The Sopris Sun

North side resident urges crack down on idlers

We’re talking vehicle emissions

By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

The Carbondale Environmental Board (known generally as the E-Board) this week voted to recommend that the town reduce the length of time that vehicles are allowed to idle while stationary, following an appeal from a local citizen who wanted to “help our streets from belching smoke every day.”

Currently, a vehicle can sit idling for up to 10 minutes at a time before its owner risks a ticket for violating the town’s applicable ordinance, according to town staffer Lisa Nieslanik.

But, according to a letter written to the town’s trustees by 19-year Carbondale resident and businesswoman Cari Kaplan (which was forwarded to the E-Board), allowing a vehicle to idle that long is bad for the health of children, bad for the environment, bad for the inner workings of the vehicles themselves, and out of line with smog-limiting efforts by other communities in the Roaring Fork Valley.

And the members of the E-Board, which met on Monday night, agreed that the issue needs to be addressed and after a brief discussion voted unanimously to forward the recommendation to the Board of Trustees.

After praising the town government’s ongoing efforts to limit Carbondale’s “carbon footprint” (the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions that activities around here put into the atmosphere), Kaplan wrote in her letter, “Why have we not done anything to curb the excessive vehicle idling in this town?”

She pointed to Carbondale’s efforts to promote alternative energy sources such as solar power for electricity and other purposes, and to encourage energy efficiency through programs managed by local environmentally-oriented nonprofits.

Kaplan also wrote favorably of the “climate-action” ballot question on the April 5 municipal ballot, asking local voters to pay a special fee on their utility bills that would fund the previously mentioned energy-efficiency programming.

“This is exceptional,” she said of the town’s work to curtail energy use. “But you all know the number one polluter on Earth is car emissions, yet we don’t mention any effort to limit the copious amounts of vehicle emissions our town produces every single day. I would like to see somebody mention a stricter vehicle-emissions policy.”

She noted that Aspen and Basalt both have imposed two-minute idling rules, “and have done a decent job of educating their residents and visitors alike” about the restriction.

Signs at the entrances to the towns, newspaper ads and flyers placed on vehicle windshields all have played a part in that educational campaign, Kaplan wrote, adding that Carbondale could easily undertake a similar effort.

“I realize they (Aspen and Basalt) have much more money to spend, and we lack the resources and police power to educate and enforce such measures,” she continued, “but why can’t we please talk about this issue and perhaps designate money from these new taxes toward immediately making Carbondale cleaner?”

Kaplan’s letter mentioned children walking to school “surrounded in car belch every morning” as being “archaic, unacceptable and downright dangerous.”

In her own neighborhood on Carbondale’s north side, she wrote, “You may think I’m joking when I say (her street) is grumbling continuously between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m., with up to 11 cars idling for sometimes over 45 minutes!”

She said she has “gone out in my bathrobe at 5:30 a.m. and counted and timed these vehicles,” and she invited trustees to do the same (though not in bathrobes).

Kaplan suggested the town could print up “a simple bilingual brochure educating residents on this ordinance,” a measure she felt “will work wonders” by making reference to the harm that idling does to engines as well as to the air quality and the health of local lungs, and the financial cost of burning fuel needlessly.

“This is actually a crisis that with education, can be cured at minimal cost to the town, and has a major benefit for our entire growing Roaring Fork Valley population,” Kaplan wrote. “I volunteer to personally place (flyers) on every vehicle in town. Let’s be activists against vehicle emissions!!! C’mon, if we can create a cat ordinance, we can certainly make better excessive-idling policy.”

Town officials were unsure when the idling ordinance would appear before the Board of Trustees, who do not meet again in regular session until April 13.

Published in The Sopris Sun on March 31, 2016.