Garfield County Clean Energy Finance District hearing set for June |

Garfield County Clean Energy Finance District hearing set for June

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County commissioners will hear from the public next month before deciding whether to form a new local improvement district making it possible for county property owners to obtain loans for home or business energy projects.

County commissioners on Monday discussed a draft resolution that would establish the Clean Energy Finance District and outlines how the proposed energy loan program would work. A public hearing was set for June 21.

If approved, the district would allow the county to then seek voter approval to issue bonds against federal and state grants or private funding sources to operate the local loan program.

Sponsored by the Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative (G-NECI), the program would provide fixed-interest loans to property owners for qualified energy improvements, such as renewable energy installations and a variety of energy efficiency improvements.

Loans would paid back over a period of time as a special assessment on the borrower’s property tax bill.

The public hearing should provide an opportunity to clarify exactly what the program is and how it works, Commissioner Mike Samson said at Monday’s meeting.

“There needs to be a vehicle to educate people about what this is,” he said. “There are some misconceptions out there, and we need to have that education tool.

“I have heard from people who feel it’s a tax on their property that’s going to benefit others, and that’s not the case,” Samson said. “It only applies to those who opt in.”

Samson may be the swing vote when it comes to the county commissioners’ decision whether to form the district.

While Commissioner Tresi Houpt is supportive, Commission Chairman John Martin expressed reservations at a May 4 work session, saying the voters should decide whether to create the district in addition to any bonding questions.

Martin said he personally has a philosophical problem with county government being in the loan business, but that he’s willing to leave it up to voters.

He noted at Monday’s meeting that there is some misleading information about the various funds that are available for energy audits and retrofits, and agreed the energy loan program needs to be clarified.

At the June 21 hearing, the G-NECI Advisory Board will make a full presentation on the program and how it would work. The hearing will also allow for comments from anyone wishing to address the issue.

If the district is formed, the advisory board would be charged with developing guidelines to administer the program if it comes to fruition. Among them would be to establish:

• What types of improvements qualify for loans;

• Minimum and maximum loan amounts;

• Loan types and interest rates;

• Application and qualification process; and,

• Contractor prequalification process.

Formation of the district would not include authorization to put a bonding question on the ballot. That would have to be done by separate resolution, specifying the amount of the bond issue and other details for voters to consider.

City and town councils of each of Garfield County’s six municipalities have signed letters of support for the county to form the district, and to put a bonding question on the November ballot.

Last November, voters in three neighboring counties, Eagle, Pitkin and Gunnison, authorized bonds to fund loan programs in those counties. Eagle County authorized up to $10 million in bonds, Pitkin County $7 million, and Gunnison County $3 million.

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