Hobart Goes in on 'Green Community' Push

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(photo courtesy South Shore Clean Cities) (photo courtesy South Shore Clean Cities)

The city of Hobart began 2018 by debuting its newest environmentally-friendly initiative: a new vehicle maintenance garage and compressed natural gas fueling pumps at its public works facility. The $2 million project is the Lake County city's latest step toward achieving its ultimate goal of being northwest Indiana's "green community."

The $1.4 million garage will allow employees to work on the city's compressed natural gas fleet in-house, while the pumps will save money and reduce travel time. Previously, the city's public works crews had to drive to Gary or Hammond for fuel. Most of the funding for the effort came from a Federal Highway Administration grant.

Hobart Mayor Brian Snedecor says the investment will allow the city to better maintain its fleet of compressed natural gas vehicles, which he adds is already paying dividends for the city.

"When we had a recent extreme cold snap, our diesel trucks had to be brought back to the yard because they wouldn't run," said Snedecor. "It was so cold that the diesel was gelling. Our CNG trucks ran all day without a hitch."

Snedecor, who was elected to a third term as mayor in 2015, says going green did not come naturally to him. South Shore Clean Cities, a nonprofit focusing on clean fuels and clean vehicle technologies, partnered with Hobart on the project. Project Manager Ryan Lisek says the organization served as an educational resource to the city, but he gives credit to the "magnificent team" at the Hobart Public Works Department and an "open-minded mayor" for turning the idea into reality.

"When I first became mayor, I was not an environmental-type person. I was far from it," he says. "I was not coming into this office as a green initiative-type mayor. But as I got into office and I looked at various ideas that were coming to me as mayor, I really saw the value in trying to make good decisions that affect the future of our children and our grandchildren and generations to come."

Those decisions have included buying an electric car for the city's events director, partnering with local schools on recycling, widening sidewalks to promote walking and bicycling and the restoration of Hobart Marsh, the city's nature district spanning hundreds of acres.

The efforts are not going unnoticed. Snedecor says the city has received statewide awards for its school recycling and green fleet initiatives. He says, on top of saving money and increasing efficiency, green efforts "speak loudly" about the city's commitment to boosting quality of place as it looks to attract and retain top talent.

Hobart has been working with South Shore Clean Cities for more than five years on some of these efforts, and Mayor Snedecor says the green focus isn't going anywhere. As long as he's mayor, Snedecor says, the "green community" push is just beginning to sprout.

Snedecor says he has evolved on green issues during his time in office.
Lisek says Hobart is fully committed to its green efforts.
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