POSTED ON DECEMBER 1, 2010:
City hopes choice of sustainability plan will roll Tulsa into a regional leader
A dozen firms around the country have responded to a request for proposals to create a sustainability plan for Tulsa, and city officials hope to announce by Monday, Dec. 6 which company they have selected.
According to the RFP, the purpose of the plan is to identify opportunities for the city to save resources and money, reduce its environmental impact, improve air quality, promote a green economy, provide sustainability education and outreach to citizens and businesses, guide decision making and policy making, and help Tulsa become a regional leader in sustainable government.
Brett Fidler, director of the city's Office of Sustainability, said the project -- which is budgeted at $320,000 -- needs to be under contract by late January, since it is being funded by the Energy Efficiency Block Grant program, which is being administered by the U.S. Department of Energy.
"It's taken us long enough to get to the point that we're at now," he said. "But we've got some pretty good proposals to choose from."
Fidler said a team of city officials would sift through the 12 proposals and arrive at a list of two or three finalists. Fidler and his team will then conduct telephone interviews with representatives of those firms and decide on the one they wish to do business with.
Sustainability planning is a field that is relatively new to Tulsa, Fidler said, but it's not unheard of.
"We had more (responses) from Tulsa than I thought we would," he said. "In fact, most of our proposals came in the form of partnerships with firms in Tulsa, even though we heard from firms in California, New York and a lot in Texas. It just proves this is something firms in our area are just getting involved in. We did get a lot of local firms involved in partnerships, though very few submitted proposals on their own."
Fidler said the city's RFP did not include a deadline for when the plan must be submitted, so it's hard to say when the work will be completed.
"We were more interested in getting a quality product," he said. "We wanted something creative, not a cookie-cutter proposal. So we had a wide range of timelines in the proposals -- everything from four to 19 months."
But because the project is being funded with federal money, Fidler said all the money appropriated for it must be spent by July 2012 -- just in time to accommodate the most lengthy of those proposed timelines.
"Most of them were in that eight- to 12-month range," Fidler said of the proposals. "That's pretty common for a city the size of Tulsa ... although I'd love to see it earlier than that."
Fidler acknowledged the deadline the city negotiates with the winning firm will depend largely on what kind of proposal it submitted. But there will be other factors playing into that, as well.
"There's a lot of variables in terms of how soon we can put our hands on the information they need to do their job," he said.
The RFP, which was issued Oct. 22 and had a deadline for responses of Nov. 17, states that the plan should outline methods to assist the city in reaching such goals as reducing energy consumption citywide by at least 25 percent, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent, obtaining 10 percent of energy from renewable resources, and developing a plan to increase alternative fuel vehicles to 20 percent of the total city fleet -- all by December 2012.
Fidler said he has fielded a number of phone calls and e-mails from citizens who are interested in the plan, an indication of how the issue resonates with the public.
Meanwhile, work is scheduled to begin soon on another Sustainability Department project that could save the city as much as $70,000 a year in energy costs. Fidler said new downtown traffic and pedestrian signals featuring energy-efficient LED lighting are due to arrive any day, and workers will begin installing them immediately. The project involves a total of approximately 1,200 lights, but Fidler expects the work to be done by spring at the latest.
"I didn't realize there were that many lights downtown," he said.
Fidler said the installation of the lights could result in additional savings, since they will require less maintenance, and he said the city might be able to negotiate a lower, LED-based rate with the Public Service Company of Oklahoma for power.
He said motorists aren't likely to notice many changes with the new lights, but pedestrians will. The new system for crosswalks features an audio countdown component to meet Americans with Disabilities requirements. Tulsans who have visited the Bricktown entertainment district in Oklahoma City are likely to have noticed that style of equipment, he said.
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