Ferrisburgh board tables energy plan

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh selectmen took no action at their Dec. 21 meeting to move the town toward becoming a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) district, an action that could — but only after a positive vote by residents — make Ferrisburgh property owners eligible for town-backed, low-cost loans for energy efficiency upgrades.
The selectboard heard a presentation about PACE from Vermont Energy Investment Corp. official Peter Adamczyk and town energy coordinator Bob McNary.
The program, which has been successful in some California and Colorado communities, allows towns to issue bonds to back loans of up to 20 years for eligible energy upgrades.
Property owners repay the loans via special monthly tax assessments, which serve as a lien on their real estate.
The loans allow the costs of the upgrades to be spread over the long term, making them more affordable by reducing upfront costs and monthly payments; proponents said payments can be less than energy savings in many cases.
But selectboard chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said it appears to selectmen that right now “there seem to be more questions than answers” about the program, although six Vermont municipalities, including Burlington, have taken the plunge.
“At this point in time, we’re just gathering information on it,” Lawrence said in an interview the day after the meeting.
Adamczyk said in an interview before the meeting that there are problems with the Vermont PACE law, including a provision that the tax lien vanishes in the case of a property foreclosure instead of carries forward to a new owner, and that the law lacks solid backing for a fund that would reimburse towns for financial losses in case of a loan default. Adamczyk said he and other proponents are lobbying for changes in the law.
At the national level, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has taken the position that PACE liens must stand behind federally backed mortgage loans in foreclosures, a stand Adamczyk said flies in the face of precedent when it comes to how tax assessments are handled.
Lawrence said in addition to those concerns, selectmen also wonder how a proposed central Vermont office to handle PACE paperwork and processing for towns will be funded.
Given the uncertainties, she said selectmen have adopted a wait-and-see position.
“We did not take any action,” she said. “We just listened.”
In other business at that Tuesday meeting, Ferrisburgh selectmen:
• Agreed to hold interviews with two candidates for the now-vacant position of zoning administrator. Selectmen had hoped to conduct those candidate interviews this week jointly with zoning board chairwoman Charlene Stavenow and planning commission chairman Bob Beach, and possibly make a hiring decision at their Jan. 4 meeting. Prior zoning administrator Tom Mansfield announced earlier this year he would step down, and finished work two weeks ago.
• Approved specs for a new Old Hollow Road bridge over Lewis Creek. Lawrence said selectmen hope to identify the winning bidder by early February, and work should begin in June.
• Heard a pitch from Bixby Library trustees that the library’s annual donation from Ferrisburgh become a budgeted line item, not a voter-approved charitable donation. Selectmen took the request under advisement, said Lawrence, who added regardless the Bixby will be seeking an increase in its funding from Ferrisburgh to about $35,000 from roughly $29,000.
• Received the results of the town’s annual audit, which Lawrence termed “very good.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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