Nearly 10 years ago, the manager of the Borough of Monaca started making the municipality a little more environmentally friendly.
90.5 WESA's Mark Nootbaar spoke to Borough Manager Mario Leone how he started by getting a grant to convert all of the traffic signals to LED lights.
Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
MARIO LEONE: I did it because of the savings on the electricity because those things are on 24 hours a day. I found my maintenance savings were even bigger. Traditional lights need to be changed about every two years and these came with a seven-year warranty and they are still going. They should last 20 years.
MARK NOOTBAAR: What was your second project?
LEONE: We changed approximately 76 streetlights throughout our downtown corridor and when we did that, the surprising result that we received was how it cleaned up our town and seemed to do a façade update just by going to a crisp bright white light from an orange dingy metal halide light.
NOOTBAAR: Was it hard to convince elected officials to do this?
LEONE: It was relatively easy because of the financial savings in paying itself back over just a few years.
NOOTBAAR: You then made the leap from basically just changing light bulbs, like a homeowner might do, to using less electricity, to installing a solar array.
LEONE: The system is 200 solar panels mounted on a public works garage, half of it is ground mounted next to the garage, and it’s going to generate approximately 42 percent of the electricity we use at our water reservoir. That equates to $7,500 to $8,000 a year in savings. We had been doing a lot of prudent things to reduce our consumption so it was were do we go from there and the answer was generating electricity ourselves.
NOOTBAAR: Are their other boroughs in the area doing this?
LEONE: Not that I’m aware of in western Pennsylvania.
NOOTBAAR: You are also now reaching into your park system with green initiatives, what are you doing there?
LEONE: We are currently under construction with what we call a comfort station pavilion at one of our parks, it’s restrooms for the park and a concession stand area, and we’re putting a green roof on that. It should keep the building cooler and we didn’t have to build a retention pond to gather the runoff from the roof. It’s also an educational piece for the residents to raise awareness of sustainability initiatives. We try to lead by example.
NOOTBAAR: Are the citizens buying into the sustainability idea?
LEONE: I think so. I get a lot of positive feedback, I also get some joshing. They call me Mr. Green. We’ve brought in a lot of grant funding so that help the borough.
NOOTBAAR: What’s next?
LEONE: We are looking to capture the methane at our wastewater treatment plant -- maybe use it to produce electricity or heat. I’m still convinced that wind energy production works, I just haven’t been able find the grant funding to compliment it to help spruce up the payback. And then our vehicle fleet, conversion to propane, natural gas or electric. We’re still looking at that.
NOOTBAAR: Do you talk about this when you get together with government leaders outside of Monaca?
LEONE: I’m a billboard for it. I’m constantly telling my colleagues about it. Their response back to me is that they can’t afford to do it. My answer is that you can afford not to be doing this.