All but one member of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council was on hand when Deputy Secretary Mark Menezes and Senior Advisor Allan Webster from the Department of Energy visited the Blackfeet nation at the General Council meeting on Thursday, Jan. 10. As he stood at the podium, Menezes announced he’d arrived with good news regarding a cost-sharing reduction program that Melissa Weatherwax had applied for on behalf of Blackfeet Community College.
“She sent a letter regarding the challenges BCC faced during the pandemic,” Menezes said. “Her letter was very powerful.”
All Department of Energy grants for projects like those at BCC that involve solar and other sources of energy come with a 50% cost sharing obligation to the college. While the more-than-50 applicants had all requested a 25% reduction in their debt, Menezes said BCC’s was so good that they have been approved for a reduction from 50% to 10% to support solar technology upgrades on four campus buildings - Red Fox, Little Star, Medicine Shield and the Muskrat Lodge. The reduction was an effort by the DOE to support communities in response to the COVID-19 public emergency. BCC was recognized for their efforts in supporting students by offering laptops, reduced tuition and debt forgiveness.
“The Blackfeet Tribe and BCC are very grateful for the Department of Energy’s approval of the 10% cost share reduction,” Tribal Chairman Timothy Davis said. “In these tumultuous times of the pandemic, funding all around is scarce and hard to come by, especially in regards to education. We look forward to continuing work between all entities to provide the best for the Blackfeet People.”
BCC President Dr. Karla Bird was also in attendance, as well as Helen Augare-Carlson and Melissa Weatherwax, and the entire group adjourned from the BTBC Conference Room and moved to the Yellow Bird Woman Lodge at BCC where the Assistant Secretary was greeted with speeches, traditional drumming and singing, and lunch.
“Blackfeet Community College would like to extend their gratitude to the Department of Energy for the cost share reduction, as well as the visit to the Blackfeet Community College,” College officials stated.