Fairbanks hosts 'Clean the Air' forum to communicate with residents

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The Fairbanks North Star Borough held the third 'Clear the Air: Home Heating Forum and Expo' to bring leaders from the borough, state, and federal government to communicate with residents. They held a discussion Saturday between the air quality stakeholders group and the public.

The goal of this portion of the event was to have an open dialogue between the stakeholders and the public about the presentations and the information they have gathered. The stakeholders made comments on what they have gained from the experience in the stakeholders group.

Air Quality Stakeholder, Clark Milne, said, "Before we finished the first meeting, I was learning things I had never learned by paying attention for five or six years, so I can assure everyone here that the stakeholders group is fully briefed by the EPA, by the DEC, by everyone that's willing to come and talk to us."

While residents who attended raised some questions.

Fairbanks resident, Kathy Richmond, said, "I came today to try to answer my dilemma of whether or not it's worth it to do the change out program because I live in an area that has good air, and historically has good air, so I have been weighing the cost of the public cost of bad air versus my own personal cost of whether or not is it worth it for me when I get kind of free wood or a lot of trees falling on my property."

There were some solutions discussed.

Richmond said, "I'm really intrigued with the idea of also burning dry wood, makes such a difference, and I agree with the person about providing moisture meters. I think that's a great idea and would be money really well spent."

Only a handful of residents were present for this discussion when the borough was hoping to have a bigger turnout to promote conversation.

Borough Mayor, Karl Kassel, said, "Thanks for being here. We are preaching to the choir to a great extent in this room, and I'm a little frustrated with that, because the folks that really need to get the information that we're providing and ask questions so that they have a better understanding. They're not in the room to a significant degree, so a special thank you to those from that group that are here."

Tim Hamlin from the EPA says he likes what they see with the borough's progress on cleaning up the air.

Hamlin said, "A lot of progress has been made. There's still a long way to go, we would like to stay on course and make sure everybody in the community gets the air quality they deserve, while having warm homes and hopefully at an affordable price."

The Strategic Implementation Plan will be released later this year to show how the borough aims to combat poor air quality. The Air Quality Stakeholders group will be meeting at least two more times in October and November in order to come up with recommendations on control measures for the borough.