Lewis County legislators are soliciting the public’s input on a statewide initiative to fund energy upgrades for commercial and nonprofit structures.

At their next board meeting, lawmakers will discuss whether to enact the Energize NY Open C-PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) Program. Operated by the Energy Improvement Corp., it provides low-cost financing for clean energy projects on privately owned buildings.

According to information on the program’s website, benefits include the following: Financing is available for up to 100 percent of the project cost or can be combined with other financing; competitive private financing will come from EIC-approved capital providers; it has customizable loan terms up to the expected life of the improvement; repayment is secured through a benefit assessment lien that is subordinate to municipal taxes; and financing automatically transfers to a new owner if the property is sold.

“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,” according to a story published Monday by the Watertown Daily Times.

This is an ambitious proposal. If Lewis County enacts this, it and Franklin would be the only counties in the north country to participate.

There are definitely pros and cons for legislators to weigh before they make a decision. They’re expected to vote on the issue following the public hearing.

This makes offering residents the opportunity to learn more about the proposal and give their feedback essential. So it’s peculiar that the board will conduct this business beginning at 5 p.m. Nov. 5 — which is Election Night!

Yes, many residents will head to the polls Nov. 5 to vote for judicial and municipal candidates. Ten seats on the County Board of Legislators are up for election as are the countywide seats of district attorney, sheriff, county clerk and county treasurer. The towns of Croghan, Denmark, Diana, Greig, Harrisburg, Lewis, Leyden, Lowville, Lyonsdale, Martinsburg, Montague, New Bremen, Osceola, Pinckney, Turin, Watson and West Turin have positions to fill as do the villages of Constableville, Croghan, Lyons Falls and Port Leyden.

We understand that Nov. 5 is the first Tuesday of the month, when the board normally holds its regular meetings. It’s good for public bodies to maintain a routine schedule so people know when events of interest are held.

But it’s not uncommon for municipal officials to reschedule meetings so they don’t coincide with elections. This avoids any potential for people to either miss the opportunity to vote or not attend the public meeting.

Last year, Lewis County held a public hearing and its regular November board meeting on Election Night. The hearing was held to discuss whether the county should keep an elected treasurer or begin appointing someone to the post.

This proposal generated a lot of discussion among residents, and they deserved to have their say on the matter. So carrying out a public hearing and board meeting on Election Night was ill-advised.

Holding next month’s board meeting on Nov. 5 would be equally foolish. Legislators run the risk of having virtually no one show up to express themselves on the proposal or attract people to the hearing when they could be voting in their respective towns.

Lewis County officials should reschedule this public hearing and board meeting to another night. Voter turnout is low enough as it is. Legislators shouldn’t impose more burdens by conducting public business at the moment when residents are exercising their most fundamental right as citizens.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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