Energy Action Plan gets ‘good’ feedback from Summit County |

Energy Action Plan gets ‘good’ feedback from Summit County

Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News

As the Summit County Energy Action Plan undergoes several revisions, committee leaders drafting the plan gathered valuable feedback from the Summit Board of County Commissioners Tuesday.

The initiative is funded in several counties by the Governor’s Energy Office and run locally through High Country Conservation Center. It’s meant to create a plan for the entire county suitable to each municipality. The plan would start in the public sector and ideally move later into the private sector, such as the ski resorts.

Though the discussion resulted in several items to consider, the commissioners showed overall support of the plan.

“We are absolutely on board with this, philosophically,” commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said.

Nonetheless, plan coordinator Lynne Westerfield said several comments stick out to her as important to bring back for the committee to consider.

Commissioner Thomas Davidson wants to see where the goals to reduce energy consumption in buildings by 20 percent by 2020 and to divert 50 percent of waste by 2020 originated. In addition, he wants to see numerical data and specific information that support the county’s ability to meet those goals before the commissioners sign on with their support.

“What is it about Summit County … (that says) we’re comparable enough to the statewide goals that this percentage makes sense for us, too?” he said.

If nothing else, the documentation should help the public officials back up their reasoning to support the plan and make decisions accordingly, he said.

Westerfield said she also plans to take back feedback about outreach that’s lacking. Though the committee is “doing a good job of that,” she said, there may need to be more of an effort to keep partners aware of their work.

And she said she’s excited to revisit tying the purchase of energy-efficient vehicles back into the plan with ideas that came from the commissioners.

The transportation goal is to reduce vehicle miles traveled and fuel used in Summit County, and Davidson felt the way the county community chooses to drive could play into achieving that goal.

Currently, the action items focus on promoting alternative modes of travel and reducing vehicle miles traveled in business and public operations.

“Particularly in a winter environment, that’s a tough one,” Davidson said, explaining that the community is less likely to give up their vehicles than they are to carpool or purchase energy efficient cars – measures they suggested they could get on board with.

Westerfield added that though it’s difficult to track the community-wide vehicle use, the committee hasn’t given up on finding ways to track the miles traveled.

Though the commissioners balked at the lack of a funding mechanism for the waste goal, committee member and Governor’s Energy Office representative Mona Newton said she’s encouraged to hear support for the goal itself as well as for creating incentives – such as a mill levy or trash tax – to meet it. Not all municipalities have been as ready to support mandates for the waste goal as the county was on Tuesday.

“Waste is a big one to get off the ground,” Stiegelmeier said, explaining that the county’s waste funding is directly affected by the amount of trash that comes in. If trash goes down, the revenue also decreases. But expenses don’t change – it’s just that maybe there’s more diversion into recycling programs, into the composting program, and more.

“We need a model” to modify the funding mechanism, Stiegelmeier said.

That’s not the only time financing came up in the discussion.

Commissioner Dan Gibbs raised the question of relying on grants to fund the action items, even if it’s an estimated nine of 36 that are new items (not actions already underway) requiring county support.

“What if the money dries out this year?” he said, suggesting that the governor’s office priorities might shake out differently than they did under Gov. Bill Ritter.

“We want to diversify our funding streams,” Westerfield replied, later explaining that the magic number for grant funding is about 25 percent. The rest, she said, could come from partnerships with businesses, fee for service agreements, mill levies, taxes and outside contributions.

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