The final $12,000 quarterly payment of tax increment/low-to moderate-income funds to the Winneshiek Energy District (WED) was approved by the Decorah City Council Monday night on a 5-2 vote.

Council members Gary Rustad, Rachel Vagts, Julie Fischer, John Franzen and Caroline Corbin voted for the allocation to assist in energy-saving projects in the city, and Paul Wanless and Randy Schissel voted against it.

A group of local citizens formed WED two years ago to promote and implement sustainable energy. In March, on a 4-3 vote, the Council approved up to $48,000 in low to moderate income (LMI) funding to WED, allocated in four quarterly installments over a yearlong period.

About 35 percent of the money generated in the city's tax increment finance (TIF) districts must be set aside for LMI projects. WED was required to report its accomplishments to the Council every three months before each quarterly installment.

Exceed goal

WED Director Andy Johnson reported WED has exceeded its initial goal of serving 50 households in 12 months.

"We're at 68 LMI households served through our first three-plus quarters... demand continues, we expect to wrap up in April with cost-share projects and beat our 12-month goal of households served by over 50 percent," Johnson said following the Council meeting.

A new group of Green Iowa AmeriCorps volunteers began working this fall, replacing the previous group that had been in Decorah for a year.

"So far, everyone is very appreciative, especially of the Green Iowa AmeriCorps team's professional service," he said.

When WED applied for TIF/LMI funds last year, WED proposed to implement two energy efficieny programs in the city - Direct Install and Home Energy Planning.

Direct Install targets low-income households for installation of efficient lighting, showerheads, faucet aerators, sealing, thermostat programming and other projects.

The 65 LMI households served to date have achieved energy savings of $50,410 over the practice lifespan, saved over 2.3 billion British thermal units (BTUs) of energy and 1,383,900 gallons of water, and reduced carbon emission by 419 tons, Johnson reported.

Home Energy Planning provides high-quality energy analysis and planning and covers 50 percent of the cost of implementation for energy improvements found to be cost effective. WED also helps participants cover a portion of the remaining 50 percent with utililty rebates and/or the Housing Trust Fund.

"Demand for both Direct Install and Home Energy Planning remain high," Johnson said.

Going strong

LMI funding is only a portion of WED's funding, Johnson said.

"It's just one piece of the puzzle of moving toward a sustainable funding picture," he said. "This picture includes social enterprise - revenue-generating activities such as energy auditing/planning - our local fund drive which has topped $70,000 and ongoing external funding efforts, such as grants and foundation funding."

A decision has not yet been made on whether to pursue another application for LMI funding from the city, Johnson said.

"We don't want to be dependent on any one revenue source. The Energy District is here for the long haul, looking forward to working with all partners on a sustainable energy transition."