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Columbia County joins PACE, clean energy program

July 20, 2019

The Columbia County Board of Supervisors voted to begin a membership with Wisconsin’s Property Assessed Clean Energy program Wednesday.

PACE Wisconsin works with municipalities and counties to assist commercial property owners to secure financing for renewable energy projects, increase energy efficiency and conserve water in qualified building projects or upgrades, according to Jason Stringer, a PACE Wisconsin representative who spoke to the board.

Financing for eligible projects is given to property owners through local state banks or credit unions, there is no cost to the county or use of taxpayer dollars. Financing is secured through a property tax assessment, which incurs a special charge to the property owner from the county. The special charge and loan for construction will be paid back directly to the lender, through savings on the property owner’s utility bills.

“The financings are voluntary. They are just like any other loan,” said Stringer. “The utility bills in most cases cover the payments.”

The first project that will benefit from the county’s membership in the PACE program is Riverwood Eagle’s Nest senior living community in Wisconsin Dells, which would use PACE funding for energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and windows.

“The windows and doors matter, so you don’t get the drafts,” said property owner and manager, Mary Panzer. “Anything that keeps people feeling cozy, prevents falls from happening. That’s the biggest thing you have to worry about with elderly people.”

Owners hope to break ground and begin work on the building before winter. The community living development will be for people 55 and older who live active lifestyles. The facility will allow seniors to live independently, while offering medical care on site if needed.

According to John Hochkammer, manager of Wisconsin Counties Association Outreach, the program now has 42 counties as members, including Columbia. Hochkammer says neighboring Sauk County was a very early adopter of the program.

Nearby Dodge County also considered the program, but has not yet become a member.

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