Some readers may have been surprised to learn that Mesa County is the only qualifying county in Colorado to refuse to adopt the C-PACE loan program.
A story by the Colorado Sun's Sharon Sullivan in Thursday's edition of the Sentinel explained how the program works. C-PACE (Colorado Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy) encourages developers to build energy-efficient buildings by facilitating access to long-term, nonrecourse financing for up to 20 percent of their construction budget.
Individual counties must formally opt into the program for it to be available to constituents. Counties are involved, as Sullivan explained, "because the project's loan repayment is routed through the county property tax assessment process ... A voluntary assessment is placed on the tax owner's property tax bill, which is repaid over the financing term."
Here's where Mesa County is missing the boat. Commissioner Scott McInnis apparently thinks that adding a voluntary assessment to a tax bill is not the role of county government — even though assessments and tax billing are core functions of county government and counties are paid a 1% fee to cover the cost of county administrative time.
As pointed out by Tracy Phillips, the director of the C-PACE program, this is something the county already does all the time with special assessments. And Commissioner John Justman's explanation that he wasn't familiar with the program, and doesn't remember ever discussing it, is a lame excuse for not implementing a program that could be beneficial to Mesa County businesses and farmers.
Meanwhile, Mesa County is giving up a valuable tool with special relevance to the Las Colonias business park. The outdoor recreation manufacturers, for which Las Colonias might be an attractive place to settle, often have mission statements with a a strong emphasis on sustainability. The lack of C-PACE financing to build high-performance buildings at the lowest weighted average cost of capital can be a nonstarter.
Voters just indicated they want Las Colonias to succeed by extending lease terms for the business park to 99 years. Yet, the county — for no good reason —is putting the business park at a disadvantage compared to nearby counties that offer C-PACE financing.
In Montrose County, two businesses — Mayfly Outdoor and Swiss-O-Matic — installed renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements financed through C-PACE.
Ken Scissors, the co-founder and executive director of the Grand Junction CleanTech Business Coalition, called on Mesa County commissioners to adopt C-PACE financing in an op-ed back on Aug. 25.
"Being a C-PACE holdout is a self-inflicted wound," he wrote. "Let's remedy that."
We couldn't agree more. This is a program that doesn't cost the county anything, but provides an attractive financing option to help businesses reduce energy bills and improve their facilities.
One remedy is to confront commissioners directly. With obvious economic development implications at stake, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, the Outdoor Recreation Coalition, the CleanTech Business Coalition and local companies that specialize in energy efficiency should form a united front and impress upon commissioners why C-PACE financing is critical to our competitive footing.
The other remedy — with an election coming up in 2020 — is to elect candidates who take the time to understand how C-PACE works.