State rules cloud division of clean energy funds

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — In recently granting about $1.6 million toward clean energy initiatives in Garfield County, the state cited the application’s collaborative nature.

But getting the applicants to agree on how to implement the Department of Local Affairs grant is proving to be more of a challenge, as a meeting between participating entities Monday revealed.

The difficulty lies in the fact that while the grant application was intended to be regional, Garfield County agreed to serve as the fiscal entity that would apply for it and administer it. That has left other entities worried about giving the county final say over the project, and some county commissioners concerned about the eventual direction of something for which they are fiscally responsible.

Garfield County Commissioner Larry McCown said a rushed state timeline for grant applications means the participating entities are hashing out details now that they should have addressed before applying for the funds.

“Now nobody really knows what the rules are. We’ve got this whole game and bag of money and nobody knows the rules,” he said.

A consortium of nine entities, among them the county and all its municipalities, won the largest grant awarded through the state’s $10 million New Energy Communities Initiative, funded through federal mineral lease proceeds.

The $1.605 million grant will help pay for specific projects such as LED streetlights in Rifle and solar arrays in each community, as well as help launch ongoing programs such as ones to boost energy efficiency and use of renewable energy in homes and businesses.

The coalition had sought $2 million to pay for its plans. McCown and fellow county Commissioner John Martin worry that the county may be asked to make up the extra $400,000, or possibly get stuck with the cost of a continuing program after its first year. Martin also is concerned that the project will lead to another government bureaucracy, possibly involving a new taxing authority.

But representatives from the participating entities said Monday there’s been no talk of creating a taxing authority.

They are interested in reaching some formal agreement between all the parties for moving forward.
In an interview, Glenwood Springs City Council member Shelley Kaup said the challenge is finding a way to proceed with a regional project in a way in which all participants retain some ownership in it.

“I think we’ll get there,” Kaup said.

Participants plan to resume discussions on the matter Wednesday.


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