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Westchester Towns Talk Sustainability and Savings

BRONXVILLE, N.Y. - The meeting of the Southern Westchester Energy Action Consortium (SWEAC) started off with Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick joking with Bronxville Mayor Mary Marvin that the event, held at Sarah Lawrence College, was located in Yonkers, even though Marvin thinks the college is in Bronxville.

But that was where the jokes ended as municipal officials and volunteers got down to the business of sharing ideas and banding together with the ultimate goal of saving money, sharing services and protecting the environment.

"There is increasing pressure on municipalities," Lesnick said. "We have to do more with less."

But Lesnick pointed out that roads, transit systems, and rivers travel through many communities that connect them

"We share circumstances," Lesnick said. "Now we should tackle universal concerns and learn from each other."

SWEAC is a group of municipal officials and volunteers from different communities who have joined together to address energy and other sustainability concerns in southern Westchester. Volunteers from Bronxville, Dobbs Ferry, Eastchester, Greenburgh, Hastings, Irvington, Tuckahoe, Tarrytown, White Plains and Yonkers are currently participating.

The misson of the consortium is to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money for municipalities and taxpayers.

Croton Mayor Leo Wiegman, who is part of Northern Westchester Energy Action Consortium (NWEAC), a group of communities that applied together and recently won a $3 million grant from the federal Department of Energy.

Wiegman told the attendees that the cost of electricity alone has gone up almost 30 percent in the last decade.

"The option of doing nothing is not on the table," Wiegman said.

Marvin said that when Bronxville renovated its Village Hall recently, the new heating, cooling and electrical systems were all environmentally friendly and designed to save the village money.

Marvin attended the conference to discuss how Bronxville can become more environmentally friendly and join with other municipalities to save money.

The session Marvin attended was conducted by Bud Nicoletti, Commissioner of Public Works for the City of White Plains.

Tuckahoe Village Board member Janette Hayes is the board's liaison to the environmental and tree committees in the village.

"I am here to look for ideas," Hayes said. "We are hoping to see how we can do more with recycling."

Eastchester Town Board member Glenn Bellitto was part of a board that laid off 14 employees as parts of the cuts necessary to keep Eastchester running without raising the tax levy above the state mandate of 2 percent.

"It is so important for all of us to keep costs low, but we still want to be energy efficient," Bellitto said. "I am here to learn more about how to do that."

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