Grant ‘game changer’ for MV Community Center – Methow Valley News

Photo by Don Nelson
The 110-year-old Methow Valley Community Center will use a $25,000 grant to begin upgrading its heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

Will pay for engineering study of HVAC upgrades

In an effort to create a “clean air refuge” for local residents when air quality is unhealthy, the Methow Valley Community Center in Twisp has begun work on upgrading the heating, ventilation and of the 110 year old building.

The community center received a $25,000 grant to pay for an engineering study to design an energy-efficient system that will allow the community center to provide clean, fresh air during smoke and heat events.

Funding for the study is provided by a Game Changer grant through the Methow Valley Fund of the Community Foundation of North Central Washington. Game Changer grants are intended to fund projects that will have a meaningful impact on important community issues.

The community center is a gathering place for community events and performances, and acts as a hub during natural disasters such as wildfires, said Kirsten Ostlie, executive director.

“When we have extreme weather or emergencies, people come to the community center for information, to gather with their friends and neighbors, and to get some respite from the current situation,” Ostlie said.

Provide shelter

Even when people are not directly threatened by wildfires, their health is at risk from the smoke in the air. However, the valley does not have a designated space where community members can find refuge when the air outside is unhealthy.

“Last year we opened the gymnasium for families to recreate, but the air wasn’t good here either,” Ostlie said. “It’s not a matter of ‘if’. Smoke events will recur in our forest region.

The community center has an 82-year-old oil furnace and the building has no central air conditioning or filtration system. With the $25,000 grant, the community center hired P2S, a Seattle-based design engineering firm to detail the steps needed to work toward a clean energy heating/cooling and air filtration system.

The project has received support from the Methow Valley Citizens Council and its Clean Air Methow program which promotes clean air and community preparedness for smoke. The community center will partner on the project with the Resilient Methow Climate Action Plan Hub, a collaboration of local organizations, including the Methow Valley Citizens Council, which promotes action on climate issues.

“The Citizens’ Council has been very supportive of this project … and has given time and expertise to the process,” Ostlie said. “We were the facility they used for Clean Air Methow and Climate Action Plan meetings and named this facility as an example of retrofitting an older building to meet today’s air quality needs. “

Data from Clean Air Methow shows that people benefit from shelters that provide clean, fresh air during smoky and hot spells if there are activities under the shelter, such as basketball, skating skateboard or the courses, Ostlie said.

The community center is also in partnership with the Methow Valley School District, which owns the building (a former high school) and leases it to the center.

“The school district is working on an extended lease for us, as the next phase will be raising the necessary funds and applying for grants to get us there. Many of the grants we’ve seen so far require matching funds and a 15-year lease. The school district has been sensitive to this issue and wants to help in any way possible,” Ostlie said.

After completing the feasibility study for the energy retrofit currently underway, MVCC will work with its partners to obtain the necessary financing to carry out the work. The project is large and complex and will likely cost more than $500,000, according to information prepared by the MVCC for the Game Changer grant. The design will include additional insulation and a backup power system for the building in the event of a power outage, Ostlie said.

According to a proposed schedule for the project, the community center will continue fundraising and grants in August, request estimates from contractors in March 2023 and begin work in the summer of 2023.

New grant program

The Methow Valley Game Changer Grants are new this year and funded by bequests from Methow Valley residents Ken Westman and Mike Real, according to information from the Community Foundation of North Central Washington. The annual grant opportunity is for Methow Valley nonprofit organizations that have a plan to take their work to the next level and have a meaningful impact on an important community issue.

In addition to the $25,000 awarded to the community center, a Game Changer grant of $75,000 was awarded to Jamie’s Place, the Valley’s only adult family home, to provide housing for their staff caregivers who live in the insecure. (An article on this topic appeared last week in Methow Valley News.)

Carers employed by Jamie’s Place are struggling to find affordable housing in the Methow Valley, so Jamie’s Place will use the grant to purchase and install two small houses on its property to provide accommodation for staff. The grant also enables Jamie’s Place, in conjunction with Methow At Home, to offer a year-long pilot program called Silvernest, a networking service that matches senior homeowners with pre-screened roommates.

Jill E. Washington