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Omaha Sustainability Director: "I worry about the future"

Lindsey Theis

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Omaha Sustainability Director: "I worry about the future"

CREATED Aug. 14, 2013

Omaha, NE-City leaders are mulling over mayor Stothert's budget, trying to decide how to spend your tax dollars. We wanted to know more about something that's on the chopping block the sustainability office.

Kristi Wamstad-Evans says she's worried mayor Jean's Stothert's budget is taking a step backwards. She sent a letter out, and about a dozen people lobbied council Tuesday night.

"It wasn't about me, every major city in the U.S. right now has a sustainability director who is tracking the footprint of the city and making sure that we're walking the talk," she said.

Evans is part of a small city sustainability department, ECO-Omaha. It was created in 2009, when the federal government gave out hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus money. Since 2009, Omaha's sustainability office has received nearly 15-million dollars from the Department of Energy. It pays her salary, more than 80-thousand dollars, according to the Omaha World Herald, and that of two other full-time employees. Most of the money was earmarked for a slew of projects like changing traffic light bulbs to more energy efficient ones and retrofitting houses with greener appliances.

Evans says her department has saved the city more than $700 thousand in utility bills. To date, they have retrofitted about 1300 homes and businesses, and have 200 more in the pipeline for this year. The grant money will run out December 31st. Stothert's budget does not include any funding for the department. Evans says they would need $110,000 to fund her position. For the whole department, it would cost $230,000 in salary and administrative costs.

When asked about the lack of funding, Stothert told KMTV the initial purpose of the grant was to stimulate the private sector. She says while the sustainability department is going away, the city will still work on being energy efficient.

"One position that was grant funded that somebody is angry about, that is her choice. But I think we made a lot of smart decisions on this budget," she said.

City council has two weeks to decide if it wants to fund the department. They're set to vote on a budget August 27th.