Leftover bond funds go to energy program

PARKERSBURG -Wood County commissioners voted to turn over more than $48,000 remaining from a 1990s housing program to a new energy project.

After a multi-county 1992 bond housing program closed out, Wood County recently received a $48,274 check. Funds are held in reserve with bond programs to assure outstanding loans are covered. Sometimes there are funds leftover after the program has closed out and all loans have been repaid. Checks for the remaining funds in the 1992 project were returned to the five counties involved in the original program.

The original program was a housing consortium aimed at helping low-income families with energy efficiency projects. Wood, Harrison, Brooke, Tyler and Wetzler counties participated in the bond program.

“It was originally used for housing so I would move we place the remaining proceeds into the new energy program,” Commissioner Blair Couch said. “It’s found money. The bond agreement is paid off and these proceeds were returned to the county.”

“That will really transform the program,” commission President Wayne Dunn said, noting other funding the program organizers had anticipated fell through, so the funding was needed.

“If it’s not used, it can be returned to the county general fund,” Dunn said.

Couch and Commissioner Steve Gainer voted to move the funds over, Dunn, who was involved in originally getting the program started, abstained.

The project is aimed at middle-incomers who can’t qualify for federal assistance but can’t afford to finance energy upgrades.

Meeting with the commissioners last spring, Gary Thompson, professor in energy management/solar energy programs at West Virginia University at Parkersburg, outlined the collaborative project.

“This program will mean a savings in energy and home maintenance costs, as well as improve indoor air quality. The main goal is to improve the energy efficiency of middle- and upper-middle income homeowners. The lower income qualify for federal programs, but there is no help or incentive for middle-income homeowners to make these changes,” Dunn said during the earlier meeting.

According to the West Virginia Consumer Advocate Division, rates for electricity since 2008 have continued to increase, 36 percent in Wood County and 47 percent in West Virginia.

“Almost 40 percent of energy use in the U.S. goes to residential and commercial buildings; one-half of that is to residential homes for space heating/and one-half of that is lost,” Thompson told commissioners at the earlier meeting.

The project includes everything from sealing leaks, installing insulation, caulking windows, installing weather stripping, window replacement to changing water heaters and energy upgrades for furnace and air-conditioning to make them more energy efficient.

“We would first have an energy assessment done then determine the needs,” Thompson said.

Mid-range annual income is considered $32,500-$72,500, and slightly lower in West Virginia. Thompson said there are 40,000 housing units in the county, with the medium value $102,000, the medium income is $42,000 and there are 36,000 households.

At the time, Thompson told commissioners the program was looking for additional funding sources to get started, including possible grants from DuPont, West Virginia Housing and Urban Development and educational grants. The program would use WVU-P energy program students to assist with energy surveys and program awareness, and Community Resources Inc. would administer the program, it was announced at the spring meeting.

County officials said the program is now being integrated into the county finance system with the county acting as a conduit for the funding involved with the project. Officials have met with Wood County lerk Jamie Six to discuss how the financial aspects would be handled.