As Mayor Luecke considers signing on to the Sierra Club’s Cool Cities initiative, individuals representing the Michiana Sierra Club, Progressive Town Hall, IUSB and Troyer Group met on March 27th with Gary Gilot, South Bend’s Director of Public Works. The meeting’s purpose was to explore ways South Bend could move towards sustainability.  Steve Francis of the Sierra Club, who was present at the meeting, shared with me what was discussed.

Some suggestions presented by Mr. Gilot included adding rooftop wind turbines on government buildings, switching the city’s fleet to hybrid cars, incorporating LEED-standard building methods, using porous paving materials to reduce street runoff and hydroelectric power on the river’s East Race.

Mr. Gilot has asked John Fisher, Chairman and engineer with Lawson-Fisher Associates, to provide the initial study on the 1.5 megawatt hydro-electric generator designed by Lawson-Fisher in the 1980’s. Two concerns Mr. Gilot feels must be addressed in the design are its visual impact, particularly when viewed from the Century Center on the West Race and its height. Allowing people to walk across the generator in keeping with the river walk is understandably important to Mr. Gilot.  From what I understand about the original plans, the hydroelectric generator, intended as part of the 1980’s East Race redevelopment, was to be integrated with the river walkway and would not have been visible from the river banks.

That the hydroelectric generator is part of the conversation at this level is encouraging. I will contact John Fisher regarding the study and Mr. Gilot’s design questions. I will also speak to Mr. Fisher about the continued public enthusiasm for the viewing chamber in the original design.