August 7, 2007

City Strobe

Sod in the cityLouisville Metro government is now seeking proposals for a green roof to go atop the 444 building, a former parking garage on South 5th Street that now houses Metro’s design, contracting and planning offices. It would be the first green roof on a city building here, and one among a few roofs in Louisville boasting the burgeoning eco-friendly technology that has been sluggish to catch on in the United States.In a phone interview Friday, Mayor Abramson said the green roof would mark a new foray into eco-conscious building by the city — though no decisions are firm, there is talk of making the downtown arena “green,” as well as new libraries and firehouses. Abramson said there is money in the current Metro budget to initiate the consulting process for the 444 building, which has 13,400 square feet of open space — the upper end of mid-sized projects under way now.Modern green roof technology began in Europe in the 1960s; in fact, Germany has been a leader in the field. Green roofs caught on later in the United States, although most major cities now use them, including Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C. Chicago’s city hall has a green roof, as do many of its government buildings. The city also requires private developers to use green roofs, said Dr. Robert Berghage, director of the Center for Green Roof Research at Penn State University. Green roofs reduce artificial heating and cooling needs by providing natural insulation. Berghage said one of the advantages of green roofs to a city like Chicago is help controlling storm water overflow. Most every American city built before 1960 — Louisville included — has a combined sewer system, and with it significant difficulty controlling storm water runoff that mixes with raw sewage and causes overflows. A typical green roof can absorb up to 60 percent of the runoff from its building in a climate like Pennsylvania’s, Berghage said, which is similar to Louisville’s.Abramson said that’s not a reason Louisville is going the green roof route, although incidentally it could be helpful. He said to expect to see more green roofs on governmental buildings. There are others in the city, too: A Market Street redevelopment project will feature one, and an office building on Brown-Forman’s Dixie Highway campus has one. Phil Lynch, a spokesman for the company, said its 600-square-foot green roof started as a prototype two-and-a-half years ago and could be replicated in a future redevelopment on that campus. —Stephen GeorgeMSD rates can rise, committee says Barring any unforeseen opposition from the full Metro Council Thursday, your Metropolitan Sewer District rates will increase by $6.95 a month. The council’s budget committee voted unanimously to allow MSD the hike, which will appear on bills as a new line item and is dedicated to paying for an $800 million consent decree between MSD and the Environmental Protection Agency. It would take effect Sept. 1. Sewer and drainage rates will not change this year. MSD Executive Director Bud Schardein told the council’s budget committee last Wednesday that the increase is necessary to pay for additions and repairs to the city’s current sewer system, which is badly outdated in some parts. Specifically, the EPA found that sanitary sewer overflows, which happen most often during storms and heavy downpours, violate the Clean Water Act. MSD has until 2024 to fix the situation. In a somewhat uncharacteristic move, committee chair Madonna Flood, D-24, would not allow public comment during the hearing, though Schardein and a handful of others from MSD were present to speak on the agency’s behalf. The reason, Flood said during the meeting, was that MSD had already held several public hearings around the city meant to introduce residents to the proposed rate hike and give background on why MSD believes it is necessary. Flood asked for transcripts of those hearings, which MSD agreed to make available; of course, the committee passed the rate hike before obtaining them.That was enough to prompt Ray Pierce, a resident of southwest Jefferson County and former council candidate, to call out Flood and the committee as they wrapped up the hearing. From the gallery he asked to speak, and Flood rebuffed. A security guard approached and ushered Pierce out the door. —Stephen GeorgeA leg up for comprehensive sex edWhile the Senate continues to hold out on Title V, the House of Representatives reauthorized the bill last week, by a vote of 224-204. Under the reauthorization, funded programs will be required to contain scientifically and medically accurate information and must be proven to decrease teen pregnancy, STD and HIV/AIDS rates. Many have questioned abstinence-only curricula, citing the lack of evidence of its effectiveness, as well as the misleading and at times inaccurate information the programs espouse. The bill’s new provision virtually eliminates any abstinence-only curricula from Title V funding, which leads to another stipulation of the reauthorization: States will have the flexibility to use Title V funds for more comprehensive sex ed programs, which contain information about birth control that goes beyond the failure rates of condoms. Unlike abstinence-only curricula, comprehensive programs have proven to be effective at decreasing health risks and unplanned pregnancies among youth, though no curriculum has decreased the number of teens having sex.The previous restrictions on Title V resulted in several states declining to reapply for the funds for fiscal 2008, but Kentucky wasn’t one of them. Reps. John Yarmuth, D-3, and Ben Chandler, D-6, voted for the bill. Ed Whitfield, R-1, Ron Lewis, R-2, Geoff Davis, R-4, and Hal Rogers, R-5, voted against it. —Mary Q. BurtonTo clarify …A story on abstinence-only education funding in last week’s LEO referenced the American Association of Sexuality Educators. That group’s full name is the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. Also, the cover story “The Speed of Slow” misidentified Angie Reed Garner as co-owner and operator of Garner-Furnish Studio. Denise Mucci Furnish is the co-owner and operator, along with Joyce Garner. Contact the writers at citystrobe@leoweekly.com