The city of Red Wing has made decisions in the recent years touted as ways to protect and help the environment: an electric vehicle charging station was installed, garbage is burned for energy, solar panels have been installed on buildings.
On Monday, Feb. 11, the City Council passed three resolutions with environmental focuses: support for the state of Minnesota's energy goals, support for housing energy efficiency improvements and support for revising tax-increment financing to make it a more accessible tool for community development.
Municipal energy goals
Minnesota created a 2025 Energy Action Plan that lays out strategies to reduce carbon emissions and improve the environment. These strategies focus on:
• modernizing the electric grid,
• the efficiency of new and old buildings,
• industry and agriculture, and
• planning and action at local levels.
The full plan is 119 pages long.
Council member Evan Brown suggested the idea of a resolution in favor of the state's energy goals at the 2019 annual workshop. During the Feb. 11 regular meeting, Brown explained that there should be support for the energy plan, but there should also be an open dialogue as it is implemented.
"The city is asking for support at the state level to implement energy policy goals because the disconnect is that cities will bear the brunt of implementing a lot of these changes, and I think we do need to have a robust discussion at the legislative level in St. Paul about how to best support that," he said.
Energy efficiency for housing
The council's energy efficient housing resolution begins by stating that as energy costs increase it is easier to see that many private housing units have poor energy efficiency. This is bad for both the environment and people who pay for utilities (especially during a polar vortex). Improving the efficiency of Red Wing's housing stock can be done through repairing and insulating housing or building new, high-efficiency units.
Currently, it can be expensive to weatherize a house properly or to build a new house. So, the city voted to approve resolutions that would help local residents in making their property more efficient. The resolutions included:
• The state should focus on education and programs such as Conservation Improvement Plan that would help home or property owners weatherize properties through technical and monetary aid.
• Make Property Assessed Clean Energy programs for residential units feasible for local municipalities.
• The city should make events and opportunities to learn about energy efficiency and related programs known to the public.
The city, according to Brown, already has a policy for efficiency in commercial properties.
TIF projects allow companies and municipalities to build houses and housing units at a lower risk than without a TIF. The Red Wing housing development that is scheduled to have its first portion done in 2020 is a TIF project approved by the council last year. (For more information about this housing project, see this previous story by the Republican Eagle.)
TIFs can help the environment because new houses are usually more energy efficient than older houses.
This resolution was brought to the Council because, as the resolution states, "over time, the TIF law has become increasingly complex as the Legislature seeks to provide cities with the resources to grow the state's economy while maintaining limits on the use of property taxes." The resolution asks the Minnesota Legislature not to create any new laws that restrict TIFs and suggestions for amendments that can be made to make them less complex.
The city of Red Wing and its local government will continue the conversation about the environment in the coming weeks and months. At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, a panel of recycling experts at the Red Wing Library will talk about single-sort recycling. There will be a presentation and time to ask questions.The city plans to transition to single-sort recycling this year.
The Red Wing Sustainability Commission is working to plan and prepare for Earth Day, which is April 22.