New environmental chair

Colleen Bergmanis, 51, took over as chair of the GVC's Environmental Committee, but after two meetings she is calling for more public engagement.

There's been little engagement at GVC's Environmental Committee the last couple of months, but new chair Colleen Bergmanis wants that to change.

But she's not expecting a complete turnaround overnight. And at this point, she said merely keeping the committee going might be the best-case scenario.

"I don't want to say anything negative about it because I don't think there's anything negative to say," Bergmanis said. "It's just been stagnating for a while."

While the committee took the summer off, it has not gained any traction since reconvening and part of the stagnation is the lack of engagement and attendance.

During the last committee meeting Nov. 6, there were two members present, including Bergmanis, and one member of the public attended to offer input.

Freeport-McMoRan and the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality had representatives at the last meeting, but Bergmanis said she is concerned they might not want to continue attending if there isn't enough engagement.

"One of my fears is we're going to be too boring or too unproductive," she said, "that it's just not going to be stimulating enough that we're going to be losing attendance by some real critical components."

The goals

Bergmanis said she wants to have more involvement from the community at large with the public attending to talk about what they view as important as well as volunteers willing to join the committee.

Within a year, Bergmanis would like to have a chair for each of the three subcommittees as well as establishing more subcommittees to cover other environmental aspects.

Green Valley residents have concerns about air and water pollutants but other issues such as biodiversity also need attention, she said.

Bergmanis, 51, who took on the job as chair, has been living in Green Valley for a year and still works full time. It's typical for her to put in 45 to 50 hours per week with the Bureau of Land Management.

Because she has limited time to spend with committee issues, she wants to have volunteers who can take charge of subcommittees. She was at a loss as to why more people haven't taken an interest in participating or attending meetings given the popularity of outdoor activities.

Challenges

Needing to get feedback from residents about concerns is important, but Bergmanis wonders how to get at that information.

She pointed to her mother, who is 80, as someone who doesn't access internet-based information daily.

Trying to find the best methods combining digital and analog formats is likely going to be a slow process, she said. However, Bergmanis said the best engagement she could imagine would be for residents to attend the public meetings and give it directly to the committee.

"How am I going to get the committee up to 75 mph, I don't know what the answer is yet," Bergmanis said. "I would say we're not at 75 mph, and we don't have the capacity to do a lot of productive activities simply for lack of participation and input."

The Environmental Committee meets on the first Wednesday of the month at 9 a.m. at the Green Valley Council on La Cañada Drive.

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732

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