In 2009, the Helena Climate Change Task Force created an Action Plan for the city to assess its Greenhouse Gas emissions and the vulnerability of the City’s water supply, as well as make recommendations to the City to address these issues. Over the past nine years, the City has addressed a number of the recommendations, with many of them coming in the last two years.

Two years ago, the City fundamentally changed its rate structures to promote water conservation and limit resident’s exposure to rate increases. As part of the change, with Commission created a tiered water rate system, or “inverted block rate” whereby those who use between 0-8 units pay less per unit than those who use between 9-15 and more than 15 units. The purpose of this rate structure is to discourage excessive use of wasteful water practices and providing incentives for lower water rates. The City has seen the impacts, as the Parks department decreased City water usage over the last two years.

Most recently, the City created a Citizen Conservation Board, with the stated purpose of implementing Task Force recommendations. As part of the resolution creating the Citizen Conservation Board, the Commission also created an annual report wherein the City documents specific activities implemented by the City, track greenhouse gasses, energy usage and other resources such as water, and recommend future sustainability measures for the City of Helena. The first Citizen Conservation Board had its first meeting on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018, and the first annual report will be part of this year’s budget. These two items will help guide the City as we move forward with implementing additional recommendations of the Task Force Report.

As we move forward following, the City still has much work to. Including, implementing some larger scale changes, such as hiring a sustainability coordinator, establishing Greenhouse Gas reduction goals, instituting a disposal fee for plastic bags, and improving our non-motorized travel options. I’m hopeful with the guidance and support of our new Citizen Conservation Board, the City will move forward and begin continue implementing the Task Force’s recommendations.

Robert Farris-Olsen is a member of the Helena City Commission.