Brodehl resists requests for C-PACE district at chamber event
Daily Inter Lake | March 28, 2023 12:00 AM
Flathead County Commissioner Randy Brodehl resisted calls from members of the business community for a countywide C-PACE district at a chamber of commerce event Friday.
Speaking as part of a panel at a luncheon hosted by the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce, Brodehl said he viewed implementation of the financing scheme — C-PACE pairs commercial property owners with private financing for energy efficiency capital improvements — as an expansion of government that is outside the scope of county responsibility.
After receiving a briefing on the details of the program from a state administrator earlier in the luncheon, business owners and representatives in attendance at Snappy’s questioned Brodehl on the commissioners’ reluctance to adopt C-PACE, or Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy.
Brodehl said he felt county duties are limited to those related to public safety, and that although he could understand why the program appealed to business owners, it wasn’t the commissioners’ job to take on economic development programs.
“I have not identified this as something that is our responsibility,” said Brodehl to business owners, describing Flathead County as a “conservative growth county.”
Kalispell has recently moved forward with adopting C-PACE, but businesses outside of city limits remain ineligible unless commissioners create a special tax assessment district for the program.
Brodehl’s counterparts, Commissioners Pam Holmquist and Brad Abell, are also in opposition, saying through a spokesperson in January that they prefer to take a “wait and see” approach.
Also on the panel was Kalispell Chamber of Commerce President Lorraine Clarno, who has advocated for countywide adoption of the program for months. She has collected letters of support and signatures from 47 businesses that say they’re interested.
Clarno called C-PACE a pro-business tool, as well as an environmental benefit.
C-PACE allows commercial property owners to defer upfront costs for energy efficiency upgrades, including windows, insulation, boilers, HVAC and solar panels via loans. Property owners then pay back the loans — backed by private creditors — through a special assessment on their property taxes, allowing them to pay for the upgrades through energy cost savings.
Brodehl mentioned that he consulted with an artificial intelligence algorithm about the potential downsides of programs like C-PACE during his deliberations, though he did not share the prompts inputted.
Brodehl said his uneasiness included an increased burden on the county treasurer, as the program requires local or county governments to act as a pass through for the funds.
Missoula County, which has implemented C-PACE along with over a dozen other counties statewide, has estimated the additional work on county assessors at only two hours annually, according to Seth Lutter of the Montana Facilities Finance Authority, which administers C-PACE.
State law also allows for the government implementing C-PACE to attach administrative fees to cover the cost of any extra work.
“We should have this opportunity,” real estate agent Charles Lapp told Brodehl.
Clarno said she was concerned that Flathead County businesses would struggle to compete with those in other counties and states if the commissioners failed to foster a pro-growth environment.
“Inaction is putting us at a disadvantage,” said Clarno.
Reporter Adrian Knowler can be reached at 758-4407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.