Home energy-loan program postponed
A pilot program intended to offer low-interest loans to Summit County residents for home energy-efficiency improvements is being delayed and may be reconsidered if it’s not viable.
"From the get-go I said we didn’t have enough information," County Council member Roger Armstrong said in an interview with The Park Record. "We haven’t really crunched the numbers to figure out what the budget is going to need to be, we don’t have default numbers and we really haven’t vetted anything."
Despite not having those numbers, a preliminary budget and a Community Development Area (CDA) plan were discussed during a public hearing Wednesday in Coalville. A community development area plan defines the project and describes the community benefits attached to it.
A notice of the hearing, containing limited information about the CDA plan, was mailed to property owners in May. County staff fielded more than 80 calls and several emails within the last month requesting additional information about the program, according to a staff report.
Although the CDA plan was available on the county website for the required 30-day input period and to councilors, the discussion Wednesday appeared premature.
Armstrong said the County Council has not been provided enough information to determine whether or not the program is feasible or whether it will be cost-neutral for the county.
"No one has gone out to the citizens and said, ‘do you want this’," Armstrong said. "We don’t have that information and we don’t want to borrow $4.3 million to find out only five people want to do it. I don’t think that will be the case. But people can’t express interest if they don’t know what it means to express interest."
Summit County Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Yoder is developing the program to offer below-market, low-interest loans to help homeowners reduce their electric bills by completing energy-efficient improvements to their homes.
The program’s intent is to engage approximately 300 primary homeowners making the average loan about $14,000 for weatherization improvements, Summit County Accountant Matt Leavitt wrote in a staff report. The report said homeowners would be charged a three-percent interest rate to cover costs over the life of the program. For the 2015 budget, revenue sources are anticipated to be $4.3 million from bond proceeds and $98,000 from loan payments, the report said.
Utah’s Private Activity Bond Authority approved the $4.3 million Qualified Energy
Conservation Bond allocation to fund the county’s "Be Wise, Energize Residential Energy Efficiency Loan Program."
Several residents testified during the hearing about the limited information available about the program.
"If you pass the budget tonight, it’s because you’re excited about it," Sue Pollard said. "But I don’t want it passed unless it’s clear and in black and white. "
Pollard said while she supports weatherization and the County Council’s aim at "being green," she has serious misgivings about who will be responsible for the loan’s repayment.
"I’m worried as a citizen that we will be on the hook for this budget," Pollard said. "I hope with all of your enthusiasm and wanting to make your county more green that you have another public hearing and do have this in black and white to ensure it won’t cost us a dime because that’s what you’re promising, but I don’t see it in this budget."
County Council members have been receptive to the program because it furthers the council’s goals of promoting sustainability and lowering the county’s carbon footprint.
"It fits well into that goal," Armstrong said. "But we don’t have enough information yet. "We need to see program particulars that show us what we are stepping into. We want to be able to minimize any risk to the county and the tax payers, so we need to see that first before we have something to approve. We need to see if we can do this and it will be cost neutral to the county. That’s what we were originally sold on and we’re still waiting to see that that’s the case."
The mayors of the county’s six municipalities have expressed support in favor of the program. Coalville City, Francis City, Kamas City and Park City councils have all adopted resolutions signifying their desire to make the program available to the residents of those municipalities. The Town of Henefer and Oakley City councils are scheduled to discuss their own resolutions on July 7 and July 16, respectively.
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.