Federal program weatherizes 430 homes since July

Federal program weatherizes 430 homes since July

October 1st, 2010 in News

Alexandra Coe struggled to pay her $200-a-month gas bills last winter in her drafty 80-year-old home in North Chattanooga.

Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press -- Sep 30, 2010 Jaime Hurtado, a worker with Legacy Contracting and Designs, stuffs more insulation into a suction machine that will move the material into the attic of Alexandra Coe's home on Thursday afternoon. The insulation will help make the house more energy-efficient. Coe welcomed the Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise to her home as construction workers with Legacy finished weatherizing the house on Thursday.

Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press...

But the Spears Avenue homeowner hopes to have an easier time in the colder months ahead this year, thanks to new attic insulation, window and door seals, heating ducts and a water heater wrap installed through a federally funded weatherization program.

"This is going to be especially beneficial to me to help cut both my electricity and gas bills," Coe said Thursday while contractors made nearly $6,500 in improvements to her home.

Coe is the 430th homeowner in Hamilton County to receive home weatherization upgrades since July, when Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprises took over the federal program.

Previously, the program was run by the city's Department of Human Services, which weatherized only 83 homes in the first year of the program, failing to meet federal performance standards.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, who shifted the failing program from the city agency to CNE after dismissing former city Department of Human Services Director Bernadine Turner, said the change "turned what was moving toward a disastrous situation into one with a very happy ending."

TO GET ASSISTANCE

* Call CNE to set up an appointment at 756-6201.

* The program is available to Hamilton County homeowners and renters who make up to twice the poverty rate, or $44,000 annual income for a family of four.

* If approved, an energy auditor will inspect the home and make recommendations; CNE-approved contractors perform the work.

CNE President David Johnson said that, in the past three months, the agency's seven-person weatherization staff has computerized records, expedited qualifying applications and employed 17 contractors to perform the work. So far, CNE contractors have made a total of $1.5 million in home weatherization upgrades, he said.

Johnson said CNE is looking to invest another $1 million in additional home weatherization in the next year before the federal stimulus funds expire "and we hope to continue to sustain this successful program for years in the future" using other federal, state and private assistance.

"This is an investment that will help families save hundreds of dollars every year on the energy bills," he said.

Littlefield said he had to convince Tennessee Human Services Commissioner Gina Lodge this spring not to cut off Chattanooga's $3.6 million allocation for weatherization after the Human Services office failed to meet even half of its targeted goal.

Statewide, Tennessee completed weatherizing 40 percent of the budgeted 10,500 homes by the end of August, which placed the Volunteer State sixth among to 50 states, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The state has allocated $42 million of its $99 million allocation for weatherization.

The funding for many stimulus programs ended Thursday, but CNE and the 17 other agencies administering the stimulus-funded weatherization assistance in Tennessee will have until Sept. 30, 2011, to spend all of the funds, state Department of Human Services Director MIchelle Mowery Johnson said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340.

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