The Tennessee Municipal League has honored the City of Gatlinburg with an award for its commitment to green initiatives.
A gateway to Tennessee’s only national park, the officials with the City of Gatlinburg have made it their mission to preserve the natural beauty of their surroundings for future generations as well as implementing new and innovative environmentally friendly technology into the City’s every day duties.
Gatlinburg was recognized with a 2016 Tennessee Municipal League Achievement Award for Excellence in Green Leadership on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 during organization’s 77th Annual Conference in the Tennessee Ballroom at The Park Vista Hotel in Gatlinburg.
Pat Hardy, a municipal management consultant with the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service, praised the City and its staff for the work they have put into green initiatives. “Gatlinburg is one of the best governed and best managed cities in East Tennessee. Interactions between the City Commission and staff are a perfect blend of the policy and administrative dimensions,” Hardy said. “Led by an excellent City Commission and City Manager Cindy Cameron Ogle, the components of Gatlinburg’s governance have developed a strategic approach to green initiatives, and the City staff have done a superb job of implementing these initiatives. The community involvement has also been exceptional.”
In the past year alone, the City’s Convention Center was awarded the Gatlinburg Goes Green Newcomer Award by the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce while the City itself was awarded a TDEC grant to retrofit lights at the Community Center and Post Office with more energy efficient bulbs. Larry Henderson, Gatlinburg Public Works Director, said the City first saw the potential merely changing light bulbs could bring when they switched their annual Winterfest light displays from incandescent to LED lights in 2006.
“It significantly reduced our electric bill, so we decided to seek funding for other projects,” Henderson said. “We received a $75,000 Energy Efficiency Block Grant with stimulus money and replaced more than 4,000 bulbs and ballasts. We then replaced 211 incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs and replaced all of our exit signs with LED lights. We also replaced all of our 309 traffic signals with LED bulbs, and replaced lights in our City Hall Complex, which houses Police, Fire, and Administrative offices, Welcome Centers, and various other offices.”
The City received a TDEC Green Energy Grant in 2013 to replace the lights in the Convention Center and a second TDEC Green Energy Grant in 2015 to replace the lights in its Community Center as well. Next, the City replaced lights in the Post Office, a City owned facility leased to the Federal government.
“Believe it or not, changing out light bulbs is some of the lower hanging, sweeter fruit you can pick,” said Henderson. “It’s about a four year payback, which is significant. Other projects, like installing solar panels, have a longer payback, especially if you do not have partnerships to finance them on the front end. Now, we have to go higher in the tree and are exploring other options.”
Gatlinburg also has a GPS system for fleet management designed to reduce carbon emissions for its downtown Trolley system, Sanitation Department and Utilities Department. Henderson said the process of fitting their vehicles began with the City’s trolleys a decade ago.
“We wanted to monitor idling, make more efficient use of routes and reduce overtime,” Henderson said. “In 2014-15 we tried it out with our Sanitation Department and it really proved to be a success. After that, we installed 18 units in the Utilities Department fleet. It has made everyone more responsible for the use of their vehicle.”
Henderson continued, “Gatlinburg has long been considered the Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We have this resource that we have an obligation to protect. We do that on a year round basis. This is the reason people come to visit Gatlinburg.”
According to Hardy, continued innovation and pushing to do better with sustainability have become a hallmark of how the City conducts business.
“Projects like these cannot be accomplished without a high quality governance team of both elected officials and appointed staff, who are able to work together to conceive of, design, and implement exciting and new approaches to sustainable, ‘green’ delivery of services and to encouragement of the same in the private sector,” Hardy said.
Each year the Tennessee Municipal League honors Cities throughout the State for overall excellence, improvement, specific outstanding programs, or Department accomplishments.
Photo: Gatlinburg City Officials received Tennessee Municipal League Achievement Award for Excellence in Green Leadership on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Pictured are Mayor Mike Werner, City Manager Cindy Cameron Ogle, Public Works Director Larry Henderson.