goal of the bond is to reduce the city’s carbon footprint and by extension, its overall contribution to climate change. The bond was introduced in a committee meeting last month, where most members voiced support of the idea. A majority wanted to know what kind of projects the authority would fund and voted to continue the discussion at the next meeting. 

Stycos has since provided by putting up a few main ideas on his website. He envisions improving energy efficiency in Cranston’s schools by improving or upgrading windows and insulation. He wants to transition some of the city’s fleet of vehicles from gas to electric and install an electric charging station for them. The third idea is to add LED lights and temperature controls to city hall and the town libraries. Cranston has about 40 city buildings that could be retrofitted.

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Other possible green projects include installing solar canopies at either the Stadium parking lot or the city hall parking lot. Stycos wants to put solar panels on top of the Knightsville library and on the city’s school buildings. Currently, there are solar panels on Cranston High School West that save city taxpayers approximately $9,500 a year in energy costs. Out of 23 schools in Cranston, it is the only one with solar panels.

“This proposal gives a future to green projects,” said Ward 3 Councilman John Donegan, the other supporter of the climate bond on the council. The bond is currently still being considered by Cranston’s Finance Committee. Tonight they vote on whether to move it toward the entire city council. If it passes the council, it would go the mayor for signature or veto. If signed, Cranston will vote on it in November. If passed, any future administration would have the option to use the bond and would have to present a detailed plan for the city council to pass. The city then would have a 20-year term to repay the bond, with an interest rate most likely below 4%.

Stycos doesn’t expect the COVID-19 crisis to have an impact on the passage of the bond. However, a fall off in revenues could possibly impact the overall bond rating of the city when the city wants to borrow the money. According to Donegan, when discussed during the committee meeting on the bond last month, many voiced support of it, but wanted more information on the authority and projects used.

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