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Grayson courthouse awarded 'green' grant

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INDEPENDENCE — Grayson County will receive more than $808,000 in energy conservation grants to assist with a $1.2 million courthouse enhancement project that make the government building a learning lab for advanced “green” technologies.

Grayson will work with Wytheville Community College to develop solar and other renewable energy technologies.

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, Virginia's chief jobs creation officer, made the announcement March 23. The funding comes from a pot of $13.2 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program.

Nearly 150 applicants seeking $51 million competed for the awards. Applications were received from nearly half of about 300 eligible local governments in the state. Grayson's was one of 39 awards.

The applications were ranked based on the amount of energy conserved, the number of jobs created, and other criteria. Bonus points were awarded to localities with high rates of unemployment. The Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) administers ARRA funds for energy-related projects.

"Jobs will be the first dividend from these innovative programs and projects, but they also have potential to save tax dollars and reduce energy costs for Virginians for years to come. Many of these awards will improve the energy efficiency of buildings and provide education and support for others to make similar improvements,” Bolling said in a press release. “The improvements will continue for years to save money that otherwise would be spent on mostly imported fuel sources.”

Grayson Administrator Jonathan Sweet said the county is awaiting confirmation for an additional $400,000 in grant funds to complete the project.

“The project will make Grayson County a state and regional model for green upgrades, save the county money with energy costs and provide a platform to prepare the community for future job and new industry growth opportunities,” Sweet said. “The project will be as much, if not more, benefit to the private sector who will be looking for a workforce trained and versed in these latest technologies.”

Sweet said the project is part of the county's ongoing efforts to evolve the economy, prepare its workforce and create new opportunities for citizens. “The county is working feverishly on many economic enhancement efforts and this is our most recent example of success,” Sweet added.

“As a result of this grant, we will be able to assist some of our local businesses and industries perform energy audits. This service could reduce operational expenses and open the door for other federal and state benefits.

"In addition to working on the county's short and long-term financial challenges, we are directing a tremendous amount of focus in the important arena of economic and community development,” Sweet said.

“Successes like this one will begin to add up and pay dividends for our county and its citizens.”

Sweet thanked state Del. Bill Carrico (R-Grayson) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Abingdon) for their assistance with the project.

Wytheville Community College's Dr. Stacy Edward Thomas, dean of workforce development, continuing education and technical programs, said the grant will “give students the opportunity to receive hands-on practical experience.”

The Grayson County Courthouse will serve as a “working laboratory” for students enrolled in construction technology programs at the Crossroads Institute in Galax, he said.