Photo by Don Nelson
The 110-year-old Methow Valley Community Center will use a $25,000 grant to begin upgrading its heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.
Will pay for engineering study of HVAC upgrades
With the goal of creating a “clean air refuge” for local residents when air quality is unhealthy, the Methow Valley Community Center in Twisp has begun working toward retrofitting the 110-year-old building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.
The community center received a $25,000 grant to pay for an engineering study to design an energy efficient system that will allow the community center to provide clean and cool air during smoke and heat events.
The funding for the study is provided by a Game Changer grant through the Methow Valley Fund of the Community Foundation of North Central Washington. The Game Changer grants are intended to fund projects that will make a significant impact on important community issues.
The community center is a gathering place for community events and performances, and acts as a hub during natural disasters such as wildfires, said Kirsten Ostlie, executive director.
“When we have extreme weather or emergencies people come to the community center for information, to gather with their friends and neighbors, and to get some reprieve from the situation at hand,” Ostlie said.
Even when people aren’t directly threatened by wildfires, their health is at risk due to smoke in the air. However, the valley doesn’t have a designated space where community members can find refuge when outdoor air is unhealthy.
“Last year we did open the gym for families to recreate, but the air was not great in here either,” Ostlie said. “It is not a question of ‘if.’ Smoke events will happen again in our forested region.”
The community center has an 82-year-old oil-burning furnace, and the building has no central air conditioning or filtration. With the $25,000 grant, the community center has hired P2S, an engineer-design firm from Seattle to detail the steps needed to work toward a clean energy heating/cooling and air filtration system.
The project has had support from the Methow Valley Citizens Council and its Clean Air Methow program that promotes clean air and community preparedness for smoke. The community center will partner on the project with the Resilient Methow Climate Action Plan Hub, a collaborative of local organizations including the Methow Valley Citizens Council that promotes action on climate issues.
“The citizens council has been very supportive of this project … and has donated time and expertise to the process,” Ostlie said. “We were the facility they used for Clean Air Methow and Climate Action Plan meetings and named this facility as an example of retrofitting an older building to meet today’s air quality needs.”
Data from Clean Air Methow shows that people take advantage of shelters that provide clean and cool air during smoke and heat events if there are activities at the shelter, like basketball, roller skating or classes, Ostlie said.
The community center is also partnering with the Methow Valley School District, which owns the building (a former high school) and leases it to the center.
“The school district is working on an extended lease for us, as the next phase will be raising the funds needed and applying for grants to get us there. Many of the grants we have seen so far require matching funds and a 15-year lease. The school district has been sympathetic to this issue and wants to help in any way they can,” Ostlie said.
After completing the Energy Retrofit Feasibility Study now underway, MVCC will work with its partners to secure funding to do the work. The project is large and complex, and will likely cost more than $500,000, according to information prepared by MVCC for the Game Changer grant. The design will include added insulation and an emergency power system for the building in the event of a power outage, Ostlie said.
According to a proposed timeline for the project, the community center will pursue fundraising and grants in August, seek estimates from contractors in March of 2023, and begin work in the summer of 2023.
New grant program
The Methow Valley Game Changer Grants are new this year, and funded by bequests by Methow Valley residents Ken Westman and Mike Real, according to information from the Community Foundation of North Central Washington. The annual grant opportunity is for nonprofit organizations in the Methow Valley that have a plan to take their work to the next level and make a significant impact on an important community issue.
In addition to the $25,000 awarded to the community center, a Game Changer grant of $75,000 was awarded to Jamie’s Place, the valley’s only adult family home, to provide housing for caregivers on their staff who are housing insecure. (An article on this subject appeared in last week’s Methow Valley News.)
Caregivers employed by Jamie’s Place have difficulty finding affordable housing in the Methow Valley, so Jamie’s Place will use the grant to purchase and install two tiny homes on its property to provide housing for staff. The grant also enables Jamie’s Place, in collaboration with Methow At Home, to offer a one-year pilot of a program called Silvernest, a networking service that pairs older homeowners with pre-screened housemates.