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Certain homes could receive energy audits as part of study

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Park Rapids, 56470

Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

The Green Park Rapids group is about to start surveying a pilot neighborhood to generate interest in "going green."

"We want to focus on helping folks save green," said Sharon Voyda, director of Park Rapids Housing and Redevelopment Authority and organizer of the Green Park Rapids project.

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Many people think "going green" is expensive and won't save money, she said, but there are many affordable projects that can save money in the long run.

Park Rapids has secured funding from the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the state-sponsored Clean Energy Resource Team. The Hubbard County Regional Economic Development Commission was instrumental in getting the project going, Voyda said.

The Green Park Rapids initiative is to "green" a target residential neighborhood near downtown Park Rapids, between Highway 34 to the north and Sixth Street to the south and Highway 71 to the east and Fair Avenue to the west.

Projects could include new energy-efficient windows, doors, insulation, water heaters or furnaces, Voyda said. And, an easy way to start saving money on energy right away is to install compact fluorescent light bulbs throughout a home, she added.

The initial planning coincided with the downtown reconstruction plan, Voyda said. The Park Rapids City Council recently accepted an engineering report and scheduled a public hearing for phase one of the street reconstruction project, which could begin in 2009.

Another reason the neighborhood surrounding downtown was chosen as the pilot was because it had some homes with lower values, yet as a whole, the neighborhood wasn't deteriorating, Voyda said. It was a good mix of properties, she added.

As a pilot project, the hope is to take this idea and apply it to other neighborhoods in Park Rapids, Hubbard County and throughout the state in the future, Voyda said.

"The vision is that someone might want to borrow the idea from us," she said. "We want to be the model."

Starting next week, the Green Park Rapids group will begin going door to door with a survey to assess interest, determine the level of need and establish effective home improvements to help "green" the neighborhood.

Residential homeowners in the pilot neighborhood will be eligible for free energy audits from Minnesota Power after completing the survey.

Some commercial property owners have already started to receive energy audits, said Maggie Stennes, who is working with the project on a contract basis.

No one is required to complete the survey or have an energy audit but Stennes hopes most people in the pilot neighborhood will participate.

The survey will tell the group what the most pressing issues are as far as home improvement needs, she said.

The timeline, in a best-case scenario, would be to have the survey completed by the end of October and then start scheduling energy audits in November. After the energy audit, which will point out the most important home improvements, the property owner can decide whether to move forward with improvements.

Financing would be the responsibility of the property owner, she said.

"Many of the projects probably wouldn't start until spring," she said.

The group hopes as soon as next summer, people will be able to see the neighborhood "going green."

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