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Brita Sailer hosts citizen energy forum

Dean Talbot presents the watt-hour meter "Kill-A-Watt," which measures use of household electricity. (Riham Feshir / Enterprise)

Now is the time get going on energy efficiency projects that can get property owners the biggest bang for their buck.

At an energy forum facilitated by Rep. Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids, a number of experts agreed that stimulus money available now for green projects can help not only conserve energy but create jobs as well.

"It's a matter of partnership and how we move ahead and I think a lot of people are ready to take another step," Sailer said.

The forum, held Thursday at the Hubbard County Courthouse, featured representatives from local organizations and statewide agencies that help distribute federal and state funding.

A weatherization assistance program provides major energy-efficiency improvements to households with incomes below the 200 percent poverty level.

The federal government raised funding for that program significantly this year, said Jeremy de Fiebre, operation supervisor at the Office of Energy Security.

The program that typically receives $10 million annually will get $132 million, which means instead of reaching about 4,000 homes, it can now reach up to 25,000.

"It is going to have significant reach in benefiting a lot of homeowners whose homes will become much more energy efficient," de Fiebre said.

If property owners qualify for that program, they will receive a high-quality audit. As a result, projects like air sealing, wall and attic insulation, installing high-efficiency furnaces or windows, can be done.

For those who don't qualify for that program, "fix-up" funds are available.

The maximum income for the fix-up loans is $96,500 and all three of the local lenders participate.

For more information on the programs, visit or call 800-657-3710.

Other opportunities

-The Center for Energy and Environment recently received a $2 million grant to use toward energy efficiency projects in Park Rapids.

Homes must be located within the city limits to qualify for improvements, according to the grant requirements.

"Basically, you can't afford not to do these improvements," said Dave King, director of the Center for Energy and Environment Financial Resources.

The funding comes from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.

LCCMR was a proposal that initially targeted Minneapolis, St. Paul, Apple Valley, Rochester, Owatanna, Austin and Duluth.

"We opted for Park Rapids because of your Green Park Rapids initiative," King said.

A workshop discussing how local homeowners can participate in the program will take place at 10 a.m. Oct. 24 at the River Heights Apartments in Park Rapids.

Those who would like to participate in the workshop don't necessarily have to own property in the city limits and qualify for funding, said Sharon Voyda, primary organizer and coordinator of Green Park Rapids. Others can attend the workshop and take advantage of the information that will be discussed.

To register for the workshop, visit or call 612-335-5874.

-Dean Talbott, of Minnesota Power, presented a number of rebate and saving opportunities that residents can benefit from.

Rebate programs that will end this December include Energy Star appliances, lighting and heating and cooling systems rebates.

One device that Talbott presented was particularly impressive to Sailer.

The Watt Hour Meter - available for checkout at the public library - calculates how much energy an appliance is taking and lets homeowners know if they need to replace it.

-The Energy Assistance program that's administered by Mahube Community Council will start accepting applications from Sept. 1 through May 31, 2010.

The program helps low-income households pay for their heating bills.

For more information or to request an application, call 888-458-1385.