Pierce County has won a $4.4 million federal grant to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The money from the U.S. Department of Energy will cover everything from a new heating system at the jail to installing heat pumps in old houses.
It also will be used to hire Ryan Dicks – son of U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Balfair – to be the county’s “sustainability manager.”
In announcing the grant, County Executive Pat McCarthy said it “provides an excellent opportunity to find efficiencies, reduce energy costs and improve air quality.”
“It is fundamentally important to me that we leave a legacy of clean air and clean water for our children,” McCarthy said.
The Department of Energy grant is the latest example of federal economic stimulus money flowing to Pierce County.
State figures show $239 million worth of stimulus grants have come to the county through the state. That doesn’t include other grants that came straight from the federal government.
The latest grant will be used for a series of projects:
• To replace a 25-year-old heating, ventilating and air conditioning system that serves two floors at the county’s main jail. The move will allow the county to save 500,000 cubic feet of natural gas a year.
• To work with other agencies to convert older homes from wood stoves, oil or baseboard heat to high-efficiency gas furnaces, natural gas inserts or electric heat pumps. The project is designed to improve air quality and is expected to reduce greenhouse gases by more than 70 tons annually.
• To convert 78 traffic signals to more energy-efficient models, saving an estimated $72,000 annually based on today’s energy costs.
• To replace the electronic message board at Sprinker Recreation Center with a more energy-efficient sign.
• To replace the county’s 10-year-old computer disk storage system with a more energy-efficient system.
The county will also will use the grant money to pay Dicks’ $92,583 salary as sustainability manager. In that role he’ll oversee the grant-funded projects and other cost-saving measures. The position is guaranteed only for 24 months.
Dicks has served as president of an environmental consulting firm and was vice president of conservation transactions for the Cascade Land Conservancy. He also has been regional director for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell. Currently he works for the King County executive’s office.
Dicks starts work on Monday.