Leader Blues

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

TOP STORY > >Metroplan is turning green

Leader senior writer

The new Jacksonville library will reduce energy use and cost by using the natural heating and cooling properties of the earth itself, according to Mayor Tommy Swaim.

Although Jacksonville, Sher-wood and Cabot have yet to join the ranks of the Metroplan member organizations submitting a list of their environmental efforts for the regional green-activities inventory, at least two have made efforts toward reducing waste, recycling and saving energy costs.

“The board has asked us to start looking at what’s being done and what can be done in terms of environmental practices,” according to Richard Magee, Metroplan director of planning.

“We’re trying to see what everyone is doing,” said Magee, “and what we might do collectively to expand that.”

He said North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays, former Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey, Conway Mayor Tab Townsell and Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines had pushed for the survey.

The Jacksonville Library will use the constant 56 degree F temperature of the earth in some 20 wells drilled for that purpose, Swaim said. That means air conditioners will run less in the summer and furnaces less in the winter, saving both energy and money.

“We’re also doing something no other city in the state has done,” Swaim said. “We’ve worked with Waste Management Inc.,” he said, to burn the methane gas vented from the Two Pines landfill to turn six turbines, generating electricity to power a significant number of homes in the North Little Rock area. While North Little Rock residents get the benefit, it was the city of Jacksonville that worked with the state and with Waste Management Inc. during the permitting and construction process.

“We don’t own it, but we encouraged and participated in it,” the mayor said.

The city’s recycling center also accepts old televisions and computers, recycling them and keeping heavy metals and chemicals out of the landfill waste stream, he said.

The city has a curbside recycling program.

The city bundles and sells plastic, aluminum, paper and cardboard. “We’ve not yet found a good market for glass and metal cans,” Swaim said.

The city picks up yard waste, grinds it up and gives it back to citizens as mulch, he said.

Jacksonville also has changed over most of its traffic signals from power-intensive lights to the more efficient and economical LED’s according to Jay Whisker, the city administrator.

It has replaced some incandescent light bulbs—including the ones in the mayor’s office—wit