More planning eyed for sustainability – $1.5M HUD grant

       A $1.5 million, three-year sustainability planning grant will be sought by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG), in conjunction with a volunteer 30-member committee that has been working for months on goals for “fundamental changes” (as stated on the PPACG website) in energy-related business and personal behavior.
       If approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the money will be used to develop a plan for implementing the committee's goals, including funds to support two PPACG employees, according to a staff report by the regional planning agency.
       The PPACG board, after being advised by PPACG Director Rob MacDonald of “increasing federal requirements to address sustainability at the local level,” voted unanimously for the grant application at its meeting Sept. 14. However, the idea that months of local planning may now result in more planning touched the funny bone of one board member, Mark Dowaliby of Park County. “We're mandated by the feds to study,” he said. “So we'll study away… without ever implementing anything.”
       Board member, Keith McCafferty of Ramah, commented, “If they [HUD] are going to give money away, we may as well go and get it.”
       Praise for the plan came from Lisa Czelatdko, a board member and City Council member representing District 3 (which includes part of the Westside). She said that although she thinks sustainability has become a “buzzword,” it is “a good thing” because it takes a “long-term view” of societal activities.
       The grant requires $300,000 in local matching funds. The PPACG report states that $50,000 can be obtained over the three years from other programs, with the other $250,000 as “in-kind” contributions from “agencies and organizations.” The PPACG plan is to partner with the consensus committee, whose membership includes elected officials, environmentalists, business owners, government employees and people in the military, arts, education and health. The staff report states that at least some committee members will develop individual “partnership agreements” with PPACG. There must also be a “contract with any partners receiving funding from the grant,” the report stipulates.
       PPACG Director Rob MacDonald clarified that none of the partners will receive any money from the planning grant, but staff separately noted that involvement in such a grant could help an entity qualify later on for implementation money.
       In a contract situation, careful oversight would be provided by PPACG, MacDonald said in an answer to a question.
       The deadline for application documents are due to PPACG by Sept. 19 (with the submittal cut-off Sept. 28). However, none of the partnership agreements existed as of Sept. 14, nor was there any detail yet on the separate in-kind contributions, according to communications after the meeting with PPACG spokesperson Jason Wilkinson. But he said that there has been a “compressed timeline” for the grant and expressed confidence that all would be in place by the deadline. MacDonald told the board he expected the in-kind match would mostly consist of various kinds of data and services.
       One of the pledges for agreement signees is to take steps to spread the word about the efforts they are undertaking. One pledge is to “help identify perspectives of communities that are not sufficiently engaged in the process.”
       The consensus committee, which formed over a year ago and has worked closely with PPACG staff, has developed a set of what its members call “stretch goals” that promote such behavioral changes as less use of personal vehicles, more use of mass transit, less trash disposal and more use of renewable energy. Such will lead to a predicted future in which the region will be more affluent, healthier and better educated, the committee has concluded.
       Phase 1 of the PPACG/ committee sustainability effort was to develop the goals, the current Phase 2 has been to develop strategies for the goals, and the upcoming Phase 3 will include the development of a “green infrastructure plan,” the staff report states.
       The PPACG website explains that the term “stretch goals” was developed “because they will require fundamental changes in order to be met.”

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