Stories indexed with the term ‘energy efficiency’

Council Rejects City Hall Renovation

The Ann Arbor city council has passed a resolution that asks the city planning commission to remove a “reskinning” project for the city hall building from the capital improvements plan (CIP) for FY 2017 and FY 2018. The vote came at the council’s June 2, 2014 meeting, over dissent from Margie Teall (Ward 4).

The item had been postponed from the council’s May 19, 2014 meeting.

According to a staff memo written in response to a councilmember question, reskinning of the Larcom City Hall building would mean replacing the existing exterior walls and windows of the building. The result would be new squared-off exterior, eliminating the inverted pyramid design. The new exterior would hang vertically from the sixth floor.

The focus of … [Full Story]

Countywide PACE Program Created

A new countywide program to help finance energy-efficiency projects for commercial properties was created with final approval from the Washtenaw County board of commissioners on Feb. 5, 2014. Initial approval had been given at the board’s Jan. 22, 2014 meeting, which included public commentary from supporters of the initiative. [.pdf of PACE program documentation] [.pdf of PACE cover memo] [.pdf PACE resolution]

The countywide Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program aims to help owners of commercial (not residential) properties pay for energy improvements by securing financing from commercial lenders and repaying the loan through voluntary special assessments.

The county is joining the Lean & Green Michigan coalition and contracting with Levin Energy Partners to manage the PACE program. Andy Levin, who’s … [Full Story]

More Steps to Create County PACE Program

At its Jan. 22, 2014 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners gave initial approval to establish a countywide Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. A final vote to establish the program is expected at the board’s Feb. 5 meeting.

The board had issued a notice of intent to create the program at its meeting on Jan. 8, 2014.

The goal of PACE is to help owners of commercial (not residential) properties pay for energy improvements by securing financing from commercial lenders and repaying the loan through voluntary special assessments.

The county’s proposal entails joining the Lean & Green Michigan coalition and contracting with Levin Energy Partners to manage the PACE program. Andy Levin, who’s spearheading the PACE program statewide through … [Full Story]

County Wraps Up 2013 with PACE Initiative

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Dec. 4, 2013): At their final meeting of 2013, commissioners spent most of the time discussing a proposal to create a countywide Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program.

Andy Levin, Felicia Brabec, Washtenaw County board of commissioners, Lean & Green Michigan, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Andy Levin of Lean & Green Michigan talks with Washtenaw County commissioner Felicia Brabec before the county board’s Dec. 4, 2013 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

They ultimately gave initial approval to a notice of intent to form a PACE program. If created, the program would allow commercial property owners in Washtenaw County to fund energy improvements by securing financing from lenders and repaying the loan through voluntary special assessments.

The county’s proposal entails joining the Lean & Green Michigan coalition and contracting with Levin Energy Partners to manage the PACE program. Andy Levin, who’s spearheading the PACE program statewide through Lean & Green, was on hand during the Dec. 4 meeting to field questions. Levin – son of U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin and nephew of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin – was head of the Michigan Dept. of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth (DELEG) during Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration, when the PACE legislation was enacted.

Also attending the Dec. 4 meeting was state Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-District 18), who spoke briefly during public commentary to support the county’s initiative. She was instrumental in passing the state enabling legislation to allow such programs in Michigan. Warren is married to county commissioner Conan Smith, a co-founder of the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office, which is a partner in Lean & Green Michigan.

A final vote on the notice of intent is now scheduled for the board’s first meeting next year – on Jan. 8, 2014. A public hearing on this issue has been set for the board’s Jan. 22 meeting. That’s because the board would need to take an additional vote to actually create the PACE district. No date for that vote to create the district has been set.

In other action, commissioners accepted a $150,000 state grant to establish the Washtenaw County Trial Court’s Peacemaking Court. Timothy Connors, a 22nd circuit court judge who’s leading this initiative, attended the Dec. 4 meeting and told the board that this project will explore and determine what, if any, tribal court philosophies or procedures might have applicability in Michigan’s courts. Participation in the peacemaking court will be voluntary.

The board also made a raft of appointments, including appointing the county’s water resources commissioner, Evan Pratt, as director of public works. That vote came over dissent from commissioner Rolland Sizemore Jr. The board of public works had raised a question about the appointment’s potential conflict-of-interest, given that Pratt holds an elected office as water resources commissioner. The county’s corporation counsel, Curtis Hedger, prepared a legal opinion on the issue, stating that the appointment would not be prohibited by the state’s Incompatible Public Offices Act.

No appointment was made to the southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority (RTA). Richard Murphy – one of two RTA board members from Washtenaw County – is not seeking reappointment. During the Dec. 4 meeting, board chair Yousef Rabhi indicated that there’s some uncertainty about when Murphy’s one-year term actually ends, and he was sorting that out with state and RTA officials. Because RTA board members weren’t sworn in until April of 2013, some state and RTA officials believe the term extends until April – even though appointments for Washtenaw County’s two slots were made by the previous county board chair, Conan Smith, in late 2012.

The application process is still open for the RTA, with a new deadline of Jan. 12. That same deadline applies to openings on the county’s food policy council and parks & recreation commission. Applicants can submit material online, or get more information by contacting the county clerk’s office at 734-222-6655 or [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Council Supports Energy Agenda

Three energy-related items were acted on by the Ann Arbor city council at its March 4, 2013 meeting. The council authorized expanded use of its energy fund to support community energy efficiency programs – not just programs to improve municipal energy efficiency. The resolution effecting the change to the fund’s use limits its use for community programs to 20% of the existing fund balance. That balance, according to environmental coordinator Matt Naud, stands at around $400,000. The kind of support the energy fund is intended to provide includes establishing future loan loss reserve funds, providing low-interest loans, and buying down interest rates.

