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City backs local energy group’s grant efforts

CCLEP011410Mixdown.mp35.45 MB

The Cook County Local Energy Project has made an impression on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. So much so that the MPCA wants to include CCLEP in its grant to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. For over a year CCLEP has been concentrating on energy efficiency and energy sustainability projects.

“It was a surprise to us. We didn’t ask for it,” CCLEP member George Wilkes told the Grand Marais City Council Wednesday. As a part of a much larger grant application, MPCA is including $60,000 over three years to fund an administrator for CCLEP. Wilkes and fellow CCLEP member Buck Benson asked the city for a letter of support for their organization. The letter will accompany the MPCA’s grant application.

Wilkes and Benson said they only learned about the grant a few days ago and the turn around time for the support letter was short. Mayor Sue Hakes said she supported CCLEP’s efforts but was uncomfortable supporting something she hadn’t had time to read and discuss. Wilkes said the support was for CCLEP, not the entire MPCA proposal. Councilor Jan Sivertson agreed.

“Sounds like they’re trying to support the local groups out there doing the work – to get it out from under the MPCA – to empower communities to do the work on their own,” Sivertson said.

The council voted 3 to 1 in favor, with Hakes voting against. Councilor Tim Kennedy was not in attendance.

CCLEP also requested council support for federal stimulus money through the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Wilkes said only cities and counties could apply, but a letter of intent was necessary from the city. The letter was described as a “place holder” and the city could opt out of applying if further study did not prove beneficial to the city. The grant would fund up to $100,000 of energy efficient projects in the city.

Wilkes said CCLEP would write the grant with the help of City Administrator Mike Roth. The grant deadline is short; it’s due the end of the month. The grant would fund a central heating biomass feasibility study, provide energy improvements to city lighting, fund an experimental solar hot water system at the recreation park and improve energy efficiency in city buildings. Roth said these projects have all been discussed by the city in the past.

“These are projects we’re not ready to go with, but we’ve already talked about them,” said Roth. “If we can have a proposal from CCLEP by the next meeting, I don’t see any reason not to send a letter of intent now.”

Council voted unanimously to support the grant application by submitting a letter of intent to the Department of Commerce.