CARBONDALE — A trio of energy efficiency advocate groups wants local governments to up the ante slightly in contributions to energy upgrade projects, in order to help the groups keep up the momentum in their mission to make Garfield County “the most energy efficient county in the country,” in the words of Glenwood Springs Mayor Leo McKinney.
But in Carbondale, at least, the plea fell on ears that may not have been deaf, but definitely were cautious about raising the town’s annual contribution to Garfield Clean Energy (GCE), Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) and the Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE).
In a presentation to the town trustees on Sept. 24, representatives of the three organizations asked that the town not only renew last year’s contribution of $25,000 to GCE/CLEER, but add $5,000 on top of that.
McKinney, who is a board member for GCE, told the Carbondale trustees that the organization’s budget for the coming year has been trimmed from $535,000 in 2013 to $375,000, which is to come from contributions from the 10 member governments and agencies. He said that the Glenwood Springs City Council, for example, has agreed to raise its contribution by $5,000.
“We understand that the Town is facing budget challenges for the coming year,” stated a memo from GCE/CLEER, which essentially were acting together in a joint request for a $30,000 contribution for 2014. CORE was on hand to ask for a $25,000 contributions, the same as last year.
According to the GCE memo, since starting up in 2009 under an intergovernmental agreement, the Garfield Clean Energy Collaborative has grown to include the six towns in Garfield County, the county itself and the county library district, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and Colorado Mountain College.
In addition to growing, the memo continued, the Collaborative has “helped 150 businesses, 230 households and 55 government buildings make energy and fleet upgrades that are saving more than $1.3 million per year, and building business for contractors and suppliers.”
According to the memo, GCE/CLEER are hoping to raise a total of $525,000 for the 2014 budget year, including potential extra funding from the local governments and other entities.
Trustee Allyn Harvey said at the meeting that he favored granting the additional funding request.
Mayor Stacey Bernot, however, questioned the need for the additional $5,000 from Carbondale, and asked for details about what the town can expect for the added money.
She pointed out that she had, at past meetings, requested a proposal for creating a “long-term funding source,” perhaps a special tax, for energy efficiency programming in Carbondale, but had yet to see anything from GCE/CLEER.
“I’m really disappointed that didn’t make the list” of proposed projects for the coming year, she told the group, adding pointedly that she hoped it would be forthcoming soon.
McKinney, acknowledging that the permanent funding idea needs to be addressed, added that any suggestion of increasing local taxes for that purpose might be problematic.
Such talk, he said, is “sometimes a dirty word in politics.”
Although the GCE/CLEER personnel at the meeting mentioned additional energy efficiency coaching for consumers and other benefits as justification for the additional funding, Erica Sparhawk told the trustees, “Whatever you guys decide is fine.”
In the end the trustees agreed to give close consideration to the funding request, once it has taken a look at the proposed municipal budget for 2014 to see how much discretionary cash the town has to spend.
Sparhawk and GCE/CLEER spokeswoman Heather McGregor, in a telephone interview, said the other member governments also were mulling over the requests.