Two towns join countywide clean energy authority
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – This region’s efforts to explore alternative sources of energy, including increased energy efficiency, took a new direction recently when the towns of Rifle and New Castle both joined a newly created, quasi-governmental authority called the Garfield Clean Energy Collaborative.
“We have been involved in the clean energy community since the very beginning,” said Rifle Mayor Jay Miller. The decision to stay involved was strongly favored by the entire Rifle City Council, he said.
The reason for the new entity, according to organizers, is so the collaborative can act as its own fiscal agent and receive government grants and contributions. Until now, Garfield Clean Energy has had to rely on Garfield County to act as its fiscal agent.
The elected leaders of both towns unanimously agreed in late September to be part of the new authority, although neither town has made a financial commitment.
For Rifle, Garfield Clean Energy is suggesting annual funding of $38,000, based on a calculation involving population and energy use by municipal facilities and vehicles.
For New Castle, the suggested funding share is $15,000 per year.
According to consultant Tom Baker, who is working with Garfield Clean Energy in the organizational effort, the money is needed to help pay for the organization’s proposed 2012 budget of $317,000.
Part of the budget, he said, will be covered by approximately $180,000 left over from a U.S. Department of Energy grant.
Garfield Clean Energy is working to sign up all six towns in Garfield County as well as the county government itself, the county library system and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, as a way of encouraging area businesses, residents and others to climb on the clean energy bandwagon.
In a presentation to the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on Tuesday, Garfield Clean Energy board chair Greg Russi said, “If we became just 10 percent more energy efficient countywide, that would equal more than $20 million circulating in our economy.” The savings would come from lower energy costs, leaving more money in people’s pockets for other needs. Energy efficiency projects also build local employment.
But on Tuesday, at least one Garfield County commissioner said he is troubled by the idea.
Calling the collaborative “another layer of government,” Commissioner John Martin expressed doubts as to whether the county should sign an intergovernmental agreement to join the clean energy authority.
Martin conceded that the county has played a central funding role in the work of Garfield Clean Energy over the past four years.
But Martin reiterated a long-held argument that the county should not keep doling out money to support the organization. The authority has requested $155,000 from Garfield County in 2012.
“We can’t continue to feed it,” he said. “It has to stand on its own.”
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who sits on the advisory board of Garfield Clean Energy, said he agrees “philosophically” with Martin, adding, “I hate to create more government.”
But a key campaign plank in Jankovsky’s successful bid for office in 2010 was a promise to work to create jobs for county residents, he said.
And the main outcome of the work of Garfield Clean Energy and its program contractor, CLEER: Clean Energy Economy for the Region, has been to create jobs and build on economic development efforts,
Commissioner Mike Samson, following the presentation, declared, “I agree with both Tom and John. They both make good points.”
Samson said when he was elected in 2008, his campaign was largely based on a desire to see better cooperation among local governments.
“I love it when people work together,” he said, noting that Garfield Clean Energy’s work has achieved a high degree of intergovernmental cooperation already.
“I’m hoping perhaps we can reach a compromise” concerning any decision by the BOCC about Garfield County’s involvement in the collaborative, Samson said. “I think you are doing good work,” he added.
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