Friday, August 14, 2009

Blah blah and a yada

I was reading Tom's blog post about the senior center and this week I encountered a similar situation with grants, state matches and all that good stuff.

I did a story for the Current about the sewer plant and this "green energy grant" the upgrade project got from the state through the stimulus bill.

First of all, as DPS Director Brendan O'Regan pointed out, it's not a grant. It's forgiveness on loan principal.

But here's the catch: you had to have something(s) in the project that is green.

So they stuck in a bubbling aeration system that costs $800,000 more than replacing what's there. That's good; still "saving" the ratepayers some $2 mil in loan principal, right?

Then someone had the bright idea of putting a photovoltaic/solar array on the new building.

There goes another $500,000 or so.

That brings this "grant" down to helping out the ratepayers to the tune of $1.5 mil, in a $26 mil project. And apparently they are still thinking up stuff to stick on there, now that they got this money that isn't really money.

This reminds me of the "buy 3, get one free" specials at the market. You don't really need 3, but the lure of getting one free is just too great.

I have to give credit to Brendan, though: one, he called me back from vacation in Hawaii and two, he was very upfront about the misconceptions that were put out there earlier in the week, including the fact that the "grant" was $3.05 mil, not $3.5 mil, as was reported in the paper.

Unless they were counting alleged rebates for the PV system. Who the hell knows? It's not so much about the reporting - it's what people said to the reporter.

So back to the senior citizens center: nothing is free. Not anymore.

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