Friday January 25, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- The Selectboard unanimously supported a request to have Town Meeting Representatives vote to establish a Property Assessed Clean Energy District in Brattleboro.

Town Energy Coordinator Paul Cameron and Energy Committee Vice President Bob Rueter asked the board to approve the Town Meeting article and the board agreed to have the Town Meeting Representatives vote on the issue during the March 23 Representative Town Meeting.

The issue has been discussed in Brattleboro over the past few years. Under the federal PACE plan, homeowners are allowed to borrow money against their properties for energy efficiency upgrades.

The loans are paid back over time through assessments on the properties, even if the original owner who did the energy project moves.

In Vermont, 34 towns have approved PACE districts, though no projects have been done yet because there have been questions about how the program works. In Windham County, Marlboro, Putney, Halifax and Westminster have already approved the program.

The national program hit a snag in 2010 when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac said mortgages with PACE liens on them would not be backed.

At the Selectboard meeting Tuesday, the board agreed to have Town Meeting Representatives vote on the district even though there are still questions about the program.

Rueter told the board that after years of delay the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, the organization that is supporting the PACE program, has been able to secure $1 million.

They hope to begin the program this year.

Only about 140 programs will receive the funding across the state, Rueter said,

More money should be available in the future, he said, as banks saw how the program worked after it was off the ground.

He said in Brattleboro applications will be considered on a first-come first-served basis and he said there would probably not be enough money at first to pay for all the requested projects.

Town attorney Bob Fisher was at the meeting Tuesday and he said it would probably be five or six years before banks and municipalities would be able to gauge how successful the program is.

As homeowners move Fisher said it will be a test to see how the financing transfers and if towns and banks are able to track and collect the payments.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.