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New leader at the core

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The new executive director of Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency found some good news and some bad news when he started the job barely a month ago.

The budget for next year is tighter than a newly weatherized house. But on the flip side, the agency came through its recent federal audit with no glaring problems, Gregg Dubit said in an interview last week.

Dubit was appointed interim executive director July 1 when Aileen Tracy left. He had been the agency’s weatherization project manager since he was hired in 2009. The board named him permanent executive director this fall, and he started in that position Nov. 1.

“He was experienced, and he understands the 4CORE mission,” Bobbe Jones, assistant member services manager at Empire Electric Association and chairwoman of the 4CORE board, said in explaining why Dubit was given the job permanently.

“He tries hard to get programs that fit the community,” Jones said. “He wants to provide people the best energy options.”

4CORE, which opened its doors in 2008, has 12 employees and two interns. Its mission is to be Southwest Colorado’s resource hub, inspiring communities to become resilient.

The agency has programs in La Plata, Archuleta, Montezuma, San Juan and Dolores counties.

Dubit, 48, is a native of Washington, D.C., who has been in Durango for 20 years. He came the first time at age 13 to attend the Colvig Silver Camps northeast of Durango.

“I learned there was something beyond the Beltway,” he said. “I never looked back.”

Dubit earned a degree in forestry resource management at the University of New Hampshire and a degree in science education at Fort Lewis College.

In his early days in Durango, he was as an instructor for Outward Bound, worked for the Colorado State Forest Service and was on the ski patrol at Purgatory. He founded and still operates Durango Dog Ranch, which provides outings by dog sled in the San Juan National Forest.

Dubit has found a big difference between managing the 4CORE weatherization program and running the whole show.

“It’s a big jump,” he said. “I was impressed. I was staggered.”

The weatherization program, funded through the U.S. Department of Energy, is pretty straightforward, Dubit said.

“It’s technical and policy-driven because they have a rule book that you play by,” Dubit said. “But the executive director’s post is less defined.”

Funding for next year is constantly on his mind, said Dubit. Along with directors of other nonprofit organizations, he made his case for funding to La Plata County commissioners in mid-November.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote Tuesday on the final budget for 2012, which includes money for nonprofits. County staff members have recommended a 50 percent cut in 4CORE funding.

“The more local sponsors, the better the likelihood of qualifying for federal funding,” Dubit said. “A small investment by many here will help the entire region.”

Ninety-five percent of 4CORE funding comes from federal government grants, Dubit said, so partnerships with local entities is crucial.

4CORE counts support from such partners as BP, First National Bank of Durango, La Plata Electric Association, Empire Electric, La Plata County, the city of Durango, the town of Ignacio and the city of Cortez.

One constant has been the Sustainable Building Education Program which, with the advice of the man who founded it in 2009, sponsors green building workshops.

“The workshops focus on high-performance, healthy homes,” Greg Mantell-Hecathorn said. “I act as a consultant and help them find speakers.”

The first year, 1,400 people attended the sessions, Mantell-Hecathorn said.

“We offer advanced training for energy raters and builders and training for subcontractors on furnaces and duct work,” Mantell-Hecathorn said.

On the bright side, 4CORE passed the third-party audit required by the government for agencies that spend $500,000 or more of federal grants annually, Dubit said.

“We were clean,” Dubit said. “People should feel good that the money we spend goes where it’s supposed to go.”

Seventy percent of the budget supports weatherization projects, Dubit said, because the agency mission is to advance resource efficiency and save energy among businesses and homeowners.

There’s a waiting list of 150 for weatherization, Dubit said. It appears the number of projects next year will drop by 50 to 60 percent. He estimated that 252 units will be weatherized this year and about 100 in 2012.

Weatherization, funded with federal dollars through the Governor’s Energy Office and stimulus money, retrofits housing for low-income residences.

Dale Rodebaugh
The Durango Herald