Checking in on ARRA work

April 17, 2010

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., toured the Wingate Village Apartments Friday afternoon to champion the efforts of weatherization projects made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The 88-unit project being managed by the Community Action Program of Belknap-Merrimack Counties entails insulating the basements and attics, wrapping the hot water pipes and sealing air holes. The $220,000 project was funded in part by ARRA, as well as by Public Service of New Hampshire, N-Grid and the landlord, WinnDevelopment of Boston.

"The work being done here is a powerful example of the impact clean energy programs can have," Shaheen said.

Joining Shaheen was Cathy Zoi, assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy.

New Hampshire has received nearly $24 million from the Weatherization Assistance program. By the end of April, the N.H. Office of Energy and Planning expects the state will have met 30 percent of its goals for weatherization projects made available through ARRA money.

Greeting Shaheen was 8-year-old Amber Kallum whose grandfather's home also benefited from a weatherization retrofit. Richard Kallum said he thought it was important for his second-grade granddaughter to meet Shaheen.

"I told her this might be as close as she gets to a president of the United States," Kallum said.

Shaheen and Zoi toured the apartment of brother James who said the difference since the weatherization has been remarkable.

In from Boston for the tour and meet-and-greet was Darien Crimmin, vice-president of energy and sustainability for WinnDevelopment. He said the reduction in overall heating costs helps improve the stability in low-income apartments and benefits the tenants as well as the owners.

Crimmin said the Blueberry Lane property was the northernmost of the WinnDevelopments properties and his company was excited about the weatherization because of how cold it gets in the winter.

"We're fully committed at a corporate level to sustainability and efficiency," Crimmin said.

CAP Director Dana Nute said Wingate Village was the first multi-unit apartment complex to benefit from the weatherization program and that most of the projects are single-family homes like Richard Kallum's.

He said once a family or a person qualifies for fuel assistance, they are eligible for weatherization upgrades based on a series of additional criteria, including age, income, and whether or not there are children living in the home.

With the work on that project being done by CAP and the Copp Associates as a subcontract partner, Shaheen and Zoi also asked about jobs creation. Nute said a second project going to bid soon should create at least one CAP job and provide additional work for the bidding contractors.

He said his latest hire probably would be from the Lakes Region Community College's new weatherization program but added that the private homeowners are not participating in energy audits as willingly as are public agencies.

"Usually the price of oil has to top $4 per gallon before private homeowners get energy audits," he said.

Laconia's visit was the second stop of Shaheen's New Hampshire tour. Earlier Friday she visited the Warner Power company.

By:  Gail Ober
Source: Laconia Citizen