April 20, 2016 by Douglas Burns
Carole Custer, the president of the Jefferson Bell Tower Foundation, summed up an evening of $900,000 in check presentations to charitable causes, schools, cities and economic-development organizations in Greene and surrounding counties this way.
“It’s a little easier being green,” she said, paraphrasing Kermit the Frog in a word play on Greene County, host to a 9-month-old, $40 million casino.
Grow Greene County Gaming Corporation, the nonprofit that holds the casino license for Wild Rose Jefferson, Monday night made its first distributions within a wide geographic reach around Jefferson.
“It’s an exciting time to be part of an exceptional project, a project that will continue to give, deliver funds we can continue to share with our neighbors, improve and enhance communities around us,” said Norm Fandel, president of Grow Greene County Gaming Corporation. “Goals we have dreamed about for decades can now become a reality.”
Locally, the Carroll Community Foundation received $18,200, which the organization’s president, attorney Eric Neu, said would go toward development of a new Animal Rescue of Carroll shelter.
The largest single recipient: the Greene County Conservation Board with $124,000 going for paving bike trail crossings of gravel roads on the Raccoon River Valley Trail between Jefferson and the Guthrie County line.
“We think of the Raccoon River Valley Trail as being the best trail in the state,” said Dan Towers, conservation director for Greene County.
Following the awards ceremony at Wild Rose Casino and Resort in Jefferson, Towers said the funds will pay for the paving of the seven remaining gravel crossings.
“I just talked to the county engineer,” Towers said. “If everything goes right, we should be able to complete all of them this year.”
All contiguous counties — Boone, Calhoun, Carroll, Dallas, Greene and Webster — received $18,200.
In its agreement with Wild Rose Jefferson, Grow Greene County receives 5 percent of the casino’s adjusted gross gaming revenues to distribute to nonprofit and community-minded ventures in the region. The donation figure next year is projected to be far higher as the casino’s revenues from the opening in July through the end of 2015 amounted to about $12.1 million.
Distributions were higher than the $606,000 that flowed into Grow Greene County because the nonprofit is staging some over periods of years. Casino officials are on record with goals of $30 million in revenues per year, meaning the donations should more than double for the 2017 giving cycle.
About 1 percent of the nonprofit’s money go equally to Greene’s six bordering counties. None of the other 18 state-regulated casinos in Iowa have such an arrangement with neighboring counties.
The Greene County Community Foundation, which awarded grants to 18 groups last week, received $125,000. The Greene County Medical Center pulled in a check for $100,000, which will be paid over five years, and. among other things, equip and renovate an oncology unit.
Calhoun County plans to use the $18,200 toward one major $1 million project that has yet to be announced, said Joan Nepple of Lohrville, president of the Calhoun County Community Foundation.
Dallas County Community Foundation president Susan Brelsford said its $18,200 will be used for special “Grow Greene County grants.”
Guthrie County plans to use its donation to benefit Tori’s Angels, an organization that covers expenses such as travel, lodging, transportation and co-pays for children with life-threatening illnesses; and for the Prairie Woodland Conservation Foundation, which works to develop environmental education and conservation projects in Guthrie County. Specifically, money is expected to go to three paved crossings on the Raccoon River Valley Trail north of Panora.
In Webster County, Randy Kuhlman, president of the Fort Dodge Community Foundation, said its $18,200 will help fund a new $500,000 fire station in Gowrie, in the southern part of the county, close to Greene County.
Based on population, cities in Greene County received the following grants: Churdan, $4,707 to be used for new park equipment; Dana, $808 for street repair; Grand Junction, $10,053 for street improvement, work at the pool; Jefferson, $50,000 for pool, downtown and fire department improvements as well as a neighborhood enhancement program; Paton, $2,881 for park update and Main Street maintenance; Rippey, $2,561 for street repair; and Scranton, $6,795 for projects yet to be determined.
Churdan also earned a competitive grant of $60,000 that will assist with a planned $250,000 addition to the public library.
The Greene County School District plans to use its $68,044 check for a bus barn for the district, said Superintendent Tim Christensen.
Paton-Churdan will spend its $10,820 on replacement of a 20-year-old gym floor, said Superintendent Kreg Lensch.
The Greene County Development Corporation’s $50,000 will fund grooming work at the west business park, allowing for more development there, said Ken Paxton, executive director of the GCDC.
The Bell Tower Foundation received $61,500 for carillon bells. That donation will leverage more money from other sources for some major improvements to the bell tower, or what Custer — in a nod to Wild Rose’s leading-man status for the night — called “the other landmark in Jefferson.”
Genesis Development in Jefferson received $77,925 for equipment to assist in its mission to train people with disabilities.
The Jefferson Fire Department received $35,000 for air packs.
Courtesy of Daily Times Herald, 4/6/16.