Backlogs slow mandated weatherization work on Burlington buildings

Published: Aug. 7, 2023 at 5:05 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Weatherization work in Burlington continues to be slow going. The city’s weatherization ordinance, which mandated the least-efficient rental properties in the city be weatherized, continues to move forward, but just one property has completed all the work. That’s due to backlogs in nearly every part of the process.

“The challenges are probably about the timelines for folks. We have a fairly aggressive timeline based on our schedule in the ordinance, but for properties to comply with that initial audit, it takes a long time because there’s a backlog of audits,” said Bill Ward of Burlington Permitting and Inspections.

Energy audits of 49 buildings have been completed so far with 90 more to go, and appointments are being scheduled out through June 2024. So in order for properties to comply with the ordinance, they just have to get in line.

The same goes for weatherization contractors balancing those mandated through ordinance and other property owners who just want the work done.

“Some of the folks that are required to do it have to be in the same line with people are doing it for their own home that they live in. And that’s great. We want all of them to do it. But it creates a little bit of a backlog with all the folks doing the work,” Ward said.

However, after low staffing across many of the trades, the future is beginning to look brighter. Dwight Decoster with the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity’s weatherization program for people who meet income needs says they’ve been able to hire 12 people with three of those people under 21 years old.

“I think we have good staff. We’re training them. We’re starting to hit our stride. So I think that backlog is going to, we’re going to burn through that and in pretty quick work with our new staff that we have on board,” Decoster said.

The pay for people right out of high school is around $50,000 a year, but Decoster says it’s not just that which is rewarding about the job.

“It’s very rewarding work. We keep elderly folks in their house longer. We allow folks to have more food on their table, pay the medicine they need, rent is easier. You know, just when you save 30% of your electric bill, which is our average energy bill, that’s more money for everything else,” Decoster said.

Their backlog is still about 80 properties above where they’d like it to be with the most inefficient properties scheduling six to nine months out. The least-need properties are scheduling out two years or more. But they feel with this staffing influx that other weatherization companies are seeing across the board the backlog will decrease.

“So four out of five of us are seeing that you know, we got our workflows to our staff that we need or our staff that we need and, and so I think we really turned that corner,” Decoster said.

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