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Staffing Changes at SECIA

posted May 3, 2013, 6:49 PM by Ricardo McCurley
For more than a decade, the Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA) has been privileged to have an amazing contingent of volunteers working on Como’s community approved Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) plans. It has been through the efforts of community members and staff that we have been able to implement most of Como’s NRP stated goals and objectives - some with results that exceeded even volunteer’s expectations. 

In particular, SECIA’s Environment Committee’s visionary members chose to take on ambitious projects and made the critical but risky decision to hire staff utilizing some of their NRP funds. It was at this point – 12 years ago - that Justin Eibenholzl was hired as the City’s only neighborhood based Environmental Coordinator to tackle their first project – air quality - which resulted in three Good Neighbor agreements with local industries. This decision by the committee not only helped SECIA implement Como’s NRP plan, but also helped SECIA realize one of the fundamental requirements of a City recognized neighborhood organization – to encourage community residents to become more involved in their neighborhood. Over the years, the Environment Committee’s efforts have engaged hundreds of volunteers in single projects or on-going commitments and empowered in a variety of Como residents – young and old – renter and homeowner.

The newly hired staff along with the passion and vision that engaged residents bring helped SECIA leverage hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional funding for community directed projects over the past decade. It helped develop and create programming that not only served the members of this community, but in some cases served other southeast residents and improved the health and well-being of the region. 

Highlights:

  • Waste Reduction: MIMO (Move-in/Move-out) -addresses the uniqueness of student tenant cycles. Over the four MIMOs cycles we diverted almost 26,000lbs of household furnishings and had 2,872 people attend the events
  • Air Quality: Air Permit Inventory Mapping Project. Good neighbor agreements. Founding member of Clean Energy Now! Coalition successfully advocating the conversion of the Xcel metro plants from coal to natural gas.
  • Water Quality: Build your own rain barrel workshops. Rain garden installations. Bridal Veil Creek Reconstruction& Pollution Remediation Project.
  • Energy Reduction: Cloths Line giveaway. Whole house energy audits.
  • Renewable Energy: Solar Heated Water Pilot Project resulting in 17 installations in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Xcel Windsource promotion. Solar motion light giveaways.
  • Urban Farming: Multiple award winning community flower and produce gardens. ‘Grow-boxes’ for gardening in difficult locations.
  • Environmental Expertise: Environmental Coordinator on staff. Review of proposed projects and EIS documentation. Workshops and conferences.
  • Job & Internships: University student paid and unpaid internship opportunities.

Awards and Recognitions

  • Listed in Twin City’s Business Magazine’s Best of Business issue (Sept 2009) for our environmental partnerships with local businesses.
  • Finalist for a Minnesota Environmental Initiative (MEI) 2009 award for our Solar Thermal Pilot Project.
  • Finalist for a MEI 2009 award as a partner on the Bridal Veil Reconstruction & Remediation Project.
  • MEI 2011 ENERGY AND CLIMATE PROTECTION finalist: Como Green Village Move In/Move Out (MIMO) Project
  • ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION finalist: Como Green Village Student Involvement Project
  • City of Minneapolis Special Council resolution for our environmental work (2009).
  • 2008 Governors Award – Air Pollution Reduction Project for our good-neighbor agreements resulting in the reduction of tons of VOCs being released into the environment.
  • 2008 City of St. Paul accommodation from the City Council and Mayor for our Solar Pilot Project.

Unfortunately, the City of Minneapolis’ dismantling of the NRP program with the resulting reductions and changes in City funding along with changes in grantor’s priorities, lack of funding from other sources and an emphasis on funding only very small cost projects has taken their toll on SECIA’s ability to continue with the current level of programming. In discussion with SECIA’s Executive Committee, the Environment Committee’s Chair and the Environment Committee a decision was made to close the position of the Environmental Coordinator – a position filled since its inception by Justin Eibenholzl. Justin’s last day will be Friday May 3rd, 2013.

SECIA’s Environment Committee will continue to work on its priorities with the resources remaining and they hope that further funding or other grant opportunities will become available in the future to enable SECIA to bring Justin back to the organization he has helped shape. However, until or unless those funds can be found, SECIA will be operating under greatly reduced capacity. Given all the current goals, activities and projects; our committees, board and community partners’ expectations will have to be adjusted accordingly.

In the meantime, please support us in thanking Justin for his vision, hard work and perseverance on some truly amazing projects that helped build Como’s positive reputation and put us in the local and even national spotlight for our resident’s environmental leadership.

Wendy Menken
SECIA President
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