Palos Hills unanimously approves Greenest Region initiative

  • Written by By Michael Gilbert

The Palos Hills City Council did, in fact, convene on St. Patrick’s Day, but it was the meeting on April 7 that carried a green theme.

City officials voted unanimously to pass a resolution endorsing the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus’ Greenest Region Compact 2, an initiative by the organization to offer the Chicago region’s 273 municipalities a number of cost-effective sustainability measures. The goal of the two-page document is to enhance health and safety through the reduction of energy consumption and fossil fuels, air pollution and hazardous wastes. The Greenest Region Compact 2 also stresses the importance of water conservation.

Palos Hills was one of the first municipalities to adopt the original Metropolitan Mayors Caucus’ Greenest Region Compact back in 2007, and Mayor Gerald Bennett said the updated document includes more green measures that have been successfully implemented by the Caucus and its member communities.

“We should be very proud,” Bennett told the council. “There are many things listed (in the Greenest Region Compact 2) that we have done over the years.”

One green step Palos Hills has already taken is retrofitting the light fixtures in all city-owned buildings with LED lights. The bulbs are not only energy efficient but also save the city money compared to using standard incandescent bulbs, Bennett said.

He also noted Palos Hills has long been designated as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. Maintaining “maximum tree coverage” is one of the goals of the Greenest Region Compact as trees combat climate change, provide oxygen, conserve energy and save water.

A recent green initiative Palos Hills undertook was retrofitting the street lights of all city-owned side streets with LED bulbs, Bennett said. Grant money from ComEd paid for the project, he noted.

Palos Hills is also working with the Southwest Conference of Mayors and a third party to convert eight street lights not owned by the city along Southwest Highway with new LED bulbs and a “smart box,” a device fitted with a wireless network that can monitor security and track traffic volume. Electronic street signs could also be added to the light poles to display paid advertisements and important city information.

“It’s a project we’ve been working on for a while and we’re excited about it,” Bennett said of the smart boxes. “It would basically make the city wireless.”

The project would be completed at no cost to the city, he said. The third party company would pay for the project and retain a portion of the money made from the advertisements on the electronic street signs.

The free rain barrel program – another green undertaking – is off to a strong start with 22 residents requesting the 55-gallon barrels since the middle of March, Alderman Mark Brachman told the council.

The program, which is in conjunction with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, allows each residence to obtain a free rain barrel in an effort to reduce basement backups, sewer overflow and flooding. Those interested in a rain barrel must first fill out an application at City Hall, 10335 S. Roberts Road, and then the MWRD will deliver the barrel at a later date.

In other news, Bennett said representatives of the Baha Auto Group Inc. have begun the improvements to the 31,000-square foot building at 110th Street and Southwest Highway with the hopes of opening the new dealership “as soon as possible” – though an official opening date has not been set.

Musa Muza, the general manager of Baha Auto Group, previously told the council that although the building, which formerly housed Hames Buick, has not had a tenant in more than a decade remains in good shape. The parking lot, however, needs work and the site needs landscaping, he said.

The dealership is to sell “high end” used cars with a minimum price of around $10,000, Muza told the council.