County Council To Hold Second Public Hearing On PACE Program

Some changes made to the proposed ordinance require another hearing.

Frederick, Md (KM) A second public hearing is expected to take place on a bill to bring the Property Assessed Clean Energy program to Frederick County. The Council held a hearing last Tuesday, September 20th, but some changes were made which necessitate  a second hearing.

PACE would lend to businesses which want to upgrade to clean energy, or other efficiencies in their operations. The money would be borrowed against the companies’ tax bills. The loan would be administered by a third party entity. “The eligible kinds of projects that people could do are energy efficiency, solar, geothermal, things that have to do with installation of clean energy,” says Shannon Moore, the Manger of the County’s Office of Sustainability.

She said the borrower would repay the loan through their county tax bills. The county would not be in the lending business.

Diane Fox, director of the County Treasurer’s Office, said there would be no financial impact on the County. “Since there will be a third party administrator handling the loans, they will provide us with a file that we can upload into our tax system. And the charge just goes out on the tax bill just like any other charge would. The collection is all part of our process,” she said.

Helen Propheter, the Director of the Office of Economic Development, said PACE could make it possible for many businesses to afford these retrofits. “I think that PACE will allow many businesses who don’t feel that they can currently afford it to come up with a long term to come with a long term way of affording it, and finding a way to be able to pay back the loan,” she said.

And Gerard Neeley, the Program Manager of the Maryland Commercial PAC Program, said it will also create local jobs in their respective communities. “It’s not out-of-state contractors moving in to do a huge project for a large commercial entity. These are mostly small to mid-size businesses that take advantage of the PACE lending scenario,” he said.

These changeovers to clean energy and efficiency programs could help with the local power grid, says Randy Cohen, who owns several Frederick County businesses. “This would help relieve the grid by providing extra energy indirectly,” Cohen said.

The change that necessitated the additional hearing would have deleted the word “energy” from this section of the ordinance which describes the eligibility for borrowers. “Obtain an energy audit under program guidelines that the {the word ‘energy’ deleted here} savings projected to be obtained from the improvements over the life of the loan equal or exceed the principal and aggregate interest to be paid over the term of the loan.”

The county staff say they will revise the ordinance and bring it back for a public hearing at a future date.

Seven counties in Maryland have adopted the PACE program.

By Kevin McManus