Bexley has joined a new statewide entity that can help residents obtain financing to make energy-efficient improvements to their houses.

City Council approved legislation for the concept in a 5-0 vote June 11. Monique Lampke and council President Lori Ann Feibel were absent.

The legislation authorizes Bexley to enter into an agreement with the Columbus Regional Energy Special Improvement District and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

According to the ordinance, energy special improvement districts, or E-SIDs, are voluntary organizations of municipal corporations, townships and individual property owners who undertake special energy improvement projects for their properties and finance the projects through special assessments.

The program "benefits property owners in several ways. One primary way is it allows borrowing on energy-efficient improvements," Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler said.

"For example, if it takes 10 years for you to pay off your solar panels, you don't necessarily want to take a five-year loan against it. Or maybe it's 15 years. (An E-SID) allows you to take a loan on those improvements, which are long-lived improvements, let them pay for themselves during that process and essentially neutralize the cost of some of these improvements," he said.

The legislation builds on a resolution Bexley City Council passed last spring that enabled the city to join the Columbus regional E-SID, Kessler said. In addition to Bexley, the Columbus regional E-SID includes Columbus, Dublin, Grove City, Hilliard, Whitehall, Worthington and Perry Township.

Bexley's legislation authorizes the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority to oversee transactions between residential property owners and contractors who install solar panels and other energy-efficient improvements. The agreement enables the Columbus E-SID and other regional ESIDs in Ohio to form a collective pool of potential customers that will encourage more commercial lenders to finance loans for energy-efficient improvements, Kessler said.

"All of the E-SIDS have agreed that this third-party administrator is going to handle these loans that come in and is going to underwrite them and apply the criteria we've agreed to," he said of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. "They can turn underwriting decisions around in 24 hours and do all the (administrative functions) that we're just not equipped to do."

Bexley's agreement with the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority enables Ohio to operate a statewide residential energy special improvement program that is similar to those in states such as California, Florida and Missouri, said John Caleb Bell, an attorney with the Columbus law firm Bricker & Eckler.

"Ohio's law has always contemplated this. For the past 10 years, the (Ohio) General Assembly's authorized residential financing" for energy-efficient improvements, Bell said June 11 before the final vote.

"We've never been able to crack the code, so to speak, of how to get individualized micro loans, essentially, to individual property owners on a scale that would work to create a market," he said.

Bexley's legislation can serve as a model for municipalities around the state to help residents obtain financing to make energy-efficient improvements to their houses, Kessler said.

"It's an example of regionalism but also regional cooperation. I think it's a really cool model for cooperation among local governments," he said. "Now we have critical mass. We have large market areas. It's not just Bexley going into this."