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March 3, 2014

Ideas burst forth at Sustainability Summit

Like swarming bees, about 120 area residents created a buzz about how to promote the environmental and economic welfare of the community, preserve resources and more during the Oneonta Sustainability Summit on Saturday.

“I was blown away by the amount of enthusiasm,” said Mark Conchie, an Oneonta resident who is a development associate at the Glimmerglass Festival. He signed up to work on agriculture and forestry sustainability issues.

The summit grew from the work of the Oneonta Sustainability Task Force and its Oneonta 2030 project, an effort endorsed by the city Common Council. In June, the task force issued a report that included recommending sustainability planning with the town of Oneonta.

The morning meeting at the Morris Conference Center at the State University College at Oneonta featured speakers and included two breakout sessions to brainstorm. Afterward, participants proposed specific projects.

“The whole idea is to start the conversation,” said Michael Long, Oneonta city manager and a member of the summit organizing committee.

Ideas included developing bicycle and walking paths; promoting energy audits of buildings and follow-up conservation measures; and establishing networks and marketing supports for diversified farm and niche agricultural products. Also, identifying alternative fuels and electricity sources, purchasing hybrid vehicles and applying for state grant money for projects were among the scores of possibilities raised during the five-hour meeting.

“Today was great,” Hannah Masterjohn, summit organizer, said as participants were leaving. The turnout was impressive, she said, but the question now is how to translate the meeting and its results into action.

Next steps are to review ideas, sign up volunteer committee members and identify projects and means of implementation, organizers said. The first post-summit meeting is set for 4 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall at 258 Main St.

On Saturday, participants reflected a range of public and private sectors, including banking, public schools, higher education, farming, business, forestry, landscaping, housing, social services, government employees and elected officials.

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