Everybody’s business

Capping it off?
Each year, students in Mark Stemen’s Environmental Capstone class come up with an advisory measure to be placed on the Associated Students ballot.

Last year, the measure involved refusing parking passes to students who lived within a mile of campus. For the April 14-15 election, the students are hoping to pass a measure that would cap campus energy use.

Student Becca Schwalm said the students bypassed the idea of not letting students living in the dorms buy parking permits and instead are backing a measure that would cap the university’s energy use at its 2002-03 level and reduce consumption by a total of 10 percent over the next five years.

Currently, the students say, Chico State has little incentive to cut energy use, since it pays only $4 million of the $12 million it costs to energize the campus, thanks to a deal with PG&E.

The savings could be achieved by building more efficient structures and retrofitting existing buildings to take advantage of renewable energy sources such as wind, water or the sun. Also, Schwalm said, it’s a shame that the CSU system has no comprehensive energy policy.

Good energy
In a somewhat related matter, the Chico Unified School District is already on its way to using more alternative-energy sources.

“We’re way ahead of the game here,” said Anthony Watts, a CUSD trustee and advocate for solar energy. (He should know. The power bill for Watts’ solar-powered home was $5.40 in February.)

PG&E just announced that schools can apply for $1.5 million in grants for its Solar Schools Program, with the money going toward educational programs.

But the CUSD already has a line on an even better grant: $857,000 from PG&E for a pilot solar project at Little Chico Creek Elementary.

A lottery put Chico at No. 22 on the list of 314 applicants, which Watts said “gives us an almost certain chance of getting funded.”

Even better, Watts said, the CUSD could get both grants, offering a “solar elective” with hands-on experience thanks to the Little Chico Creek project.

Go, Enloe
Enloe Medical Center should be expanded on The Esplanade—or so says the Board of Directors of the Chico Chamber of Commerce.

The group unanimously voted March 30 to endorse the hospital’s expansion plan, which is soon to go before the City Council. Calling it a “win-win-win” (that’s one more “win” than commonly touted by business folk), Chamber President/CEO Jim Goodwin said the project will provide more than 400 jobs as it meets the community’s health care needs for years to come.

The proposal has been controversial because it would change the character and traffic patterns in the historic neighborhood, as it involves closing part of Magnolia Street and add two parking structures.

Also this week, Enloe has launched an effort to get hospital employees to buy into the expansion idea—literally. At department meetings, administrators are asking workers to consider contributing a dollar a week or more to the project. Also suggested is giving back paid-time-off hours to the nonprofit hospital, said two employees who have already been approached.