PACE Program, Acceptance of Firefighters Assistance Grant Filed
The Hopkins County Commissioners Court filed two items Monday related to a proposed loan program and decided to wait until a next meeting to formally consider accepting a grant to benefit local fire departments.
The first person to fill out the new public forum form to speak at the court of commissioners meeting was Doug Taylor, regarding a request made to the court to allow a PACE program in Hopkins County. He noted that he had spoken with and in front of the commissioners on two other occasions during a meeting and working session about 2 weeks ago regarding the PACE program.
Taylor said the program is a longer-term funding program, authorized by the legislature under the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Act of 2013, as stated in Chapter 399 of the Texas Local Government Code. This allows local governments to establish a commercial PACE program to encourage private sector investment in energy efficiency and water conservation. The PACE program, if approved, would be offered to owners on a strictly voluntary basis and Won’t do require the use of public funds or resources.
According to information provided to the Hopkins County Commissioners Court and posted on the county’s website (click here to download and view), the PACE program would allow “private sector owners of private commercial, industrial and multi-family residential properties of five or more homes to get low-cost, long-term loans to pay for water conservation, energy efficiency upgrades, and renewable energy retrofits. PACE loans could provide up to 100% financing of all project costs, with little or no upfront outlay for the owner.
Loans under the program would be secured by a voluntary property owner-imposed appraisal, according to PACE’s proposal. Assessments would be tied to the property and would follow title from one owner to another if the property is sold, with the obligation to pay the remaining balance of the assessment automatically transferred to the next owner.
Utility cost savings are expected to be equal to or greater than the appraisal amount, generating positive cash flow upon installation, as debt service is less than savings, according to the “Report Requirement by Texas Local Government Code Section 399.009 For Proposed Property Assessed Clean Energy”. (PACE)”.
All private sector owners of qualifying property located in the local government PACE area may
participate in the financing of PACE. “Eligible properties” include commercial, industrial and multi-family residential properties with five or more units. Government, residential and undeveloped properties and properties under development at the time of appraisal are not eligible for the loan program.
Qualified upgrades, depending on the program, include:
● High efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning (“HVAC”) systems
● High efficiency chillers, boilers and furnaces
● High efficiency water heating systems
● Energy management systems and controls
● Distributed production systems
● High efficiency lighting system improvements
● Improvements to the enclosure and building envelope
● Water conservation and wastewater recovery and reuse systems
● Combustion and burner improvements
● Heat recovery and steam traps
● Water management systems and controls (interior and exterior)
● High efficiency irrigation equipment.
The reduction in energy consumption resulting from the PACE program will ideally lead to a decrease in demand for electricity, resulting in reduced emissions from power plants.
Taylor said currently 80 cities and counties across the state are already using this program. There is no cost to the county; all fees are paid by the user.
A business planning to relocate to the area has been in touch with Taylor about a PACE loan to fund some of the costs of moving the business to the area. It just needs to be approved for county use. He also noted that all financial transactions regarding the program would be handled between PACE and the borrower; the county would have no role to play in that.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Price asked who would be responsible for collecting taxes if a loan recipient failed to pay their taxes. Taylor said taxes would be collected through the same means the county typically uses to try to collect when someone falls behind on tax payments, usually a service.
The Court of Commissioners has also incorporated a policy regarding how and when someone may request to place an item on the agenda of the Court of Commissioners on Monday, September 26, 2022.
Taylor said of the PACE loans taken out, none have defaulted, he assured Price. He also informed Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Anglin that the loan could cover the life of the property. For example, a traditional lender may charge 20% interest on a 5 year loan. PACE loans are valid for the life of the asset being financed.
Anglin asked Taylor if he was familiar with digesters, something a few local dairies have expressed interest in, and if the program would fund such purchases. Taylor said he knew of some in other states and had been contacted by someone considering a project in Erath County for a digester, which would capture manure runoff. Anglin said a pipeline in Compound 2 is being installed to connect to another pipeline. Taylor said the manure gas, once produced, could be cleaned and piped to the pipeline and sold as renewable natural gas, which in some places fetches a premium price, providing a revenue stream to help offset the cost. .
Price said he would like clarification on some program issues, including outstanding tax collections. Precinct 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker offered to file a resolution that would establish a PACE program in Hopkins County as well as file a professional services agreement with the Texas PACE Authority to administer the program.
Bursary for firefighters
Hopkins County Fire Marshal Andy Endsley told the Court of Commissioners Monday morning that Hopkins County received a firefighter assistance grant through the FEMA Operations and Safety program. The prize will help pay for the costs of new mobile and portable radios that firefighters can carry in their vehicles and use during calls.
“The primary purpose of the Firefighters Assistance Grant (AFG) is to meet the firefighting and emergency response needs of fire departments and unaffiliated emergency medical service organizations” , according to the Firefighter Assistance Grants page on the FEMA website. “Since 2001, AFG has helped firefighters and other first responders obtain the equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources needed to protect the public and emergency personnel from fires and related hazards. As of September 23, 2022, FEMA has awarded 1,839 awards totaling $322.8 million.
Endsley noted that in previous years, these regional grants could be obtained by applying on behalf of law enforcement and fire departments. As of 2015, this particular grant is only available to benefit fire departments, and a regional focus is encouraged.
The Hopkins County Fire Department has partnered with the Sulfur Springs, Mount Vernon, Delta County and Franklin County Fire Departments, including volunteer fire departments from each of these counties to apply for funding. Each department will be responsible for its share of counterpart funding.
“Originally it was a grant of $1.1 million, but with the federal government’s financial crisis, they reduced that amount to $651,099.98. We will have a 10% match for this and we will meet this Thursday with all entities involved in this,” Endsley said. “The grant writer tried to even out the number of mobile radios, which are the radios that go inside the device, and then the portable radios, the portable radios.
Endsley said he’s not sure if the county’s share of that 10% would be as it’s still being worked out, plus the $500 per agency fee owed to the grantmaker. County Auditor Shannah Aulsbrook asked for clarification that the $500 fee would be billed by VFD. Endsley claimed that was correct and the rate was still lower than most grant applications.
“Fire Marshal Endsley, looking at the numbers in front of us, the actual grant amount is $591,909, and we should be paying 10% of that, not the $651,000,” the precinct commissioner said. 3, Wade Bartley.
The FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grants page, however, shows the fiscal year 2021 grant awarded Sept. 16, 2022 to Hopkins County is $591,909.
Endsley asked Aulsbrook if she knew. Aulsbrook said she passed on to Endsley the information she received for the amount awarded.
Endsley said the government was continuing to increase the amount, which he was told by his contract. Bartley said an amount matched what was budgeted, so he wanted to make sure the case got the correct amount. Endsley said the matter could wait until a meeting on a date after Thursday’s meeting with the entities to be sure of the amount.
“If you can give me a few days, I can give you exact numbers on our percentages and all that,” Endsley said.
Aulsbrook noted that the award has a deadline by which the county must accept it, around October 15, and asked if the award notification letter included the date.
“Our next meeting will be on October 10, will it be too late to accept? asked County Judge Robert Newsom.
Aulsbrook said if necessary, if they learn the deadline for acceptance is sooner, a special meeting can be called to formally accept the grant in court.
The judge asked if they could have all the necessary information together if a special meeting was called next Friday. Endsley apologized for being ill-prepared to present the case, but they had only just been made aware of it, so not everything has been resolved yet.
Bartley made a motion, which Barker seconded, filing the case until a special court meeting at 9 a.m. on September 30. The Court of Commissioners agreed unanimously, tabling the grant, at least until next Friday’s meeting.