Library, nature center top grant request list

Published 8:03 am Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Austin City Council members were asked Monday to prioritize 2010 Hormel Foundation grant requests, and coming to the top of the list were proposals from the library and the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

Thirteen proposals are currently being considered, totaling $347,513, so each council member gave 13 points to his or her favorite project and just one point to their least favorite.

With 90 points, a $9,000 funding request for the library’s summer reading program was the favorite proposal of the evening.

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Library director Ann Hokanson said the program has been immensely popular this summer — upward of 700 children have participated, though Hokanson said staff only geared up for 350.

“We need to be ready for that many kids again,” she said.

To accommodate the jump in attendance, Hokanson said the library has used up “every last supply.”

She added that she hoped Friends of the Library donations would cover the increased costs by 2011, but would like the added funding to support the program at the same level next year.

Second on the council’s list with 83 points was a request by the nature center to establish permanent funding for Austin and Mower County students to attend the center at a low cost.

According to the grant application, the center has typically allowed students to go at a price that is well below the center’s operating cost.

The application states that, given the current economy, many schools and parents can’t increase their contribution to the center. The grant would help subsidize the program and keep costs low for students.

The request would actually lower the current student price to $1, which could give incentive to more county schools to attend, according to the application.

Two grant proposals inspired by tree damage during the June 17 tornado also received a moderate amount of council support.

A $75,000 grant proposal, which notched 66 points from the council, would help with replacing trees and starting a tree inventory program.

The money would go toward trees at Todd Park and the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

According to the grant application, 50 percent of the trees at Todd Park were lost in the storm. At the nature center, 300 more were destroyed.

In addition to replacing those lost trees, officials want to start a GPS tree inventory system, which can be beneficial when tracking tree diseases and infestations, according to the grant application.

A second $25,000 grant would provide funds for removing a large number of trees downed in Dobbins Creek and the Cedar River. That proposal received 56 points from the council.

John O’Rourke, former Austin mayor and current member of the Hormel Foundation board, said Monday that the foundation would give strong consideration to tornado-related funding.

O’Rourke said a final decision on grant requests would be made at a November meeting. Last year, the Hormel Foundation approved $317,400 in grants for the city.