Take Charge victory tops Baldwin City news in 2011
For the second-straight year, Baldwin City's top story took place over a period of months, which lasted the majority of the year.
To be exact. it lasted from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30. However, this year's top story was a happy one that left no hard feelings — unlike 2010's top news story, which was the closing of the two USD 348 rural elementary schools.
The No. 1 local story of 2011 was a citywide effort from residents, City Hall, Baker University, Baldwin School District and others. They all worked together in such things as installing energy-efficient light bulbs, attending public events, learning ways to be more efficient and applying for energy audits. With the effort, Baldwin City beat three neighboring cities in the Take Charge Challenge.
“In the 13 years I've been here, I don't think we've won anything like that in a competition where everybody in the community pulls together,” Mayor Ken Wagner said. “I think that's a significant event for us. We saw the fruits of the labor pay off.”
Baldwin City topped Gardner, Ottawa and Paola, winning the Northeast Region of the contest. The prize for winning was a $100,000 grant, which will go toward energy efficiency around the city.
City employees submitted a plan to Efficiency Kansas before July 1 and that plan detailed how the money would be spent if Baldwin City won. The first project will be replacing light fixtures in all city-owned buildings with energy-efficient lighting.
Other projects will be the installation of solar panels to the downtown water fountain and at the Fourth and Ames streets crosswalk. Wagner also said the city plans to add solar panels to restrooms, which will be built in city parks. That project is scheduled for 2012.
The final project will depend on how much money remains. Those dollars will be used to replace the lights in the Baldwin Junior High School gym with energy efficient bulbs. That gym hosts many athletic events for the school district, including basketball, volleyball and wrestling contests.
“It is exciting that we won,” USD 348 Superintendent Paul Dorathy said in October. “A lot of people from the community were involved in that and we tried to do our part to help. The overall success of that was due to many people working very hard.”
The contest officially ended Sept. 30, but the winners weren't announced until Oct. 25. A group of seven people representing Baldwin City went to the Expocentre in Topeka for the ceremony. City Hall, USD 348 and business representatives attended the ceremony.
During the nine-month challenge, all three cities were judged based on three categories ― whole-house energy efficiency, lighting changes and community involvement. City employees advertised the contest all nine months, while also distributing free energy-efficient light bulbs and programmable thermostats at public events.
Those events included Baldwin High School basketball games, city events and the BHS tailgate party known as the Bulldog Bash. The largest event was the community-wide cookout in June. It was June 21 at The Lodge on U.S. Highway 56. The city served a free meal to the community, while distributing information about the contest and how to be more energy efficient. Several hundred people attended the event.
During the contest, residents and municipal governments in Baldwin City's division switched 58,204 light bulbs, installed 1,066 programmable thermostats, participated in 142 events, performed 144 Efficiency Kansas audits and reached 65,010 residents in the four cities. The other winning cities around the state were Colby, Fort Scott and Manhattan.