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$600,000 in energy stimulus funds headed county's way

YAKIMA - Yakima County will receive more than $600,000 in federal money designated for energy efficiency improvements.

The money is part of a stimulus package that will send $58 million to Washington state for energy upgrades. The Obama administration plans to spend $3.2 billion nationwide on the energy portion of its stimulus program.

The goal of the funds, announced just last week, is to not only make buildings more energy efficient, but to create jobs in the process.

Yakima County Commissioner Rand Elliott is all too familiar with the need for energy-efficient buildings.

"In my office in the courthouse we have single pane windows and when it rains outside most of the offices get a little wet inside," he said.

Elliott said details on how the recently announced funds will be spent are still a little vague.

"To be perfectly honest, we don't know yet," he said. "We don't have this money yet, but we are anticipating it. All the rules aren't yet known to us."

In general terms, Elliott said there may possibly be two "pots of money" for the $629,500 headed to Yakima County.

"One could be for improvements to government buildings," he said. That could include replacing windows and insulation in the courthouse.

The second pot of money, Elliott added, might be "energy efficiency for homes." Options there might include offering in-home "energy audits" to let homeowners know areas where they may be able to save on energy.

Elliott said the county's human services department may be distributing some of the money to lower income households to help them with energy efficient upgrades for their homes.

"It would be geared to households that otherwise couldn't do it," he said.

Elliott said commissioners are going to be meeting with county facilities and human services officials to come up with a plan for the funds once more details unfold.

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