The Texoma Council of Governments extended its weatherization program to cover Collin, Denton, Rockwall and Hunt counties on a permanent basis, and its utility assistance program will be permanently extended to the same counties contingent on if the funding is awarded for the program.

TCOG Energy Services includes the weatherization assistance and the utility assistance programs, which fall under the monikers Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, respectively. The governing board approved to permanently continue LIHEAP for the four additional counties, and it approved the application and acceptance of funding for CEAP at the monthly meeting last Thursday.

With the award of the CEAP funding and the previous award of the LIHEAP funding, a total of six jobs will be opened up at TCOG in Energy Services as a result of contracts with the four additional counties. TCOG was previously operating these two programs in the four additional counties on an interim basis after the state approached TCOG to administer the programs for these areas, TCOG Client Services Director Allison Reider said. Both programs are funded through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

“We secured the LIHEAP funding on a permanent basis, and we anticipate on securing the CEAP for the additional four counties on a permanent basis as well,” Reider said.

Both programs are geared toward low-income families and provide direct services, Reider said. The utility assistance program is designed to help low-income households to meet energy needs by providing copayments on utilities for a specific time frame and providing education components to help families work up to self-sufficiency, Reider said.

The weatherization program is designed to make homes more energy efficient and reduce utility costs. The program provides repairs to eligible households like improving insulation, weather-striping and repairing or replacing heating and air-conditioning units. This TCOG program serves 19 counties.

“The energy services program is creating by virtue by accepting these contracts and administering the programs, we are bringing six new jobs to Grayson County specifically because this is where we are housed,” Reider said. “The economic impact for six jobs at roughly $33,000 a position is nothing to sneeze at and we’re very excited about that.”

Reider also noted that four other jobs were added in the clients services department, which she said is a direct result of TCOG’s ability to administer its programs, and all the new jobs have a positive impact on the local economy.

“If we weren’t able to do that in a successful way, we certainly wouldn’t be considered for additional funding from the state,” Reider said.

During discussion on LIHEAP at the board meeting Thursday, board member Jeff Whitmire raised a concern that by serving areas outside Cooke, Fannin and Grayson counties, it’s outside the scope of TCOG’s purpose.

“I’m somewhat concerned we’ve gotten away from the purpose of serving our three counties and the citizens of those three counties by turning into a program organization that’s now doing 19 counties,” Whitmire said. “That’s not the purpose of the organization.”

Judy Fullylove, energy services program manger, said during the meeting that the tri-county area doesn’t suffer because of the additional counties TCOG serves. She also noted that Grayson County seems to benefit the most.

“I think as far as total work, we’re not only serving our three counties well, we’re also serving another 15 counties just as well,” Fullylove said.

After a board member raised the question of how far would this program extends, Reider said that for the weatherization program, it has reached its max service area. Because TCOG can take on these contracts and can handle them, Reider said it should do so.

“No county is treated differently, no county suffers,” Reider said. “This tri-county area is our first commitment — is served so well that these funding sources come to us, and ask us to take additional responsibility.”