MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – Oops.
Turns out that the Town of Telluride proceeded with plans to install a $600,000 solar array to diversify renewable energy and reduce energy costs at its Wastewater Treatment Plant, assuming that the Town of Mountain Village would kick in a substantial portion of that cost, but without ever securing that financial commitment.
So Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser wasn’t altogether joking last week when he said he was throwing himself at the mercy of the Mountain Village Town Council in hopes of nailing down $157,000 in after-the-fact funding from the mid-mountain community as the project nears completion.
Although the plant is owned and operated by the Town of Telluride, Mountain Village, whose wastewater is treated at the Society Turn facility, has an agreement to pay 35 percent of the plant’s operational and capital improvement costs. A $150,000 grant secured from the Governor’s Energy Office for the 112-kilowatt array helped reduce the two towns’ costs to $450,000.
“There was not a formal presentation made to you, which there should have been,” said Fraser, who was joined before council by Telluride Town Manager Greg Clifton.
“We are today making the presentation to you in great hopes that you’ll be able to participate in the 35 percent figure,” he continued.
“I am throwing myself on the carpet.”
The Town of Telluride committed to the project, which should reduce energy costs at the facility by 10 to 15 percent annually, after Fraser and Delves announced in May 2009 a “mayoral challenge” for the communities they represent to secure 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.
The Telluride/Mountain Village Regional Renewable Energy Initiative – or Telluride Renewed – added to prior commitments made by the two towns to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by the year 2020, as put forth in the Colorado Climate Action Plan initiated by Gov. Bill Ritter in November 2007.
But in proceeding with the project, Telluride also neglected to have Mountain Village review and approve it, according to the terms of their agreement. (In turn, Mountain Village cannot reasonably withhold its approval from such projects).
Sure, Delves did sign a letter of support for the project as part of Telluride’s GEO grant application, but he said he “didn’t have any indication it was going to cost us money.”
Delves surmised that Telluride figured, “The mayor is participating; of course they’re in.”
Clifton acknowledged the miscommunication.
“We are grateful that the town joined in with stated support, but in all that time we never formally mentioned a financial partnership,” he admitted.
Luckily for Telluride, the Mountain Village council was in the mood to be more gracious about the situation than was Town Manager Greg Sparks.
“I cannot recommend a project that we were not informed of, and does not have a reasonable rate of return. And, given that our town employees are going into a second year of wage freezes, our ongoing budget constraints for the next year and future years, and this project does not address the priorities of our own residents as noted in the 2010 community survey,” he wrote in a memo to council.
“I think it’s hugely important that this community and county diversify our energy sources, “ said Delves, who started the ball rolling toward a unanimous approval of the spend over five years declaring, “I’m no hippie, I’m not even a Democrat.”
“It’s not about eliminating other sources, its about diversifying into other ones,” he said, calling it a national energy strategy and, ”frankly a national security issue.”
Capella receiver Jack Westergom urged council to put its financial support behind the project because more and more groups are looking for green initiatives when they book travel and conferences.
“I do believe there’s a residual impact on the meetings market,” he said.
Mayor Pro-Tem Jonathan Greenspan saw humor in the situation.
“As much as I love seeing you grovel for this thing,” he told Fraser and Clifton, if Mountain Village wants to be environmentally responsible like it says it does, then it should find the money, he said.
“While I can’t give you a very good explanation why this formal presentation didn’t occur a year ago when it should have happened,” Telluride’s Clifton assured council that it, and similar oversights, won’t happen again in the future.
“We will avoid it,” he said. “The mechanism is already in place.”
“I’m just glad that we have a good working relationship with Mountain Village and that when we made the presentation they recognized the wisdom of it,” said Fraser.