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Commissioners clash over grants

Aspen Times Staff Report
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” After a brief dispute that featured some fairly pointed remarks from board members, the Pitkin County commissioners Wednesday approved spending money from the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program (REMP) on a variety of energy-efficiency projects.

The REMP expenditures, which are recommended to the county commissioners by the Community Office of Resource Efficiency, had drawn fire from Commissioner Michael Owsley. He felt that some of the requests for funding smacked of impropriety, saying the relationships between grantors and grantees is “too chummy, too buddy-pal.

“The process is flawed, doesn’t smell good,” said Owsley, concerning requests for the county to dole out more than $2 million to a smattering of governmental and quasi governmental agencies and organizations for energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects and programs.

Owsley was concerned that some of those responsible for deciding who gets the money, which comes from a fund of mitigation payments by developers, also are on the receiving end of the grants.

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He cited specifics, such as a grant to the Aspen Renewable Energy (ARE) Day, an annual display of energy-efficiency technology and meetings that takes place in Aspen.

ARE Day received $20,000, Owsley said, adding that Commissioner Patti Clapper and former Aspen Mayor Bill Stirling serve on the CORE committee that awards the grants and are affiliated with the ARE Day board.

The two denied any impropriety and said they really have no connection with ARE Day other than the inclusion of their name as advisers by organizer Chip Comins.

Commissioner Rachel Richards chided Owsley for using “fairly inflammatory language” in his remarks, while Clapper said she was offended by Owsley’s remarks and predicted that CORE would be overhauling the process in the coming months. She called the grants system “fair, transparent and clear.”

The board agreed in principle that the grants process should be examined this year, but approved the 2009 grants over Owsley’s objections.


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