Garfield County commissioners give their approval to energy loan program |

Garfield County commissioners give their approval to energy loan program

NEW CASTLE, Colorado – A new energy loan program approved by the Garfield Board of County Commissioners on Monday aims to encourage lenders to make loans for energy efficiency and improvement projects, as well as stimulate local jobs creation.

“This truly is economic development,” County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said of the Garfield Clean Energy Credit Reserve Fund Program. “It keeps money in the county, which is good, and it has the potential to create jobs.”

Commissioners, meeting at the New Castle Fire Station Monday, voted 2-1 to enter into a contract with the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) to manage the program.

The lending program is sponsored by Garfield Clean Energy (GCE), a coalition of local governments working to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in the county.

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It will use $400,000 in federal stimulus dollars awarded to Garfield County last year as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Grant program.

The grant will be used for a credit reserve account to be set up through Alpine Bank. The money could be used to pay back any loans that are issued through the program that go into default, explained Michele Dressel, senior vice president of Alpine Bank.

Although the reserve fund will be held by Alpine Bank, the program will be available through any lending institution in Garfield County.

“The program is designed to encourage lenders to extend credit for the purpose of promoting energy efficiency of commercial and residential buildings in Garfield County,” according to a program summary provided by assistant county attorney Carolyn Dahlgren.

“The reserve account will enable participating lenders to make registered loans promoting building energy efficiency to borrowers who would not qualify without the additional credit enhancement,” Dahlgren says in the memo.

Through the program, loans of up to $100,000 will be made available to eligible residential and commercial property owners in Garfield County.

Larger loans may be considered as well. However, since CHFA began the credit reserve program three years ago, the average loan size has been around $37,000, Tim Dolan of CHFA said at the Monday meeting.

To date, 370 such loans have been made in the areas of Colorado where the program is already available. That has helped to support more than 1,500 jobs, he said.

Besides energy savings and encouraging use of renewable energy, economic development through the employment of local contractors is one of the goals of the program, said Alice Laird, director of Clean Energy Economy for the Region, which administers the GCE programs for the participating governments.

“The focus is on turning wasted energy into wealth,” she said.

While County Commission Chairman John Martin said he supports the concept, he voted against the program due to his opposition to the use of federal stimulus money.

“We have to remember that this is taxpayers’ money to begin with,” he said. “It doesn’t sit well with me, but I understand what we’re trying to do with this.”

Commissioners Jankovsky and Mike Samson voted in favor of the loan program.

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