‘Smart loan’ program headed to Vail Valley voters | VailDaily.com

‘Smart loan’ program headed to Vail Valley voters

Vail Daily file photoVoluntary Vail Valley program would, if approved by voters in November, provide low-interest loans for projects including new windows, insulation and, in some cases, solar panels

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Julie Norberg toted her five-month-old daughter, Elloise, to an Eagle County Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday to lobby for a ballot issue.

The ballot issue in question, called the “Energy Smart Loan” program, would allow local home owners to get money for energy-efficient home improvements. The loans would be repaid through a special assessment on owners’ property tax bills.

Norberg, a member of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability, said that group would campaign for the ballot issue, and help organize the program if the ballot measure passes.

“We’re doing this for ourselves, but for our children, too,” Norberg said.

While acknowleging that several details need to be worked out if voters approve the measure, the commissioners voted unanimously to put the question on the fall ballot.

“We need to go into this with our eyes open,” Commissioner Peter Runyon said. “We’ll really need to weigh how financially viable this would be for each homeowner.

“But as a county whose entire economic engine is based on the environment, it’s appropriate to be a lead county on this,” he added. “If we can have a smaller environmental footprint, it’s all to the good.”

If voters pass the measure in November, the commissioners will then create a plan. They also have the option to stop the process if the numbers don’t work.

If Eagle County does create a plan, it will join Boulder County in a program authorized by the Colorado Legislature last year.

The voluntary program provides low-interest loans for projects including new windows, insulation and, in some cases, solar panels. Those projects are generally expensive, and although various rebates are available through government and utility companies, home owners still face significant up-front costs. The “smart loan” program would cover those initial costs.

“It would be great to increase the efficiency in the local housing stock. But it’s hard to get that money up front now,” said Megan Gilman the president of Active Energies, a local solar energy and consulting company.

Gilman, who’s also the current chairwoman of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability’s board of directors, added that a “smart loan” program would create work for companies like hers.

“This would be great for jobs,” she said. “We could create ‘green collar’ jobs out of some of our blue collar jobs.”

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

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