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Community center is Chisago City’s ‘dream come true’


The EECBG grant allowed for the installation of  30 new double-glazed windows, four new skylights, new doors, new wall insulation, three 95-percent efficient furnaces, and several ENERGY STAR appliances--two gas stoves, two hot water heaters, and two refrigerators.

Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) enables extensive energy upgrade

CHISAGO CITY - When Chisago City purchased 70 acres of beautiful lakefront property just south of town in 2006, the acquisition presented a great opportunity. Not only did it allow Chisago City to establish Ojiketa Regional Park, it offered the chance to provide a community center long desired by the town.

Strom Hall, the largest building on the property, was pegged as the future Strom Hall Community Center. It was a structurally sound, handsome 7,000-square-foot building built in the 1960s; it served for years as the main lodge of Campfire USA’s Camp Ojiketa before being sold. But Strom Hall had all the original windows, doors, furnaces, hot water heaters and appliances, so it needed refurbishing in order to comfortably and efficiently host events year-round. It was not sustainable unless extensive energy upgrades were made.

Thus, the search for grants began in 2009, and soon the perfect opportunity presented itself: the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources. Chisago City, a city of 4,700 about 35 miles north of the Twin Cities, applied for and received the competitive grant, which was part of $10.4 million in EECBG funds the state received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The city was awarded $100,000 to install 30 new windows and four new skylights, new doors, new wall insulation, three 95-percent efficient furnaces, and several ENERGY STAR appliances--two gas stoves, two hot water heaters, and two refrigerators.

The work was completed in spring 2011, and today the facility is fulfilling the city’s dream as a venue for large community events such as weddings, reunions, festivals, camps, plays, and more.

“The improvements to Strom Hall have been a dream come true,” said Doris Zacho, parks coordinator for Chisago City. “The grant was a perfect fit for us. Without the energy improvements, Strom Hall would have remained closed during the cooler months, because of such high energy demands. We simply could not have afforded to open it.”

Energy costs trimmed 50 percent

Indeed, the old inefficient furnaces, the single-pane, wood-frame windows, the poorly insulated walls, and the old appliances made Strom Hall an energy hog. The city’s goal was to bring Strom Hall in compliance with guidelines of the Minnesota Sustainable Building 2030 laws and to lower energy costs by at least 50 percent.

To achieve the energy savings, specific improvements to Strom Hall were made, including:

  • 30 new high-efficiency double-glazed windows.

  • Four high-efficient double-pane skylight windows (replacing skylights made of plastic).

  • New front doors made of glass to replace French-style wood doors with 50 percent glass, a new fire door made of steel, and four patio doors to replace 14 single-pane windows.

  • Three new 95-percent efficient furnaces to replace 80-percent furnaces.

  • Caulking, weather stripping, and additional wall insulation to increase the R-value to R-15.

  • A new gas range to replace two 40-year-old gas stoves.

  • Two ENERGY STAR refrigerators to replace an inefficient 1973 condenser unit.

  • One ENERGY STAR on-demand hot water heater to replace an old 40-gallon gas-heated tank and a heat pump electric water heater to replace an industrial kitchen model.

Energy saved, jobs created, GHG reduced

The overall building envelope evaluation of the renovated Strom Hall Community Center predicts large energy savings (compared to how the building would have performed without the energy upgrades) and 316 tons of greenhouse gas reductions. Energy cost savings are estimated at $8,500 per year. Total cost of the project was $112,200 ($12,200 paid by Chisago City), with an estimated payback period of 13 years.

In addition to energy saved, city administrator John Pechman said the project generated about 400 hours of labor. The community center is available to the region and retains jobs to maintain the building and keep it operational year-round. The events hosted at the site will generate additional business for the community, he said.

Chisago City’s new Strom Hall Community Center is one of dozens of EECBG-funded municipal energy-efficiency projects that have been completed or are in progress across the state. Similar to Chisago City, Gonvick, a town of 300 in northwestern Minnesota, received a $100,000 grant to insulate and re-roof a building being transformed into Gonvick’s community center. The city of Franklin used an EECBG grant to establish a biomass-fueled district heating system, while Madison Lake replaced a failing HVAC system at City Hall. The EECBG program is intended to save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide jobs.

Of the $10.4 million in state EECBG funding, about 60 percent went to competitive grants for cities and counties such as Chisago City. The other 40 percent went to 23 larger cities and counties as formula grants. Ninety-two grantees (out of 127 applicants) were approved to receive up to $100,000 in competitive EECBG funding, with the majority of those awards (85) going for energy-efficient improvements to existing buildings (mostly lighting replacement, HVAC upgrades, new windows and doors, insulation, and air sealing). The average project is expected to pay for itself within seven or eight years.

In all, the 92 competitive-bid EECBG projects will achieve an estimated annual energy savings of 78,000 MMBtus and 8,000 tons of greenhouse gas reductions each year.

To learn more…

For more information from the Division of Energy Resources and its programs, visit the efficiency section of our website. For a complete listing of all incentives for efficiency and renewables, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency at