HUDSON — What can the city do to address the effects of climate change?
That question was at the heart of the League of Women Voters’ third of four planned workshops on climate change in the Laurel Lake Retirement Center community room last Thursday.
About 70 people attended the program and the participants visited with city and school officials to hear about various environmental issues.
The officials addressed different "categories of concerns" that were developed by the League of Women Voters following the first two workshops.
Workshop attendees were divided into six groups of about 10-14 people, who spoke with two of the officials and then had a representative to report back on what they learned.
The officials and their subject areas were:
• City Engineer Bradley Kosco, water management and wetland issues;
• Hudson City Schools Curriculum Coordinator Christina Wooley, energy education;
• Hudson City Schools Project/Construction Coordinator Chuck Schilling, facility use;
• Community Development Director Greg Hannan, planning and land development code;
• Fire & EMS Chief Jerry Varnes, safety and risk management;
• Assistant City Engineer Nate Wonsick, planning and land development code;
• Assistant City Manager Frank Comeriato, energy and transition to renewables.
Before the groups met with city officials, League of Women Voters’ member Gary King gave a presentation laying out some of the challenges that climate change would bring.
King noted that impacts of climate change include a decline in the number of crops that can be grown, loss of farm land, more late summer droughts, and more flooding.
He added the midwest is also expected to experience more extremely cold weather which will lead to school closings, more burst water pipes and other "economic damage."
King said increasing temperatures will impact health, too, with Ohio projected to have an increase in the number of deaths due to excessive heat. Meanwhile, dealing with the effects of air pollution, King said, "will cost the United States 28 percent of its annual [Gross Domestic Product]."
There is also a rise in the number of pests that carry viruses and infectious diseases such as Zika and West Nile Virus.
He noted Ohio summers are expected to be more like those now seen in Arkansas and the winters more akin to ones in Virginia.
"I’m just trying to raise awareness," said King. "We can make change when we put our heads together and organize."
After their discussions with the various officials, group reporters highlighted issues such as fertilizer usage, concerns about overdevelopment of city land, upgrading the storm sewer system, the city’s emergency operation plan, how information can be obtained during an emergency, solar power, flooding, the increase in algae blooms in bodies of water, efforts by the city to use more renewable energy, the school district’s recycling program, and how the schools track the amount of money they save on energy costs.
One reporter noted she learned that fertilizer usage is not being monitored in the city. One reporter noted she felt more public education was needed on the use of pesticides. Another suggested offering an environmental club at Hudson High School.
Wooley said the school district’s goal is "to create informed citizens [and] students who have the knowledge to make informed decisions."
Kosco said he learned that the city could "do a better job of communicating" with residents on what they could do on their properties to address stormwater runoff.
Kosco noted participants he spoke with asked whether the city could develop a climate change policy and have it "interact with" the Land Development Code.
"I think that opportunity is there," said Kosco. "I encouraged our groups to push that concept forward."
Wonsick said the city may examine the possibility of monitoring fertilizer usage.
Schilling noted he felt the school district "would definitely move forward" with renewable energy plans. He said he believed that any type of initiative that the district takes up in connection with energy use would be done in a partnership with the city.
Hannan said while several city department leaders address environmental issues, the municipality does not have one employee who is tasked with specifically handling environmental challenges. He also suggested his department could take on an additional duty with regard to environmental issues.
"[In the planning department] we spend almost all of our time regulating and interpreting codes to propose projects," said Hannan. "But we really don’t get the opportunity to take our knowledge and resources and be more on the advocate/public education side."
There will be a final workshop on April 9 in which a set of formal recommendations will be compiled and provided to city officials. That session will happen from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Hudson Library and Historical Society.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.