Published: Sep 15, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Sep 14, 2012 12:43 PM
CARRBORO - A federal grant that has cut energy bills for some Carrboro homes and businesses may soon benefit even more Carrboro families.
The Board of Aldermen discussed revising the energy program earlier this month to give a greater share of the remaining money to apartments and other multi-family residences.
Carrboro WISE (Worthwhile Investments Save Energy) started in late 2010. Funding came from the Southeastern Energy Efficiency Alliance through the U.S. Department of Energy under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The town has received nearly $300,000 in grant money, which is used to audit and retrofit businesses and single- and multi-family residences.
Matt Efird, assistant to the town manager, said the WISE program has awarded loans to four Carrboro businesses and completed 22 audits and six retrofits to single-family homes.
The town received the last round of funding in January, which provided $75,000 to fund a multi-family pilot project. Efird said the pilot project has already completed 19 multi-family renovations.
The program has met its goals for local businesses, but only 25 of the 100 required residential projects have been completed.
There is about $120,000 remaining to complete 75 residential projects. The grant will end in May 2013.
Efird asked the Board of Aldermen to use up to $50,000 of the currently available $75,000 in single-family residential funds for multi-family projects.
This would leave at least $25,000 remaining for single-family projects.
While board members supported using the grant money before it runs out, some expressed concern that the retrofits could raise rent for low-income families.
“Sometimes when rental properties are upgraded with public money, the rent goes up because they become more desirable,” said Alderwoman Jacquelyn Gist.
Matt Kuykendall, WISE program manager, said the revised program design originally included a clause that would prevent property owners from raising rent for two years following the energy audits or retrofits. But he said the clause was eventually pulled from the final version.
Gist and other board members asked Town Attorney Michael Brough to determine whether the clause can be reinstated.
“We are going to have to go back and research if what the board is asking for can be accomplished,” Efird said. “We are still in the research phase right now.”