BRATTLEBORO - The town's attorney and finance director say some changes in language could erase the reservations they have about a national program that allows property owners to borrow money against their tax assessments to fund energy efficiency projects.
Robert Fisher and John O'Connor, who is also the town's treasurer, told the Brattleboro Selectboard on Tuesday they have taken issue with some guidelines of the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Project, which was established by voters at the previous Representative Town Meeting but has yet to be adopted by the Selectboard. PACE gives property owners access to low-interest loans to pay for energy efficiency projects by pegging the money to the property tax assessments. The money is paid back through the tax payments, and so the loans stay with the properties, if the home is sold.
Fisher said he has been in contact with other communities that have adopted the program and have elected to go forward with the program without any changes to language.
PACE is intended to enable participating property owners within the district to access funding for eligible energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and pay back the cost as a regular municipal assessment on the owners' property tax bill. The intended design of the program would have little to no impact on municipal operation because it will be run by Efficiency Vermont on behalf of participating towns. The program was put on hold across the United States in July 2010 after the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which writes about half the mortgages in the nation, said it would not accept mortgages with the PACE program attached to them.
During the 2011 legislative session, Vermont lawmakers were able to write a bill that satisfied all the concerns of the federal housing lending agency.
Earlier in the meeting, Steve Barrett and Hannah O'Connor of the Brattleboro Department of Public Works addressed the Selectboard about the Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade project. Barrett, director of the Brattleboro DPW, said negotiations continue with project designer Hoyle Tanner and Associates on a series of change orders, none of which have been approved by Hoyle or Brattleboro. He said work has focused on start-up, testing and optimization of the two-phase digestion process this past month, along with additional improvements to the supervisory control and data acquisition monitoring and control system.
O'Connor, the Brattleboro highway/utilities superintendent, said only a few punch-list items remain with respect to the Spring Tree Pump Station, which is substantially complete. The pump station is being rebuilt as part of the wastewater treatment plant upgrade project.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.