Town looks to feds for 'green' projects - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Town looks to feds for 'green' projects

Money tied to Obama’s economic stimulus plan

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Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:28 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

Oro Valley officials are actively engaged in snaring more federal stimulus dollars for the town.

"We've identified 115 federal programs," said town planner Bayer Vella.

One strong opportunity for federal dollars comes from the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program. Federal officials allotted $3.2 billion to the program that seeks to help local governments reduce energy consumption and fossil fuel usage.

The grant program is not the standard competitive federal grant program; instead, state and local governments are allocated funds based on 2007 U.S. Census figures.

Under that formula, Oro Valley would receive up to $164,200 if the town's application reaches Department of Energy officials by the June 25 deadline.

The town would have to meet certain criteria and report to federal officials regularly once the money is disbursed. Among the stipulations, the town would need to provide proof that the money was spent to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save energy and create jobs.

Vella and other town officials are working on a list of projects that comply with the federal program's 14 eligible funding activities. The list includes retrofitting town buildings to use solar and other renewable energy technologies, implementing conservation strategies and upgrading building codes to promote energy efficiency.

"It's a really wide range of opportunities," Vella said.

Another possibility would be to use the money to upgrade older electric motors used to run pumps on the town’s water infrastructure system. The pumps are used not only to draw water up from the ground, but also to pressurize the system so that water can reach areas in the town at higher elevations.

The water department's electric bills tops more than $1 million per year, said Philip Saletta, Oro Valley Water Utility director. Upgrades could save the town substantial amounts of money in electric costs.

Saletta said the town upgrades selected aged pumps annually on wells and booster stations to use soft-start motors, which allow for a gradual application of power that reduces stress on the motor and minimizes electricity consumption.

Most town wells have one or two motors, while the booster stations can use multiple motors.

The federal funding opportunity comes at a time when the town already was engaged in seeking ways to minimize energy consumption and implementing policies to foster environmentally sustainable practices.

For example, in August 2007 the Oro Valley Town Council unanimously adopted Leadership in Energy Efficient Design, or LEED, standards for all new town buildings, renovations and additions.

The U.S. Green Building Council in 2000 developed LEED standards, a system based on points whereby building projects qualify for a range of certification levels based on categories like sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy consumption, materials, indoor environmental quality and innovation in design.

Last year, town officials gathered a group of department representatives, the so-called "Green Team," tasked with creating a townwide "sustainability plan."

"When this funding came through, it seemed like a natural extension of what the 'Green Team' was doing," Vella said.

Town officials also recently paid a consultant to develop an environmentally sensitive lands ordinance to protect the natural assets in the town.

Vella, along with other town officials, have met regularly to explore possibilities to take advantage of the federal funding opportunities.

Last December, the town requested federal aid for projects totaling more than $570 million. Those projects included road-widening work, communications equipment upgrades at town hall, construction of new administration buildings, a delivery system for Central Arizona Project water, and the construction of a park at the Naranja Town Site.

Federal officials have not ruled on funding for the other projects.

OV getting $3M for road projects

In March, town officials learned that Oro Valley would receive $3 million for five road improvement projects.

Those road projects include:

• Tangerine Road, from La Cañada Drive to La Cholla Boulevard

• Lambert Lane, from First Avenue to Pusch View Drive

• Naranja Drive, from La Cañada to La Cholla

• La Cañada, from Naranja to Lambert

• Rancho Vistoso Boulevard, from Moore Road to Tangerine

The roadwork funding represents the first installment of federal funds the town has received in connection to the stimulus plan.

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