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Green loans may go to Vail Valley voters

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Rick Rogers’ business could get a boost next year, but Vail Valley politics has to give the right answers first.

Rogers is the general manager of the Eagle County branch of InsulVail, a local home insulation supply company. The company has been hit by the current slump in the local construction business. The boost could come if the Eagle County Commissioners put a question on the Nov. 3 ballot to create a new “local improvement district” and voters then pass the measure.

If those things happen, the county would create a program that would loan money for energy-efficient improvements to local homes. The full list hasn’t been created yet, but loans could be used for renovations ranging from solar panels to new windows to better insulation. The loans would be repaid through an additional payment tacked on to a home owner’s property tax bill.

As opposed to, say, a home improvement loan, these loans would remain with the homes that have been improved. So if a home owner decides to put solar panels on his roof, then sells the home before the loan is paid off, the next owner would continue paying for the improvements.

Rogers said he had heard about the program from Matt Scherr, head of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability. From what he’d heard, Rogers said the program sounds like a good one, mostly.

But, he said, upgrading older homes can be tricky, especially homes with cathedral ceilings.

“There’s really nothing magic you can do to put more insulation into one of those,” Rogers said. “It can become a challenge.”

That’s part of the catch. Just a little insulation may not qualify, since if the program is created, applicants will have to prove a project will pay for itself in energy savings.

Yuri Kostick, of the county’s environmental sustainability office, said that’s going to be perhaps the top consideration when looking at an application.

On the other hand, Kostick said the program will be aimed squarely at the valley’s middle class. If the county program is created, it will probably closely monitor an existing program in Boulder County. There, the minimum loan amount is $3,000, and the maximum is $50,000. The Boulder County loan program has a 15-year repayment term, and Kostick said that’s probably what will happen here.

In Boulder County in just the first year of the program, about 440 projects have been approved, and the county has sold $6.6 million in bonds to pay for it.

That’s quite a bit of work, and, given the state of the construction industry, more work is more than welcome.

“We’re in the window business, and it could be a real positive for us,” Edwards Building Center general manager Mike Burk said.

And windows, doors and other sources of heat-leakage may be a big part of the program, if Boulder County’s example holds true here.

But there could be other kinds of improvements, too. Solar panels would be an obvious choice to consider. But Ray Winsor thinks his business might benefit, too.

Winsor owns Sun-Ray Window Tinting in Eagle. Winsor said some of his products will actually reflect heat back into a building, and most carries a government “Energy Star” certification, meaning it meet federal efficiency standards.

“We’d certainly consider something like that,” Kostick said. And, he said, a big part of any program the county might create would have local jobs in mind.

“We’ve been having a lot of discussions with the governor’s energy office,” Kostick said. “At one of those meetings, there were business people who said their doors are still open because of this, and that’s something we’re interested in.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.


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