As part of a recent city effort to take more sustainable actions, two city council members will be pursuing grants for the possible installation of solar panels on city hall. 

Councilmembers Mike Millman and Rachel Best-Campbell introduced and passed a motion to pursue grant funding for solar panels on the roof of Woodinville City Hall during a meeting on Tuesday, May 18. The motion was passed in a 5-2 vote, with Councilmembers Al Taylor and Les Rubstello in opposition. 

Millman and Best-Campbell recently formed a new small subcommittee that is aiming to identify and investigate inexpensive adjustments to policies and practices that will positively impact the environment.

The grant, which would come from the state Department of Commerce, would cover about 50% of the project. More options for potential funding are still being considered, Millman said. 

Taylor said at the meeting that he doesn’t see the project as a worthwhile use of taxpayer money. 

However, the majority of the council members supported the idea. 

“Council likes the idea of free energy to power that huge building, and I think it'll be money well spent,” Millman said in an interview. “I also think it's a good example for the city to be actually doing something to work on climate problems.”

Solar panels are low maintenance and rated against strong weather like wind and hail, he noted. Years ago, Millman put solar panels on his own residential property. He was told the investment would pay for itself in about five years, he said, which turned out to be accurate. 

The roof of city hall is similar to the one at his previous home, which was long, metal and southern-facing, Millman said. This concept is one of many that he hopes to expand on with the Climate Action Subcommittee.

“I've got kids, and I've told them that you should leave things better than you found them,” Millman said. “And I just don't think we're doing that.” 

The subcommittee was originally formed to focus on easy-to-implement and longer-term actions, he said. After initial research, all ideas go to the council for consideration and then become more fully developed with assistance from city staff.

According to Best-Campbell, the subcommittee also intends to pursue other grants for greener lighting, windows and car chargers at city hall, among other things. 

She said other ideas include a census of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides being used in Woodinville to determine their overall impact on the environment as well as alternative solutions. Encouraging residents to cut down on how often they mow the grass is another potential short-term action to decrease carbon emissions, she added. 

The subcommittee has also discussed implementing a rain barrel program to assist citizens with reducing their water footprint, Best-Campbell said. Updated infrastructure for electric vehicles and charging stations is another longer-term goal, Millman noted.

“We're still brainstorming what is doable,” he said, referring to low-cost programs with minimal impact to staff time.

To avoid repeating tasks, the subcommittee is creating an inventory of past actions the city has taken toward being more “green.” Last year, the city launched a program to fix sidewalks that had been damaged by tree roots. Rather than replace the entire section of concrete, which is one of the largest carbon emitters, the city has started grinding down the buckled panels to make them smooth.

Best-Campbell said the idea was initially selected out of feasibility. However, after doing some research, the city realized this solution was more environmentally sound than other options.

“Forcing us to think in terms of fiscal responsibility is what's going to bring us to some unique solutions,” she said. “And I think it could be something that the community will respect and appreciate. We could serve as a role model to our neighbors.”

According to Best-Campbell, the subcommittee was designed to lead by example for the Woodinville community. Instead of telling the public what to do, she noted, the council members want to demonstrate their commitment in hopes that people will follow suit. 

“I think it's better to invite people along with you as opposed to require them to come along with you,” she said. “We don't want to tell anybody what to do. We're asking, we're not telling.”

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