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Garfield County wants to ‘wean’ energy group from public funds

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Two of the three Garfield County commissioners stressed on Monday that they appreciate the work done by Garfield Clean Energy to get local homes and businesses on a more sustainable pattern of energy use.

But the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) also said the group must stop relying on public funding to do its job.

“I think you’re doing good work. But you need to be weaning yourself away from Garfield County support,” said Commissioner Mike Samson.



He was repeating a demand he voiced last year, and told Garfield Clean Energy staff director Alice Laird, “I’m not sure I’m seeing you do that.”

That sentiment was backed up by Commissioner John Martin, who told Laird, “You’ve got to be self-sufficient from other sources,” beyond funding from the county.



Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who serves as the Garfield County member on the Garfield Clean Energy board, said little during this exchange.

In her presentation, Laird told the BOCC that Garfield Clean Energy is seeking $155,000 from Garfield County for 2012, along with funding from other area governmental sources, for a total of $317,000 in requests.

At the end of Laird’s presentation, the BOCC directed county finance director Lisa Dawson to include $155,000 funding request in the county’s 2012 budget, as a “place holder.”

That designation means it is not an approved item in the budget yet, and is open to future approval or modification as the BOCC sees fit.

Laird, who was presenting an update on Garfield Clean Energy’s budgetary plan for the coming year, told Martin and Samson the group is working to meet their demands.

The organization is working to reform itself as a regional authority, able to receive grants and administer them without the county acting as intermediary, as has been necessary in the past.

But, she said, “the advisory board still sees Garfield County as an essential partner” in helping Garfield Clean Energy get completely on its feet and independent.

“I know,” rejoined Martin. “But it needs not to be a government program. It needs to be in private enterprise. If it’s really worthwhile, private enterprise will pick up on that.”

Garfield Clean Energy started as the Garfield New Energy Communities Initiatives in 2008. The county has acted as fiscal agent for grants from state and federal sources, as well as the source of funds from county coffers.

Garfield Clean Energy is a partnership of the county government, the six towns in the county, the county library district, and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

Laird pointed out that the organization’s work has helped local governments, school districts, businesses and homeowners take advantage of energy-efficiency upgrades to a wide range of structures, at discounted prices or for free, in some cases.

“This program is economic development,” she told the BOCC, explaining that as the region’s construction industry went into decline in 2008, the work of the Garfield Clean Energy and the county to encourage energy efficiency upgrades to homes and businesses helped to retain some jobs.

Plus, she said, Garfield Clean Energy’s efforts to encourage the conversion of area vehicle fleets to burn compressed natural gas is “in synch,” as she put it, with a similar effort by the Governor’s Energy Office in Denver.

Jankovsky, noting that Garfield Clean Energy is working to direct funding to area banks for use as energy improvement loans, told his fellow commissioners, “I do like this, because it gets private banks loaning money.”

And, Jankovsky concluded, “Without Garfield County support, this is not going to come together as an authority, or something else.”

The issue of funding for Garfield Clean Energy will be taken up again at a future BOCC meeting.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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