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Regional planners honor Division of Energy

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By James E. Casto

For The State Journal

The West Virginia Association of Regional Planning and Development Councils has honored the staff of the West Virginia Department of Commerce Division of Energy for its performance in carrying out an energy conservation grant program.

The award was presented to Jeff Herholdt, director of the Division of Energy, and Bill G. Willis, energy development specialist with the division, at a dinner meeting May 8 at The Palms in Huntington. The dinner was part of the annual meeting of the Association of Regional Planning and Development Councils, which drew representatives from throughout the state.

Michele Craig, executive director of the Region II Planning and Development Council in Huntington, noted that when the state was invited to participate in a federal energy grant program targeted at counties and municipalities, the Division of Energy faced an almost impossible task in spreading information about the program to eligible communities and managing the many resulting applications.

“What the division did,” Craig said, “was reach out to West Virginia’s regional planning councils and enlist their help.

“We were pleased to be part of the grant process and pleased now to commend the division and its staff for their exceptional attention to detail in defining the complexities of the project and demonstrating the opportunities of successful implementation.”

Craig noted the partnership between the division and the councils enabled the state to meet the stringent timeline of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

“Without the participation of the regional councils, the small staff of the Division of Energy would not have been able to take full advantage of the ARRA program,” said Willis. “As a result of the councils’ involvement, the state was able to apply for 141 energy efficiency grants and construct each of those projects in 103 municipal and local governments.”

Craig said that in many instances the grants approved for counties and municipalities enabled them to address badly needed energy conservation concerns at the state’s county courthouses and city halls.

The award to the Division of Energy was presented by David Cole, director of the Region I Planning and Development Council in Princeton and chairman of the Association.