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Village commissions serve community

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Dedicated local volunteers who serve on Village commissions do much of the work to preserve and enhance the community. With vacancies on three key commissions, others have the opportunity to step up.

The Environmental, Human Relations and Library commissions and the new Energy Board, which serve as advisory bodies to Yellow Springs Village Council in addition to pursuing their own projects, have eight vacancies. Meeting from two times a year to twice per month with terms from one to three years, the commissions work for environmental sustainability, social justice, energy conservation and a sound library building, respectively.

“The commissions do important work — we would get so much less done without them,” said Council President Judith Hempfling in an interview. “Serving in the government is a way to give back to your community.”

The Environmental Commission, which promotes conservation, sustainability and environmental health, has openings for a local resident and a Miami Township resident living outside of town. Created in 1971, the commission is charged with educating the public on environmental issues, advising Council on preservation and development and maintaining inventories of the community’s natural assets. In addition to  responding to Council requests, the commission regularly pursues projects suggested by its members.

Recently the commission recommended that the Village stop fluoridating the local water after an extensive study of its health implications initiated by commission member Vickie Hennessey. This year, neighborhood gardens were made available on Village-owned land, a project spearheaded by commission member Doug Bailey.

“We’re not here to save the world, just to preserve the village,” said Councilman Rick Walkey, who serves as the Council liaison to the Environmental Commission. “The health of the planet is the health of us so we exist to make sure we live in a healthy environment.”

Environmental Commission members serve three-year terms and meet the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in rooms A and B of the John Bryan Community Center.

In addition to continuing its current projects, the commission will look at the Village’s recycling programs and contracts, developing a request for proposal as the current contract is set to run out.

While a knowledge of global environmental issues is helpful, the group is not necessarily looking for experts but for those passionate about the environment.

“The expertise is out there,” said Walkey. “We need people to focalize [projects] and make them happen.”

The Human Relations Commission also pursues projects that interest its members. Described by its chair, Joan Chappelle, as the “social justice arm of Village government,” the commission promotes harmony by addressing discrimination before and after it happens.

According to its charter, the commission was established to “promote mutual understanding and respect among all culture groupings” in the village, resolve any conflicts which arise from cultural dissonance and to promote cultural diversity in the community.

The seven-member commission, created in 1963, regularly listens and responds to citizen complaints of discrimination and can hold public hearings to investigate them. In addition the group works to prevent prejudice through community-building activities such as youth workshops and neighborhood block parties, and by recommending policies to Council. It also looks at fair housing and employment issues in the village.

The commission recently held meetings on citizen difficulties with police, organized youth-building workshops on racism and leadership issues and recommended that Council pass a marriage equality law creating a local partner registry. It will soon host a meeting with skateboarders on the vision of the skate park and organize the commission’s annual block parties on Aug. 21, with 39 neighborhoods signed up so far.

According to Chappelle, the Human Relations Commission is for someone interested in a “fair and equal community for all.”

With two openings for village residents to serve two-year terms, the Human Relations Commission meets the second Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. in rooms A and B of the John Bryan Center.

The Library Commission is seeking two village residents, one for a two-year and one for a three-year term, to oversee the maintenance of the building housing the Yellow Springs branch of the Greene County Public Library.

Library Commission members can expect several infrequent meetings each year, held at the library. The commission is currently working on repairs to the building, originally built in 1965. The commission works collaboratively with the Yellow Springs Library Association and the Greene County Public Library to ensure the library building continues to be an acceptable home for the local library.

The Energy Board, which is in the process of becoming an official Village commission, has two openings for three-year terms. The group has been operating as the Energy Task Force since April 2009 and is charged with exploring energy conservation and renewable energy projects for the village and its electric customers, advising on electricity contracts and recommending energy-themed economic development.

As the Energy Task Force, the group spearheaded an effort to upgrade the efficiency of some of the village’s streetlights and handed out free compact fluorescent light bulbs to homeowners. The task force will soon promote energy-efficient laundry practices and participate  in a University of Dayton study on local residential building energy use.

According to task force member Pat Murphy, the board is formed to meet a Council goal of reducing village energy use by three percent per year.

“Americans are becoming more concerned about climate change,” Murphy said, adding that communities will have to take the lead in assisting homeowners in changing their habits.

The Energy Board will meet on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 5 p.m. in council chambers. To fill the nine-member committee, task force chair Jerry Papania is seeking a representative from the local business community, though others are encouraged to apply.

Anyone interested in applying to a commission should write a letter of intent and send it to Clerk of Council Judy Kintner, Village of Yellow Springs, 100 Dayton Street, or by e-mail to clerk@yso.com . After interviews with Council members, applicants are appointed to the commissions. Potential applicants may wish to attend a commission meeting before applying.

For more information on the commissions, call Kintner at 767-9126.

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