On June 2, 2020, Go Forward Pine Bluff CEO Ryan Watley proposed establishing the city of Pine Bluff, Arkansas as a Property Assessment Clean Energy District (PACE) to the Planning and Development Committee of the Pine Bluff City Council.

PACE is an Act approved by the 89th Arkansas General Assembly to create jobs, retain wealth and grow the local economy by enabling property assessed clean energy financing. The Act authorizes the establishment of energy improvement districts to fund loans for energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy projects and water conservation improvements on residential, commercial, industrial and other real properties at the request of the owner.

Joined by Mayor Shirley Washington, Watley explained “PACE decreases the cost of providing funds to participating citizens and lowers the aggregate issuance and servicing the costs of loans. As a result, financing is made available to rural communities that might not otherwise create and finance energy improvement districts.  Participating citizens will make a significant contribution towards increasing the value of improved real property”.

Washington added that “energy efficient improvements such an insulation, modernized windows, and a new roofing reduces the cost of utility bills. The difference often results in a better quality of life for citizens and disposable income. PACE is one of many methods we need to upgrade city’s housing stock”.

PACE aligns with the Go Forward Pine Bluff’s plan of creating an incentive package that uses tax exemptions, loan packages and discounted rent to attract investors and new residents. These tools are expected to boost new construction and encourage the purchase and rehabilitation of existing structures. According to the plan, the supporting parties for this initiative include local financial institutions and the Pine Bluff city government.

The Planning and Development committee consist of Council Members Win Trafford, Bruce Lockett and Glen Brown Jr.

Council Member Lockett expressed his dissent of the program due to its lack of availability too low to moderate income citizens. However, Watley countered “the program is available to all and that low to moderate income families stand the most to gain from energy efficient improvements since their utility bills are often the severely high. It is our responsibility to create a product that is attractive and affordable to all citizens, educate citizens on the benefits and encourage them to apply”.

A statement released by also Watley reads, “It is critical that citizens have access to capital at an affordable rate. More citizens will be able to participate in the PACE initiative than conventional loans as it is collateral based lending rather than lending based upon the ability-to-pay. Establishing the PACE district will facilitate access to capital and through the expenditure of those funds, the energy footprint will be reduced, jobs created, and the value of our community will be increased.

There is a dire need for cash infusion into our residential and commercial districts followed by detailed reassessment of property. Examples of PACE projects are roofing, HVAC, water heaters, insulation, windows, doors and lighting. We are currently only exercising the ability to condemn and raze property. We are doing that quite well now. However, this initiative will work to repair existing homes and build new residential properties”.

The following citizens of Pine Bluff have been selected by Mayor Washington to serve on the PACE Board:

Duncan Bellingrath
Verna Perry
Henry Dabner
Jessica Drake
Donald Hatchett
Efreem Neely

The Planning and Development committee recommended the establishment of the PACE district with board members to the full council with a “do pass” to be voted on June 15, 2020.