Friday, May 15, 2009

Heating Up!

"'In baseball terms, I think there's going to be real pace on the ball here,' Mr. Biden said..."

Michael Cooper,"Sliver of Cash From Stimulus in State Hands," New York Times, May 13, 2009

What Biden is saying is that the pace of ARRA money hitting the streets will pick up speed in no time. We all hope so. The question, of course, is how do we spend the money quick and smart.

For example, state weatherization plans were due to the feds on May 12 about how states and their partners will spend the $5B-plus to make homes more energy efficient.

"...[W]hy would we want to weaken the experience of the current weatherization program?"

Alternatively, "Some states don't have any idea how they are going to do this. It hasn't been well thought out."

Christina Vestal, "States rethink weatherization program,", May 14, 2009.

I went out with a weatherization crew this week in an unamed northeast city. They see their work doubling when the pace picks up, leading to maybe 50-60 new jobs. A new training class is already in process, mostly men with some construction-related experience.

Moving about their warehouse made me realize that a lot of this is about materials -- windows, insulation, weatherstripping -- and logistics -- auditors, crews, trucks, inspections. We visited two homes that crew members said were atypical. The first had asbestos and wiring problems so they couldn't do a blower door test or pump in insulation. At the second stop, the older owner had second thoughts about getting the insulation. Both houses could have used some other work -- including a "healthy homes" assessment.

Some states are thinking about "neighborhood sweeps," that weatherize sections of a city at one time. There's something to be said for that. We spent a lot of time driving. But that approach would have it's own logistical problems.

The crews were terrific, knowledgeable, engaged, proud of their work. But I suspect there will be fewer new jobs than we think.

1 comment:

Sandee said...

As the new director of weatherization in Baltimore City, I appreciated the comments of other bloggers about the challenges of stimulus funded weatherization. In Baltimore, we are trying hard to do two things, move as expeditiously as possible to implement the program for all its economic stimulus potential...and more importantly, two, to use this funding and spotlight opportunity to integrate weatherization with healthy homes strategies, to tie weatherization to home rehab and homeownership, to connect with community development corporations especially non-profit owners of rental properties, and to coordinate energy conservation with behavioral education and change (both for energy conservation and healthy homes effectiveness). There is a great deal of energy (sic) and enthusiasm in Baltimore at this point in time and I'm eager to work with the Annie E. Casey Foundation and others to make the most of it.

And one other thought in the area of workforce development, a local two year community college (Baltimore City Comunity College) and an urban-based four year college (Sojourner Douglass College) have formed a partnership to pursue the education and wrkforce preparation potnetial in everything I described above. We are at a nascent stage of that partnership, but it is at least started by a joint commitment of the college presidents.

Ken Strong