Argonne has a long history of being a good neighbor that engages with communities in the region. The Lab’s Community Leaders Roundtable (CLRT) exemplifies that commitment. CLRT members are community representatives, small business leaders, and local elected officials with whom Argonne seeks to have an ongoing, meaningful dialogue that informs and promotes mutual participation and collaboration.
In 1996, the CLRT was created to establish regular communication with contiguous community residents in response to their concerns about a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) study to store hazardous materials, not generated by Argonne, on the Laboratory campus. The community’s concerns played a role in the decision not to move forward with the proposal. However, the need for ongoing communication between Lab leadership and local stakeholders became evident.
“When I first moved to the area 30 years ago, Argonne was a scary place, fenced in with guards at the gates. No one was permitted to enter the campus. All we knew was there were nuclear reactors on the grounds,” said Linda Painter, president of Timberlake Civic Association in Willowbrook and an original CLRT member.
Since then, senior management has actively engaged in CLRT discussions. “It’s always a pleasure to interact with the surrounding communities. During our CLRT discussion, we share news of our pivotal discoveries and dynamic collaborations at the Lab, all of which bring added value to our region,” said Laboratory Director Paul Kearns. “We also learn about the communities’ interests and address any concerns or suggestions they may have.”
Argonne’s strong relationships with its neighbors proved beneficial when the Lab needed to add a high-voltage transmission line to its campus to support operations. “We worked closely with the community when deciding the location of the line,” said Karen Hellman, senior director of Argonne’s Infrastructure Services directorate. “Due to their concerns, we moved the high-voltage transmission line farther into the Argonne campus so they would not have to see it. We also located it on an existing access location to minimize disruption to the DuPage County Forest Preserve.”
CLRT members are appreciative of Argonne’s longstanding commitment to the regularly scheduled, informative meetings. In addition to receiving updates on administrative activities, lead scientists provide presentations and offer Lab tours, something original CLRT member Joe Zlotnicki welcomes. “These meetings create greater community awareness of the various research avenues Argonne is engaged in,” said Zlotnicki, resident of Bruce Lake Estates in Downers Grove.
Lab leadership values the contributions CLRT members have made over the last 25 years, and regard them as some of Argonne’s greatest ambassadors. “I feel that if Argonne is willing to involve, inform, and educate the community about what’s going on at the lab, it’s my responsibility to pass on what I learn to members of my community,” said Chris Coyle, president of Stratford Green Condominium Association in Clarendon Hills and an original CLRT member. “I’ve been glad to report to my community that Argonne is not a threat but a good neighbor and wonderful resource to the community, the region, the nation, and the world.”
Painter agrees, “It’s interesting to learn what happens at Argonne and it’s important to relay that message to the homeowners. I tell people what is being done at Argonne and what an asset it is to our neighborhood and region.”