DeWitt Library project receives CAT grant

DEWITT — DeWitt city and library officials learned Wednesday that they can count on a $350,000 state grant for the expansion of the Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library.

The Community Attraction and Tourism grant is contingent upon $40,000 being raised in the next 90 days, said Jillian Aschliman, library director.

“We are confident we can make this happen,” she said of the goal.

“We still have a number of fundraisers planned,” she noted, and donations of any size are much appreciated.

“Any little bit helps us reach that $40,000 to get $350,000,” she said.

“The community has been incredibly generous, and the fact we are able to get this grant just months after the referendum vote is phenomenal. We appreciate the continued support,” she said.

A $3.5 million bond was approved by voters in August for the $5.7 million project that will more than triple the library’s size and add many improvements.

About $2.8 million for the project will come from private donations and grants. As of early last week, about $1.56 million had been raised in this category, said Tammy McClimon, a member of the library board and the committee working on the expansion project. That figure does not include the CAT grant.

Funding for the project is within 89 percent of the total goal.

Applicants for CAT grants — which assist communities in the development and creation of multiple-purpose attraction or tourism facilities — must document that at least 50 percent of the total project cost has been raised before applying.

At its regular meeting last week, the library board had much to talk about regarding the building expansion project set to start this year.

The former Thiel building has been emptied of books and other items in storage, and demolition will begin soon, Aschliman said.

The building, which is located east of City Hall and south of the library, is the former site of Thiel Motors.

Owned by the city, it was used for storage and for Friends of the Library book sales.

Several fundraising activities are planned for the next few months.

During January, February and March, Kriegers Chevrolet Buick GMC car dealership in DeWitt is donating $100 for each car sold and $1 for every oil change to the project, with the goal of raising $30,000.

A gala is also planned for Feb. 23 at 21 Chop House. More information on that will be coming soon.

In other business, the library board:

– Approved presenting a total annual budget of $314,651 to the city as it begins its budget workshop process. The budget, which is for the 2019-20 fiscal year that begins July 1, is slightly under the library’s $316,882 budget last year. The budget will eventually go to the DeWitt City Council for approval.

– Heard a status report on the hiring of a Youth Services coordinator. Aschliman said she received several applications and is in the interviewing process. She expects to make a decision by mid-January.

– Received an update on the Winter Reading Program that runs until Jan. 31. A Family Fort Night will take place at 6 p.m. Feb. 1 to celebrate the end of the program. Families are encouraged to bring blankets and pillows to build forts and participate in other activities. A snack will be served.

– Heard that work on the library’s accreditation application will start. The application is due Feb. 28.

– Approved a plan by Aschliman to set up visits to several Iowa libraries in late winter/early spring to get ideas for programming, new services, and technology that could be implemented in the new library or sooner. Among the libraries she plans to visit are North Liberty Community Library, Coralville Public Library, Washington Free Public Library, Musser Public Library in Muscatine, Carnegie-Stout Library in Dubuque, and libraries in Moline, Illinois and Bettendorf.

These libraries are a combination of being similar in service area size to the Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library, or having specific features or services that Aschliman would like to learn more about as the city transitions to a new facility.

Nancy Mayfield is a DeWitt Observer staff writer.