Good idea, bad timing

Lewis County legislators will hold a public hearing next month to discuss joining a statewide program to fund clean energy projects for privately owned buildings. Watertown Daily Times

LOWVILLE — Lewis County residents will be asked to share their views on the state-wide program that offers a financing stream for “energy upgrades” to commercial, multifamily residential and nonprofit properties, in a public hearing before the Board of Legislators makes their decision about the county’s participation in the program.

The public hearing will kick off the board’s regular meeting at 5 p.m. Nov. 5, after which the board will have a final discussion and before voting on whether or not they want Lewis to be the second north country county to join the program, after Franklin County.

In the seven weeks since the program was introduced to the board, two more counties and five more townships or cities throughout the state have signed on to the program, bringing the total number of participating municipalities to 20 from 14 statewide.

“The purpose of the program is to incentivise energy projects and improve the building stock in the county,” said Lewis County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director Eric J. Virkler when first presenting the program.

Unlike traditional loans, financing up to 100% of the project cost is available for terms from five years to the expected lifespan of the improvements, which is generally 30 years.

Projects eligible for the funding include lighting upgrades, HVAC systems, door and window upgrades, insulation and renewable energy projects like solar panels, geothermal heat pumps and wind turbines, among others.

During the October board meeting, there were no questions or discussions about the Energize NY program and the motion to proceed with the public hearing was unanimous.

After originally hearing about the program, many legislators had been concerned about implications for the county should borrowers default. However, Mr. Virkler explained that all municipal taxes would be the first thing paid, although the Energize NY-related loan would supercede any other lien on the property beyond that held by the county.

Potentwial downsides of the program included a negative reflection on the county with the program’s capital lenders if loans defaulted, and that because the lien stays attached to the property, as is the case in this program, it may be difficult to sell a foreclosed property.

If the resolution creating the local law that will govern the program in Lewis County passes, the county will enter into an agreement with the local Energy Improvement Corporation, which will administer the program for the county.

Participation in the Energize NY - Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program also would check another box in the county’s “Clean Energy Community” portfolio.

To learn more about the Energize NY - PACE financing program, go to https://energizeny.org/commercial/eny-open-pace

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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