POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – The Pound Ridge Town Board says it needs more information before it can decide whether to pass a local law that would establish a program designed to provide low-interest loans for energy improvements to commercial buildings.
The board has continued until next month a public hearing on the law’s adoption.
The loan program is supported by the Northern Westchester Energy Action Coalition (NWEAC), of which Pound Ridge is a member.
The town already has a NWEAC-supported program in place through Energize Pound Ridge in which homeowners can sign up for energy audits of their homes and then receive recommendations on how to make their buildings more energy-efficient.
“This new program goes one step further and provides loans for the commercial business. The residential program doesn’t involve loans,” said Supervisor Gary Warshauer. “These loans would be secured through a tax lien. If a business in Pound Ridge wants to take advantage, they would have an energy audit which would identify the things they can do to reduce energy costs. The loans are just like any other loans and [business owners] have to meet requirements such as having the right loan-to-debt ratio.”
While board members said they like the program in principle, they remain concerned about how the loans will be repaid if the business owner defaults.
Town Board member Ali Boak explained that the loans are paid via the property owner's tax bill, but if if the property goes into foreclosure the town can then be held responsible for repaying the loan.
Boak said that Bedford has been running the program for the past year, and the town hasn’t experienced any foreclosures. Consequently, the issue hasn’t been tested in court, so there are no precedents.
"The program does have a fund through which towns can get reimbursed if they have to take on a defaulted loan, but the rules stipulate that the town has to exhaust all other legal remedies first," Boak said. “That means getting whole can take several years. We need to know what the hierarchy is for the loan payment if there are other liens on the property. We need to limit the town’s exposure.”
Boak said that Town Attorney James Sullivan will consult with the attorney for Energize New York to find out more information about the town’s concerns.
Additionally, the board wants more feedback from the town's business community to gauge its interest in the program.
The board will reopen the public hearing on adopting the local law at its Feb. 14 meeting