Sharpsburg, Etna, Millvale will share $2.3 million Hillman grant for energy alternatives
Three Allegheny County river towns are partnering to implement sustainable development and energy alternatives thanks to a $2.3 million grant.
The Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization, Etna Economic Development Corp. and New Sun Rising will share equally in the multi-million dollar grant from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation to benefit the community-led, sustainable initiative, the Triboro Ecodistrict.
The initiative benefits the boroughs of Sharpsburg, Etna and Millvale. Development will be over the course of two years, and the first round of projects installing solar panels in each community is set to start in June.
New Sun Rising is a Pittsburgh nonprofit providing programs and services to communities to create equitable opportunity. Brian Wolovich is a Millvale council member, New Sun Rising team member and Triboro Ecodistrict coordinator. He said that the 10,000 residents throughout the three neighboring communities have the opportunity to play a key role in planning projects.
“The residents have the wisdom of the community and know what the neighborhoods need in ways that we sometime’s can’t see,” Wolovich said.
Because Millvale, Sharpsburg and Etna have joint comprehensive planning and shared interests, Wolovich thinks the three boroughs are perfect partners. Each project is unique to each individual borough, he said.
Sharpsburg recently approved the installation of the panels at the Sharpsburg Community Library. Solar energy is expected to save thousands of dollars in utility costs.
“This will help the library become more sustainable and resilient, teach residents about how solar energy can be used to help our community, and improve air quality by reducing the library’s reliance on electricity produced by burning fossil fuels,” said Brittany Reno, council president and Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization executive director.
Millvale will install panels at the community center — the Millvale Moose — using a solar-charged battery to back up on-site electricity storage.
Panels will surround the Garden of Etna. The panels will provide energy and catch stormwater that can be reused in the garden.
Wolovich said the Triboro Ecodistrict is working to install a charging station for electric cars in Etna. With electricity at the garden, the goal is to host cooking classes, allowing residents to pick what they need straight from the ground.
Etna Manager Ellen Ramage said the Triboro Ecodistrict has helped engage people in their communities.
“In Etna, it has also helped us bring forth strong leadership from within the community, residents and business owners who are now actively engaged in strategizing and planning for a brighter, healthier future,” Ramage said in a press release.
Other developments over the next two years include completion of the Etna Riverfront Park, equitable housing repairs and development and paid teen fellowship programs for students in Sharpsburg, Millvale and Etna.
“They will job-shadow solar installation jobs and learn about solarizing energy all around,” Wolovich said.
The end goal of the initiative is to strengthen the resiliency of food, water, energy, air quality, mobility and equity systems.
With the funds, the Triboro Ecodistrict will create an environmental justice policy tool kit that will develop policy in all three boroughs as well as document the project to share with other communities.
The community planning and architecture designs will be done by EvolveEA, an East Liberty consulting firm working for sustainability-driven communities.
Christine Manganas is a freelance writer.