August 10, 2014

Water and energy conservation loans on tap in Riverbank

Riverbank leaders mull HERO loans for water and power conservation projects, to be repaid with property tax assessments.

A new type of loan to make homes and businesses more efficient with water and energy could be coming to town.

Improvements would help people avoid water-waster fines recently approved by state officials, and could save money if people use less water and electricity.

City Council members on Tuesday will consider joining the Home Energy Renovation Opportunity, which features fixed-price loans tied to property taxes as an option to high-interest credit cards when, for instance, replacing air conditioners, installing low-flow toilets, planting drought-resistant shrubs or putting solar panels on roofs.

Also Tuesday, the audience will hear a presentation on Riverbank’s water use, with historic figures as well as consumption in the current drought. The city relies on 10 wells.

HERO’s website says 170 California cities and counties are on board with the loans, including Modesto, Turlock, Oakdale, Waterford, Newman and Atwater. The program has funded 14,000 home and office water projects with $2.2 million in hopes of saving 100 million gallons of water each year, and says families could reduce the water they use by one-third, or about 50,000 gallons per year.

Borrowers choose loan terms from five to 20 years with interest rates of 5.9 to 8.9 percent, about half that of a typical credit card, HERO says. Its partner company, Renovate America, says most people use loans to boost energy efficiency. Loans can stay with a property when it sells, transferring to the new owner.

In all, HERO has funded 14,000 projects worth $260 million, says Renovate America, headquartered in San Diego. Improvements are funded by bonds, which are repaid with assessments collected along with property taxes.

For more information, go to www.heroprogram.com.

Also Tuesday, council members will consider:

• Upgrading a vacant lot next to the Riverbank Museum with decomposed granite and bollards, at a combined cost of $19,000.

An unsafe building at 3231 Santa Fe St., purchased by the city in 2010 for $65,000, was razed at a cost of $8,775. The Riverbank Historical Society would like to use the lot for outdoor exhibits, such as a 1925 firetruck used by the local department. Ground-level options to cover bare earth range from $10,500 for lower-quality decomposed granite to $29,500 for heavy pavers. Car-barrier options range from $600 for planter pots to a $7,800 wall. City staff recommends a better grade of decomposed granite costing $14,500, and the society wants bollards at $4,500. The money would come from development fees collected for public buildings.

• Renewing membership in the Stanislaus Operational Area Organization, a coalition of the county and its nine cities preparing for disasters.
• Spending $33,200 to fix a tractor stuck in a sewage pond. The money would come from a fund that collects 50 cents from each sewer bill, currently holding $201,200.
• Yuriy Smolinskiy’s request to build a gym and sauna next to a home on Alton Court. Some neighbors oppose the project, and planning commissioners in May rejected the application, saying accessory buildings must not exceed 20 percent of the original home while Smolinskiy’s would add more than 37 percent.

Tuesday’s Riverbank City Council meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the council chamber, 6707 Third St., Riverbank. For more information, go to www.tinyurl.com/q4a4dyg.

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