Ferrisburgh clean energy program is ready

FERRISBURGH — About a year-and-half after Ferrisburgh voters narrowly approved the town becoming a Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) district, Ferrisburgh homeowners may now apply for a program that could fund energy improvements to their homes with long-term loans.
The Ferrisburgh selectboard on Sept. 3 cleared one hurdle by agreeing to a contract with Efficiency Vermont to administer the PACE program for the town, pending a quick review by the town attorney.
Town officials learned a major statewide hurdle had also been cleared when the National Bank of Middlebury recently agreed to dedicate a $1 million loan fund to PACE programs in 31 Vermont towns, including Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Monkton and Weybridge, as well as Ferrisburgh.
“We finally can move forward. They have funding,” said Ferrisburgh selectboard chairwoman Loretta Lawrence.
The key for homeowners in a Vermont PACE district is they can qualify for long-term loans for energy improvements — such as better insulation; more efficient hot-water heaters, wood or pellet stoves or even furnaces; and possibly solar equipment — because the towns agree to treat the loans as tax liens.
Because those loans can then run for up to 20 years, monthly payments can be equal to or less than the energy savings realized, according to Ferrisburgh energy committee head Bob McNary and Efficiency Vermont representatives who met with Ferrisburgh officials in 2012.
Those liens will run with the property in case of a sale. In case of a default towns are protected by the penalties they can collect for late payments, by an annual $50 fee collected on each loan, and from a $1 million “loan loss reserve fund” created by the Legislature for that purpose.
McNary said many homeowners will still prefer to buy energy efficiency improvements outright or get typical bank financing, but that the PACE program will be the right fit for a number of residents, including seniors on fixed incomes living in older, less efficient homes.
Several residents have already expressed interest in the program, said McNary, who expects a typical PACE loan to range from $5,000 to $8,500.
The first move for most homeowners is probably an energy audit, he said, at a cost of $300 to $450. That cost and application fees can be rolled into the loan, McNary said. One possible risk to a homeowner is that the energy audit would be non-refundable if the homeowner did not end up in the program, but McNary said the audit should pay for itself regardless.
Those interested in learning more should act quickly to contact one of Ferrisburgh’s energy committee members — McNary, Deb Healey, Richard Hiscock and Roger Holzapfel.
“We can give them the basics … and send them in the right direction and get them started in the process,” McNary said.
The initial sign-up period begins on Sept. 10 and could be as short as a month; last week McNary was not sure how long it would last, and he recommended residents move quickly.
“It would behoove folks if they are interested … to get in touch with one of us as soon as possible,” he said.
In other business on Sept. 3, the selectboard met twice in executive session regrading the town-owned land at the junction of Routes 7 and 22A, once with a potential purchaser (see story on Page 1).
Selectboard members also briefly discussed creating a new town-wide parking law, a task they will take up at their next meeting. Lawrence said a town-wide law could solve some minor, but persistent, parking problems that arise when special events like bicycle races are staged in Ferrisburgh, and could also deal with overnight parking on town roads during the winter months when town crews need unblocked roads to plow.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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