Weatherizing program to lose some staff, funds

4CORE forced to reduce staff as stimulus funding dries up

The Durango nonprofit Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency announced this week it no longer will be administering a weatherization-assistance program that has been one of its key focuses since 2009.

Declines in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy forced the Colorado Energy Office to consolidate regional administration offices for the weatherization program. Come July, 4CORE will be handing over charge of the weatherization program to another nonprofit, Housing Resources of Western Colorado in Grand Junction, that will oversee program operations in 12 Western Slope counties, including Archuleta, La Plata, San Juan, Montezuma and Dolores.

Without the charge of administering the weatherization program, 4CORE will not receive any of the associated grant funding from the state energy office, which represents a major portion of its budget, said Gregg Dubit, the nonprofit's executive director.

Weatherization funding between July 2012 and June 2013 accounted for about $600,000. 4CORE's 2012 budget, which is based on the calendar year instead of the federal fiscal year, was $1.3 million.

As such, the organization will have to reduce its staff by almost half. Under the consolidation, 4CORE's staff of nine full- and part-time employees will be reduced to the equivalent of 3 full-time employees, Dubit wrote in an email.

A similar consolidation is happening in the San Luis Valley, where the Alamosa Valley region is being consolidated into the Colorado Springs Energy Resource Center.

The federal funding declines represent the end of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars. The stimulus funding infused $80 million into the state's Weatherization Assistance Program for a three-year period starting in 2009, said Denise Stepto, communications director with the Colorado Energy Office. As a comparison, the state program is slated to receive $15.2 million in fiscal year 2013-14.

Despite the consolidations, weatherization will continue to happen in Southwest Colorado. Housing Resources will work with Durango-based Housing Solutions to provide the service for qualifying households. The Grand Junction nonprofit oversaw the program in Southwest Colorado before 4CORE took over the job in 2009.

In 3 years, 4CORE administered weatherization of 588 homes for low-income residents.

4CORE also may continue doing some weatherization work after June if it decides to implement a fee-for-service home-weatherization program that it piloted and now is reviewing with its board of directors. The program would use local contractors to perform energy audits and energy-efficiency upgrades.

The consolidation decisions made by the Colorado Energy Office reflect new budget realities, Dubit said.

"It's unfortunate that federal budgets and deficits are where they are and that low-income populations bear the brunt of many of these budgetary decisions," he said.

ecowan@durangoherald.com