Senate passes energy-contractor performance bill sponsored by Short

The Senate earlier in March passed a bill prime-sponsored by Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, that would add much-needed checks and balances to a state program that helps local governments increase their energy efficiency.

Short says her proposal, Senate Bill 5308, would create desperately needed transparency for construction and monitoring of these projects. When the performance-based contracting services program started during Gov. Chris Gregoire’s administration, the guidance for it began not as legislation but as a simple budget line in the capital budget.

SB 5308 was introduced in response to the significant ongoing challenges that Ferry County Memorial Hospital, in Republic, has had with its HVAC upgrade using this state program that helps match local governments with energy service contractors. Ironically, the program requires the contractor to guarantee its work and perform verification monitoring. Unfortunately, the program was ill-prepared to deal with a contractor who had no interest in fixing what was obviously not working at the hospital.

“For the last several winters, the hospital and staff have struggled to endure unacceptable indoor temperatures, damage to hospital equipment and broken pipes all because the state’s program didn’t anticipate what might happen if a contractor didn’t want to fix it,” said Short. “The situation has been indefensible and immoral. An audit of the program is a must, but I also want to make sure that there is a better process in place to prevent this kind of problem in the future. I look forward to working with my Democratic colleagues in embracing the need to add these protective measures.”

SB 5308 would provide greater protection to municipalities by creating a complaint process through the state’s Department of Enterprise Services, better monitoring, more thorough consultation before energy efficiency equipment is installed and then independent verification once the project is completed. It would also require a Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee study to recommend additional reforms.

The proposal now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.