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City limits auto idle time

The Oak Harbor City Council passed a resolution Monday night to implement an anti-idling program within the city.

“It’s really important that we provide cleaner air for our citizens,” said Cathy Rosen, city public works director.

But how it will it affect the public? The policy was drafted exclusively for city employees, but every driver is encouraged to follow their lead.

“Under the policy, employees would be expected to turn off their vehicle if they anticipate idling time at over two minutes,” she said. Eye-catching signs will be posted first at city facilities to serve as reminders. The goal is to have employees set an example for chronic idlers doing their part to systematically poison the community.

Rosen explained that the annoying idling and simultaneous stink cloud emitted is more than just irritating; it can actually pose serious health risks.

“Stopping unnecessary vehicle idling is one relatively easy way to help improve air quality and respiratory health in our communities,” she said. “All you have to do is turn your car off.”

Rosen said frequent restarting of a vehicle’s engine does not inflict damage. Idling, however, can damage engine components including cylinders, spark plugs, and the exhaust system.

The Public Works director added that, contrary to what many believe, idling is not an effective method for warming up most vehicles.

“Today’s automobile manufacturers recommend waiting no more than 30 seconds before you begin driving, even on the coldest days,” Rosen said.

In addition to protecting community health by reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, she said the monetary benefits are also significant. Idling a vehicle for 10 minutes a day uses an average of approximately 22 gallons of gas per year, Rosen continued.

“If gas costs $4 a gallon, we will save $88 per year, just by turning your key,” she explained. “In a city fleet, that is a significant saving when you are talking about $88 multiplied by 200 vehicles and equipment.”

Rosen said the policy also underscores the importance of promoting energy conservation and a reduction of noise pollution.

The Equipment Rental Division of Public Works will ensure the policy is kept up to date. Specific stipulations and exemptions are embedded in the policy. And every supervisor will be responsible for properly educating employees about the policy and ensuring compliance. Rosen took extra pains to formulate a document that clearly laid out the new processes, adding an extra layer of accountability.

Councilman Jim Campbell agreed that the city should proactively improve and monitor public health and the environment. He did not, however, agree with the policy and questioned Rosen’s facts and numbers.

“I believe this is the wrong way to do it,” Campbell said. “Do we have a policy to turn off the lights when we’re not in the room? Do we have a policy to only flush the toilet four times?”

Council member Jim Palmer said the resolution could only help. And fellow councilman Bob Severns added that once the city sets an example, the “green” bug could spread.

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