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Garfield County eyes energy fund

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Garfield County commissioners voted unanimously Monday to look into establishing a fund from which people could borrow to pay for energy efficiency improvements.

Last year, state legislation passed that allows local governments to form improvement districts and issue bonds to finance a fund to pay for clean energy improvements to properties, according to the Garfield County New Energy Communities Initiative advisory board.

Property owners would be able to borrow from the fund to pay for renewable energy improvements. They would pay it back through special assessments to their property tax bills over 15 to 20 years. The extra assessments would stay with the property even if it changes hands.

The program would be voluntary, so anyone who doesn’t borrow from the fund would not have to pay any additional taxes, according to the initiative board.

“This enterprise would give people and businesses the opportunity to make those investments, and by tying those investments to the property rather than being a loan to the individual you can extend the term of payment of those improvements and really leverage the increased value,” said Carbondale Mayor Michael Hassig, who is chairman of the advisory board.

According to the energy initiative, the longer terms of payment and its connection to specific properties could help avoid barriers preventing people from investing in clean energy improvements. Those include limited cash, high upfront costs and not wanting to buy the improvements if the property might be sold.

“Stretching (payments) out over a longer period of time usually means energy savings will more than pay for an increased tax assessment,” said Heather McGregor, initiative staff member.

Boulder County voters have approved $40 million in bonds and is acting as the “guinea pig” for the state for this type of program, McGregor said.

“This is a lot of people that will be put back to work with a $40 million injection into the private sector economy,” she said.

She said a comparable fund here based on population would be about $8 million.

The first steps the county will take are investigating legal questions about creating a local improvement district and holding an election, determining what the county’s bonding capacity is, and figuring out how much the proposal will cost and what grants are available. If it looks promising, the county could create the improvement district and the fund.

pfowler@postindependent.com


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