City staff has already mailed the application for a grant for $105,000, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office, to build a 150 kW solar photovoltaic system on Sunset Mesa.
The resolution before the council Tuesday night was to ratify the mayor’s signature on the application, but Mayor Kathy Ellis said she doesn’t want any federal stimulus money, even though no matching funds are required from the city.
“I’m opposed to stimulus money,” she said.
Councilmember Carol McDermott said she was in favor of trying to get the grant because it will help local businesses, and councilmember Gail Marvel agreed.
“We all paid in and someone will get those funds,” Marvel said.
Councilmember Bill Patterson also supported the resolution, but Thomas Smits opposed it on the same grounds as Ellis.
“Spending has to stop and it has to stop at the local government level,” Smits said.
The resolution passed 3-2, with Ellis and Smits voting no.
There’s no guarantee the city will even get the grant, said City of Montrose Administrative Director Virgil Turner, but it has a pretty good chance.
The Governor’s Energy Office wants the grant to go to a city that has already demonstrated energy efficiency in a public building. Montrose has done that with its renovation of the Elks Civics Building, a project completed several years ago under Turner’s oversight.
The Elks building uses geothermal energy and has received more than a half dozen awards, the latest in October when it got the prestigious Energy Star Award from the Environmental Protection Agency.
“It was the first Energy Star-rated building in Montrose and one of the very few in western Colorado,” Turner said in an interview before the city council meeting.
The Governor’s Energy Office will award only two grants this grant cycle, Turner said, and the city will find out in about a month if the application is approved. Turner has high hopes, and believes the city will benefit in the long run.
According to Turner, when the city purchases energy conventionally from the power grid, it “leaks” dollars from the community to the power source, such as gas fields or power plants.
“If we can bring energy production local, it’s more sustainable,” he said. “Our solar resources are very good, with lots of days of sunshine and good exposure to southern skies.”
But renewable energy comes at a premium compared to coal-fueled power, and the grant will help pay the difference for the first few years. Assistant City Manager Scott Sellers told council that after 15 years the city will own the equipment and the system will pay for itself.