LIMA — Lima’s boys in blue may be a little more green in the future. So might its building inspectors. The same may be true for other city employees driving government-owned vehicles.
On Wednesday, Mayor David Berger announced Lima joined Power a Clean Future Ohio, a nonpartisan coalition dedicated to helping local communities transition from pollution-generating energy sources. In Lima’s case, the group will help evaluate the fleet of vehicles and make recommendations.
“We don’t really have internal expertise to do this. We need an outside expert that can truly evaluate our equipment, the infrastructure that serves that equipment and assist us in making decisions,” Berger said.
Berger noted that the administration of President Joe Biden appears open to helping fund clean energy projects, so partnering with the group makes sense. There’s no monetary commitment from Lima to work with the group, only an openness to its expertise.
The group now has 10 Ohio communities signed on, including Athens, Cincinnati, Dayton, Lancaster and Lorain. It’s headed by Joe Flarida, a Lima native and Shawnee graduate now working in Columbus. Its supporters range from local chambers of commerce and Ohio Conservative Energy Forum to Audubon Great Lakes and the Sierra Club.
Flarida said 70% of the pollution in Ohio comes from the city centers, and renewable energy sources can help cut that. Ohio ranks 46th in the nation for asthma rates for children.
“It’s critical we think about this challenge from a city-centric view,” Flarida said. “Certainly Ohio has its share of challenges in addressing this as well. We’re looking forward to finding ways in which we can work locally.”
Lima benefited from federal energy grants in 2008 and 2009 to help replace the lighting inside the city’s buildings and some government-owned street lights, Berger said. The city had considered using grants for a similar initiative more recently to replace its more than 75 vehicles over time, but that grant money was pulled back by the federal government.
They know some vehicles, such as firetrucks and some construction vehicles needing additional power, won’t be able to switch to clean energy solutions. The goal is to see which solutions make the most sense.
“Let’s assume, for example, there would be a recommendation about either hybrid or electrified vehicles,” Berger said. “Well, what does that entail in terms of charging stations? What might have we to do if we moved to something other than gasoline or diesel and instead went to natural gas vehicles? What might that filling station look like?”
The partnership, along with potential federal grants, could help the city transition parts of its fleet while building the filling stations needed to support it over time.