Bell Tower Foundation looking for CAT grant to finish carillon

BT from southwest, Sept. 8, 2015The Mahanay Memorial Bell Tower turns 50 years old next October, and members of the Bell Tower Community Foundation want to give the tower a huge gift – 34 more bells hanging at the top of the tower, connected to a keyboard and ready to make music.

The foundation is preparing an application through Vision Iowa’s Community Attractions and Tourism (CAT) grant program for up to $220,000 to complete the carillon. The same program provided $220,000 in funding for the new Grand Junction Community Center a year ago. Sam Parker of Region XII Council of Governments assisted with the Grand Junction application and is also working on the Bell Tower Community Foundation application.

County supervisor Guy Richardson, ex officio on the foundation board, and county engineer Wade Weiss briefed the supervisors about the grant application Monday morning. Peg Raney, a founding member of the foundation, briefed the Jefferson city council Tuesday evening. Both the county and the city of Jefferson are being asked to contribute funds toward the match for the grant.

The project will expand the carillon from the current 14 bells now hanging atop the bell tower to a full four octave carillon. The county earlier this fall replaced strikers on five of the bells now hanging. The project includes putting new strikers in the nine other bells now hanging; putting strikers in the 15 bells now on display in the courthouse and hanging them; purchasing and hanging the 19 “missing” bells, including strikers; required engineering, fabrication and installation of the necessary structure from which the additional bells will hang; and electrical work to hook the bells into a digital keyboard. (The keyboard was recently purchased by the foundation).

Total cost is estimated at $440,000. The CAT grant could cover up to half. According to Raney, the foundation has funds on hand for a significant portion of the match due to a generous bequest from the late Paul Nally.

The county supervisors have discussed the bell tower many times over the past two years or so. Per the agreement when the bell tower was built with money provided by Floyd Mahanay, the county owns the bell tower and is responsible for maintenance of it. The Bell Tower Community Foundation was organized in 1991 to raise funds for capital improvements.

The supervisors on Monday unanimously approved a resolution of support for the CAT grant application. The resolution includes a commitment of up to $50,000 for the project.

Raney asked the Jefferson city council for a similar resolution of support, with a commitment of funds for the project. The city allocates $4,000 each year to the foundation. Raney asked the council to consider increasing that amount to at least $5,000. The council plans to have the resolution on its Nov. 24 agenda for approval.

The supervisors made an impromptu phone call to grant writer Parker on Monday. He verified that the VISION Iowa board will look for financial commitments from the county and the city as it considers the application. He also cautioned that VISION Iowa has never fully funded a CAT grant. (The Grand Junction request was for $250,000; it was funded for $220,000 contingent on the Community Center committee raising the remaining $30,000 within 90 days.)

“Getting this grant would be a huge boost to the project,” Weiss told the supervisors. “I don’t know of a project that would rank higher than this.”

 

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