The Verona Town Council said at Monday’s meeting that it would support Verona’s participation in a non-partisan program to make the town more environmentally friendly and potentially lower Verona’s cost of being “green”.
The program is called Sustainable Jersey, and 399 New Jersey municipalities–70% of all the towns in the state–have committed to being in it since it was launched in 2009. Right now, Verona is one of only three towns in Essex County that do not participate in Sustainable Jersey.
In a presentation to the Council last night, Verona Environmental Commission member Anthony Saltalamacchia described it as “Weight Watchers for the environment”: Sustainable Jersey awards points for different pro-environment steps and the more points a town adds up, the better. Each town gets to choose the steps it wants to take, but Sustainable Jersey has materials to guide the town through the steps–and often grant money to lower the cost of doing so.
Verona would get 10 points, for example, for doing a computerized assessment of town trees and 20 points for a community forestry plan, both of which are things that Verona’s Shade Tree Commission has been considering. Sustainable Jersey could guide Verona on applying for funding for the work. Small grants range from $1,000 to $50,000, but some million-dollar grants are available for larger programs and tax credits and other financial incentives are available.
To get started with Sustainable Jersey, the Council needs to pass a resolution in support of sustainability and VEC Chair Gloria Machnowski gave the Council a sample format to follow. Council member Frank Sapienza offered to put it on the agenda and Town Manager Joe Martin said a vote could happen as soon as the first Council meeting in December. Once the resolution is adopted, Verona would create a “Green Team” to direct the Sustainable Jersey work. The team must be a commission and it must include town officials, staff and citizens. Those citizens do not need to be part of any existing commission, Saltalamacchia said, adding “It’s a way to get more people involved in the environment.”