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Michigan town committed to sustainable future

Charlevoix, Mich., sits on a stretch of land between Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix along the Pine River. It’s a scenic atmosphere that both summer vacationers and local residents have worked to protect, city manager Rob Straebel says.

“The community here has been proactive in creating a sustainable future,” he says.

Citizens are taking steps to become a more environmentally-conscious community, and a $50,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant will help that cause. The funding will be used to launch projects aimed at energy efficiency and sustainability, such as retrofitting the city’s fire and emergency vehicles with new, energy-efficient lighting.

Motion detectors and light sensors will prevent wasted electricity in municipal buildings. These upgrades, along with energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, are expected to save the city about $3,300 a year. The finished projects will also benefit residents and local businesses.

Known as “Charlevoix the Beautiful,” the town has about 3,000 residents in the winter and 30,000 in the summer months. Tourism is the big engine that drives Charlevoix’s economy, but new funds and the jobs it will create are always welcomed.

“The cost savings will impact the community,” Rob says. “The projects will certainly assist general contractors with more opportunities for work. Every little bit helps.”

Charlevoix County was awarded $130,000 in block grant funds.

“We then made a wish list, and prioritized items from the engineer’s suggestions,” says Frank Shaler, maintenance supervisor for seven of the county’s buildings. “With the block grant that we were awarded we are in the middle of our project and are going to be able to save both natural gas electricity with less emissions.”

The county is planning to replace low-efficiency boilers in the county building with high-efficiency condensing boilers.

The funds designated to Charlevoix come from the $17.4 million awarded to the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth from the Recovery Act.

The town was one of 125 communities in Michigan to receive funding. Rob says the grant projects are just the beginning of Charlevoix’s green efforts.

"These energy-efficient projects are one of many we’ll be spearheading,” he says. “Local government should be a leader in environmental issues, and we’re quite pleased we’re taking that role.”