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Stimulus money for Lincoln aimed at energy efficiency

Stimulus money for Lincoln aimed at energy efficiency

The city of Lincoln is slated to receive about $2.4 million in stimulus dollars for energy efficiency programs.

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Milo Mumgaard

The federal stimulus money just keeps coming.

The city of Lincoln is slated to receive about $2.4 million in stimulus dollars for energy efficiency programs.

The "energy efficiency and conservation block grant program" aims to reduce energy use and fossil fuel emissions, improve energy efficiency and, to a lesser degree, stimulate job creation.

Mayor Chris Beutler said Wednesday the money will be used to launch a program he's calling "Cleaner Greener Lincoln" to make city government more energy-efficient.

Cities with populations of more than 35,000 can apply for the grants. Omaha is slated to receive $4.3 million, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The state attorney general's office is kicking in $50,000 in settlement money to help Lincoln launch its program.

Beutler has hired Milo Mumgaard to lead the "Cleaner Greener Lincoln" program. Mumgaard, a public interest attorney, was the founding executive director of the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest. He most recently served as Midwest regional director for state operations for Common Cause.

Initially, Mumgaard will fill a position now occupied by mayoral aide Denise Pearce, who is expected to go on maternity leave. His $76,000 annual salary will eventually be covered by either the attorney general seed money or grant money, the mayor's office said.

Beutler said some of the goals of the program will be to implement a landfill gas and recovery program; explore alternate fuels for the city fleet; expand the city's recycling program; expand energy audits of government buildings; and create more opportunities for walking and biking.

Beutler's hiring of Mumgaard, who started Wednesday, seems contrary to his hiring freeze. But the mayor considers the position "absolutely essential" and said it won't be subject to the usual review by a city hiring committee.

"Milo's position will pay for itself," he said.

Councilwoman Robin Eschliman questioned the hiring, saying a full-time permanent position isn't necessary to coordinate the program. She predicted Mumgaard will likely end up hiring consultants to help create the city's plan.

The federal energy conservation program was approved by Congress in 2007, but no money was appropriated until Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act this year.

Funds can be used throughout communities, not just in government facilities.

Reach Deena Winter at 473-2642 or dwinter@journalstar.com.

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