PORT WASHINGTON - Teamwork typically makes things easier and the Green Tier Legacy program takes teamwork to the municipal level.
Port Washington Mayor Tom Mlada said the city began work in January related to an obesity study with the Green Tier Legacy program. He said because Port Washington is a walking and biking community it’s an ideal location.
The study is still in the formative stage and is set to run until 2022, with no impact on the city budget.
Mlada said municipalities that are part of the program partner with each other to identify core needs and concerns from a health or environmental standpoint in their communities. Through that partnership, they work to come up with public policy to address those needs.
Port Washington is one of 14 municipalities along with four counties working toward these goals. Member municipalities work with various organizations such as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities and others.
By combining efforts, communities are able to make an impact at a fraction of the cost of doing it on their own — often with zero budget impact.
Mlada said if the city were to link up with an expert for five years for a similar study they couldn’t afford to do it. He said this program gives the support needed to conduct the study and create policy with no money needed.
“I think this is a total win,” he said. “There’s nothing but upside on this; it’s an exciting opportunity.”
Last month, five city staff members received training in Sheboygan where they discussed their approach to the study. Mlada said a large grant from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine helped to pay for transportation as well as a $250 stipend for each city staff member who took the training.
Mlada said one of the goals discussed is getting adults and kids more active year round.
Some of the programs that could be studied include walking or biking to work and school as well as supporting exercise while at work — such as including shower facilities at the job to allow for a refresh after a workout. Overall, Mlada said the goal is to work hand in hand with employers and the community.
Mlada said people often say Wisconsin has a great outdoor environment for six or seven months out of the year. However, he said there are “plenty of things to do outdoors, even in winter in Wisconsin.”
One example he gave was how many parks are shoveled, including the Interurban Trail, to allow access in the winter months.
He also pointed to the possibility of cross country skiing and snowshoeing classes which could be linked with the school district and/or the park and recreation department.
Deciding to join
Over two years ago, Port Washington began looking at the program to see if it aligned with the environmental planning committee’s goals and eventually decided to join. Mlada said there was unanimous support for it.
“You get engaged on a statewide level with these other municipalities,” Mlada said. “It’s been a great program, I’m really enjoying the networking aspect.”
Initially there is no financial commitment when municipalities join the program, however, there are opportunities to offer and receive financial help. Additionally, Mlada said members can get preferential treatment when it comes to grants with the DNR.
Previously, the city got involved in an energy conservation study within the Green Tier Legacy program. The study involved an energy audit of city buildings by an outside firm.
While there was a money commitment from each municipality up front with that study, Mlada said it could potentially save dollars long-term. The cost was offset by some grants as well.