Federal grant to help Champaign nonprofits with energy efficiency

CHAMPAIGN – Some city nonprofit agencies could become more energy efficient with help from federal funds passed down through the city of Champaign.

Champaign received $763,200 from the Department of Energy's energy efficiency and conservation block grant this year, and city officials designated $100,000 of that to give free energy audits to nonprofit groups.

The city council this week contracted with GDS Associates, an out-of-state consulting firm, for their representatives to visit nonprofits selected by the city to evaluate the groups' energy efficient practices and make recommendations on where they can improve.

According to a city report, federal rules for the grant dictated that local preference not be used in the selection of an auditing firm. The contract with GDS Associates was for $72,425, and the remaining $27,575 could be used at a later time for smaller grants to help the nonprofits pay for the recommended changes, economic development manager Teri Legner said.

The contract "was actually less than we expected, so the difference will be thrown back into the pool to help the nonprofits to do the implementation," Legner said.

City documents suggest eight to 10 nonprofit agencies would be selected to receive the free energy audits, but Legner said the number really depends on what kind of groups are selected. If groups who manage only small offices or homes are selected, there could be more.

The deadline for application passed Friday afternoon. City officials had been looking for nonprofits which "provide basic needs services to the community," like solutions to homelessness and support for people with disabilities. Legner offered the TIMES Center and the Developmental Services Center as examples.

While they were organizing the program, city officials learned that not many nonprofits were eligible for such a grant.

"We really kind of kept the door fairly wide open so that many nonprofit agencies were able to qualify for the money," Legner said.

City officials included the $100,000 designation for the energy audits in its application for the Department of Energy grant in response to a city council edict.

"The reason we chose audits for nonprofits is because council told us a year ago that they wanted to make part of our grant money available for the private sector," Legner said.

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