Oregon ad hoc committee working to promote sustainability

Five-member group does research, consulting, not policy-making

OREGON — Members of a new Sustainability Ad Hoc Committee in Oregon are planning to start with the basics when it comes to bringing green initiatives to the city.

Defining sustainability is tricky, ad hoc leader and city Commissioner Melanie Cozzi said. Committee members spent quite a bit of time figuring out a clear and understandable way to define it.

“Sustainability for us is truly, ‘How are we advancing our current community, but creating a better version of ourselves for the future generation?’” she said. “I think that’s the best way to focus on immediate sustainability while keeping focus on the future.”

They haven’t yet decided on a method, but the five-member committee wants to survey the community to gauge what kinds of initiatives residents and businesses would like to utilize, Cozzi said. At the same time, they’ll be doing the front-end research that later can be presented to city officials for possible action, she said.

“We recognize we are surrounded by state parks and the Rock River,” Cozzi said. “It’s really important for this Sustainability Ad Hoc Committee to have that as a focal point, to keep those thriving while our town continues to thrive for the businesses and residents.”

The ad hoc committee is an advisory group for research and consulting, not a policy-making body, said City Administrator Darin DeHaan, who is the city’s liaison on the ad hoc.

The other four members are Tim Benedict, Blackhawk Hills Regional Council; Vic Zaderej, a local entrepreneur, business owner and electrical engineer; Steve Rypkema, Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department; and Russell Brunner, Byron Forest Preserve and Oregon resident.

Educational opportunities and programming for the community are going to be a large part of the ad hoc committee’s actions, at least in the beginning, Cozzi said.

“Sometimes people get overwhelmed that things are going to get harder or more expensive with green initiatives,” Cozzi said. “We don’t want people to fear that with the ad hoc.”

They want to turn heads and make people ask, “What are these green initiatives?” she said. Achieving that goal can be as simple as providing people resources to help reduce energy in their own homes and then explaining how that trickles down into Oregon as a whole, Cozzi explained.

The need for sustainability always has existed, but now they’re finding the right time and the right group of people to work toward it, she said.

“Oregon is really becoming quite a place to live, work, visit for vacation and access natural resources,” Cozzi said. “So if we aren’t paying attention to the things that make our community thrive, [we risk losing them].

“When we miss that point to keep advancing ourselves, I think we lose that value as a community,” she said.

For more information about the Sustainability Ad Hoc Committee, contact DeHaan at 815-732-6321 or ddehaan@cityoforegon.org, or Cozzi at commissionercozzi@gmail.com.

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner covers Ogle County for the Oregon Republican Reporter, Forreston Journal, Mt. Morris Times and Polo Tri-County Press. She has six-plus years of experience in journalism and has won numerous awards.