By Joel Hall
U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) announced Monday that Clayton County will receive more than $2.5 million from the federal government to help make county-run facilities more energy efficient. The money, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is expected to generate jobs and result in significant cost savings for county taxpayers.
According to Scott's press assistant, Jennifer Wright, the money will arrive to the county in the form of an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant. In a statement released Monday, she said the county could also use the money for "energy audits and building retrofits in the residential and commercial sector, the development and implementation of advanced building codes and inspections, and the creation of financial incentive programs for energy efficiency improvements."
Wright said the U.S. Department of Energy will "provide strong oversight" of the funds, while "emphasizing the need to quickly award funds to help create new jobs and stimulate local economies."
Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said the county applied for the federal grant several months ago and has been "waiting patiently" for the funds. The money to retrofit and modernize county facilities would help bring down Clayton County government's annual energy bill, which is about $3 million, Bell added.
"We've had to go up on taxes, so we have to operate a more efficient government," Bell said. "After having to go through all that, we would like to be able to give the citizens something back. When we looked at it [the grant], we had asked Trane and Siemens to come in and do an energy audit on all of our buildings. These efficiency measures that we are taking now will contribute to better operations of the county, which will equate to costs savings for all of our citizens."
According to Scott, the state of Georgia received just over $21 million in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funds. He said Clayton's portion will represent "well over 10 percent" of the total funding for the state.
"I think it is a wonderful bit of money down there for Clayton," Scott said Monday. "The county can set up their own programs with this and make it flexible so it can meet their most pressing needs in terms of energy efficiency. By the county retrofitting their buildings and doing it that way, it is going to create jobs.
"Our only requirement is that the money is spent quickly," Scott added. "We are trying to get as much of this money down there as we can to stimulate the economy and create jobs. It [the grant money] should be there immediately."
Bell said once the county receives the money, it will have 120 days to develop a strategy for how best to use the funds. He said he believes the money may help the county reduce its energy bill by half in "four to five years."
"We may have to change out a lot of old air conditioning units, a lot of old light bulbs [and] we may have to change certain types of motors," Bell said. "We are looking for efficiency in our county and possibly in our commercial sector."