Local and county officials gathered for a ceremony Feb. 21 to highlight the upgraded lighting system at Wimberly Fields Park. The city of Oakland Park received a $250,000 grant from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Energy. The grant was used to retrofit energy efficient LED lighting at Wimberly Fields Park.
Agriculture Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried was on hand for the ceremony. The grant, completed in October 2019, removed and replaced 186 existing lights with 78 energy efficient LED lights and a smart control system at the park’s baseball and soccer fields.
According to Fried, the project reduced the city’s lighting wattage at the park by 127 kilowatts and 61 percent, the city can expect to see a savings of $819,787 over the next 25 years.
The grant was part of the FDACS Office of Energy’s Small Community Energy Efficiency Lighting Grant Program, which awards funding to cities under 50,000 residents and counties under 200,000 unincorporated residents.
Commissioner Fried praised the project and the work done by city officials to successfully apply for it and said the administration of the grant should stay within her office.
“This local project conserves energy and saves taxpayer money and is just one example how our office of energy is working well, and why it should stay in our department, its home for the last decade,” she said. “In just the past year, we’ve hosted the first state-level summit to address climate change since 2008 and released the first statewide energy and climate action plan in a decade.”
In mid-February, the Florida House of Representatives voted to remove the FDACS Office of Energy from under Commissioner Fried’s control and transfer it to under Governor Ron DeSantis and the Department of Environmental Protection.
Alicia Brown, the senior vice president of philanthropy and communications for the Urban League of Broward County, said the grant program should never have been moved out from under Commissioner Fried’s control.
“We support the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services ongoing efforts to preserve and enhance Florida’s diverse energy landscape,” she said. “We believe that it is only fair to allow Commissioner Fried and the office of energy to demonstrate a commitment to efficient and effective energy solutions that meet the needs of businesses and communities throughout the state of Florida.”
Since taking office, Commissioner Fried has revitalized the FDACS office of energy by empowering the office with new focus on energy efficiency, climate change, and low-income energy equity.
Under Fried’s leadership, the FDACS office of energy has highlighted the need for improved energy efficiency standards, hosted the first statewide summit to address climate change since 2008, and released the 76-page Florida Energy and Climate Plan.
Oakland Park Mayor Matthew Sparks also spoke in favor of Commissioner Fried’s office maintaining control of the program while acknowledging the importance of this grant for the city.
“I’d like to thank the commissioner for the grant, and for our citizens as well for the money-saving portion of it,” he said. “We look forward to lighting up Oakland Park and saving money.”
Also in attendance at the ceremony were Oakland park City Commissioner Tim Lonergan and Heidi Richards, chief of staff for Broward County Mayor Dale V.C. Holness.
Katina Caraganis is a Massachusetts native and has called South Florida home since 2015. She graduated college with a degree in communication studies and has received numerous writing awards during her tenure in journalism. When she’s not working for an online pet supply retailer, she spends her time training for a half-marathon in March and studying to become a certified nutrition coach.