A second energy-related item approved by the council on March 4 was a resolution to prepare the city’s infrastructure … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Postpones Bonds for Clean Energy

The Ann Arbor city council postponed until Feb. 19 a step that would help owners of commercial property make improvements designed to help save energy under the city’s property assessed clean energy (PACE) program.

That step will be to authorize the issuance and sale of up to $1 million in bonds in support of the energy improvements to be undertaken by five property owners. In broad strokes, the PACE program is enabled by state legislation – the Property Assessed Clean Energy Act 270 of 2010. Property owners take out loans to make energy improvements to be repaid through regular installments as part of their taxes. Municipalities like the city of Ann Arbor administer the program. More than a year … [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Accepts Sustainability Grant

At its May 21, 2012 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council authorized receipt of $256,000 to create a community-scale energy strategy to increase energy efficiency improvements in rental housing.

The rationale for the project, according to a staff memo, is to address energy costs that are regressive, because renters often pay more on utilities due to the condition of rental housing stock. That is, higher energy costs affect poorer renters more. The grant will be used to develop a strategy to address inefficiencies in rental housing and thereby increase the affordability of rental housing stock.

The money was awarded to the city as part of a larger $3 million grant given last year to Washtenaw County through the U.S. Housing and … [Full Story]

More Solar Energy Projects In the Works

Bonnie Bona insists that the best way to make pesto is with a mortar and pestle. While she admits the method is more labor-intensive than using a food processor, Bona cites it as yet another tip to become more eco-friendly.

MIchigan Theater Building on East Liberty

The plain brick wall on the Michigan Theater Building on East Liberty in downtown Ann Arbor – rising up behind the storefronts – will be the site of a solar panel installation funded by XSeed Energy, a program of the Clean Energy Coalition and the city of Ann Arbor. (Photos by Mary Morgan.)

As a project manager for the Ypsilanti-based Clean Energy Coalition, Bona specializes in this art of saving energy. She is quick to add, however, that “my goal isn’t to make people sacrifice and suffer. It’s to make them see opportunities where life can be better and, oh, by the way, it uses a lot less energy.”

But it’s not just about using less energy. Bona and others in the Ann Arbor area are involved with projects that focus on generating alternative energy, too – in particular, solar power. Prompted in part by the lure of tax credits and available state and federal funding, an increasing number of efforts are underway to install solar panels on individual residences, businesses, nonprofits and schools – including, as one recent example, the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor.

And in mid-August, the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission unanimously approved two solar installation projects in historic districts, one for a private home on South Seventh Street, and another at the Michigan Theater. With some citing concern over aesthetics, commissioners acknowledged that they’ll likely see more of these requests in the future, and discussed the need to develop guidelines for solar installations within the city’s historic districts. [Full Story]

UM Regents: Entrepreneurs, Energy

University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting (Dec. 17, 2009): The December meeting of the UM Board of Regents was packed with presentations – on entrepreneurship, a new enrollment policy for Ph.D. students, and environmental sustainability efforts on campus.

Tom Kinnear talks with University of Michigan regent Julia Darlow.

Tom Kinnear talks with University of Michigan regent Julia Darlow. Regent Denise Ilitch is seated to the left. Kinnear is head of UM's Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, and spoke to regents about programs for student entrepreneurship. (Photo by the writer.)

Regents also approved the naming of the Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital, reflecting a $15 million gift to the institution – part of the massive $754 million C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital complex being built and expected to open in 2012.

The board signed off on several facilities projects, including interior work on offices at the former Pfizer site, now called the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC), as well as the next step in renovations of the Couzens Hall dormitory.

Also approved was a letter making UM’s annual operating request to the state, which laid out why legislators should appropriate funds to support the university in fiscal 2011. The letter, under the signature of UM president Mary Sue Coleman, did not request a specific dollar amount.

Coleman kicked off the meeting, as she typically does, with some opening remarks that led to news about plans to hold the April 2010 regents meeting in an unusual location: Grand Rapids. [Full Story]

County Gets $4.1 Million Weatherization Grant

Washtenaw County’s weatherization program, which typically serves about 100 homes annually out of a $350,000 budget, is getting $4.1 million over the next 18 months from the 2009 federal stimulus package. That amount will allow the program to weatherize 600 homes – and lower utility bills – for low- to moderate-income families during that period.

To ramp up for this influx of federal funding, the program will be hiring staff for the duration of the grant, which runs from April 1, 2009 through Sept. 30, 2010. Aaron Kraft, program coordinator, said there are two full-time employees now (including him), plus a private contractor who does inspections. Kraft expects they’ll need seven full-time staff in the office to handle outreach and applications, four more inspectors and double the number of general contractors that they use to work on these projects.

In addition to the increased number of houses they’ll be able to serve, the amount that can be spent per house has roughly doubled, Kraft said. Not including administrative costs, about $4,500 will be available for each home. The program covers houses, mobile homes, townhomes and condominiums, but not usually apartments in large complexes, Kraft said. [Full Story]

Council Focuses on Development Issues

Ann Arbor City Council Sunday caucus (Jan. 4, 2009): Sunday night’s regular caucus focused on development issues: (i) a proposed PUD, City Place, to be built along Fifth Avenue, and (ii) redevelopment proposals for the city-owned property at 415 W. Washington. The caucus was bookended by remarks from representatives from two of the design teams for the 415 W. Washington, Peter Allen and Peter Pollack. [Full Story]