(This piece was originally published on December 9, 2018 by The Republic.)

The City of North Vernon’s conversion to solar energy to power its facilities has earned its mayor recognition from an environmental public policy organization.

North Vernon Mayor Mike Ochs was honored two weeks ago by the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) for his efforts, and presented with the Mal Atherton Award for Climate Advocate of the Year at the HEC’s 11th Annual Greening the Statehouse event in Nov. 17 Wabash.

Greening the Statehouse is intended to recognize leaders, advocates and organizations who are on the forefront of fostering environmental sustainability in Indiana, said HEC Executive Director Jesse Kharbanda.

When announcing the award presented to Ochs, Kharbanda said it was to recognize efforts at solarizing North Vernon and lowering its carbon footprint.

“I was shocked when they told me about the award. To me, the whole solar thing was a no-brainer. I wasn’t thinking about awards. I saw how it worked at the Jennings (County Public) Library and I was thinking about how much the city would save if we converted to solar energy,” Ochs said.

“Still I am honored by the award. Change is difficult for many people and the process of converting to solar has had some difficulties but we are already saving money and it isn’t even completed,” added Ochs.

Ochs said the conversion to solar energy is nearly finished, and the city already is saving money. North Vernon’s airport is the last site to be converted to solar energy, and will be ready soon, he added.

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