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Council will consider helping with energy efficiency assessments

August review of Energy Action Plan scheduled

By Mark Reaman

While not yet ready to jump in with both feet, the Crested Butte Town Council is open to help fund a new program that will assess low- and middle-income households in the county to see if their homes can be made more energy-efficient.

The program would come under the umbrella of the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority and would be implemented by Lotus Engineering and Sustainability. The program would primarily rely on state and federal funds to pay for the assessment and potential retrofits but needs local matching money and support for grants. A similar program used to be provided through the old ORE (Office of Resource Efficiency) that was in the valley.

Emily Artale of Lotus made a presentation to the Crested Butte council at the July 10 meeting and said the assessments would be available to both homeowners and renters throughout the valley.

“We believe the program would be useful to the entire community and it addresses issues with affordable housing,” Artale said. “Saving money on utilities makes it easier for people to live here. Saving energy money keeps the money in the pockets of our citizens. This program would also provide jobs by hiring people who would do the assessments and the retrofits, for example.

“There are some major inefficiencies in our housing stock,” Artale continued. “There is a significant need for this type of program in our community.”

Artale said she has been reaching out to local municipalities for financial help with the program and Gunnison County has committed $5,000 for the initiative. Mt. Crested Butte is considering a contribution, while the city of Gunnison heard the presentation and city manager Russ Forrest said it was well received by the council but no specific request for funds was solicited. Artale said if the town of Crested Butte could donate $5,000, it would be very helpful.

Mayor Glenn Michel asked if the town could roll in such a contribution in the annual donation to the GVRHA. GVRHA executive director Jennifer Kermode said that money was earmarked already for housing authority operations. This would be an entirely separate program.

“I’d like to know the breakout of the different numbers of houses in the different municipalities,” said councilman Jim Schmidt. “Where would this really be focused? The town of Crested Butte has always had tougher regulations for energy efficiency. It doesn’t seem fair for the town to pay for the problems down valley because the county or city didn’t have tough energy efficiency regulations in the past. But to get a handle on this, can you gather the numbers for the houses in different parts of the valley?”

“I can get those,” said Kermode.

Michel said, “The council will be reacquainting ourselves with the town’s energy action plan in August. You actually seem a little ahead of us. We’re not there yet. We need to have this discussion first. This can be a tool in the plan.”

“I know we are all in favor of the benefit of what you are doing,” said councilman Paul Merck. “It helps us as a society.”

Councilman Chris Ladoulis said it was a great program to help low-income people. He pointed out that in the upper valley one paradox was that there were so many large houses that focusing on one 5,000-square-foot house could save as much energy as several smaller houses.

“The council is certainly receptive,” Michel told Artale. “We will be having a work session on the Energy Action Plan on August 8 and I would encourage you to attend.”

Artale said she would be there to help continue the discussion.

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