Friends and staff of the Kenai library had a good read this month when they received a letter from the Rasmuson Foundation saying the library has been awarded $1.5 million toward its expansion project.
"It is my great pleasure to inform you that (the) city of Kenai ... has been awarded a grant of up to $1.5 million for expansion and renovation of the Kenai Community Library," said foundation President Diane Kaplan in a letter to City Manager Rick Koch.
The city is on track to double the size of the library on Main Street Loop to the tune of $5.3 million. The sum includes a 25 percent, or $1.06 million contingency amount to cover unanticipated increases in costs of construction and materials.
Kenai voters already have agreed to allow the city to issue $2 million in municipal bonds for the project, and the Friends of the Library have committed $170,000 toward the expansion, according to Mary Jo Joiner, library director.
"The Friends are also planning some fundraising activities to involve the entire community," she said Wednesday. One possible activity is a Kids Penny Drive.
The two-part Rasmuson grant challenges the city to raise $2 for each dollar the foundation funds up to $200,000. The second part of the grant -- a top-off portion -- will give the city $1.3 million when all required funds for construction have been committed, according to Kaplan's letter.
"It's a lot of money in a short time," Joiner said. "I think it's doable."
She said the voter approval is sufficient under terms of the grant to satisfy $2 million of the requirement, and the Kenai City Council already has committed $250,000 from state funds toward construction plan drawings.
The expansion will take the library to about 10,000 square feet, Joiner said, and the long-range plan would increase its size to 17,000 square feet.
In the initial phase, a single-story addition, will be built between the existing building and Kenai City Hall. The new main entrance will be off Fidalgo Avenue, the same street as city hall.
Of particular need right now, Joiner said, is an expanded children's area that would combine the reading room and program space. She said she also would like to see a separate teen area in the library.
Also being considered is a public meeting room that could be open when the rest of the library is closed.
Joiner is eying a fireplace for one reading area and envisions possibly selling fireplace tiles as a fund raiser.
"Once we have the construction drawings, we will know what the (total) cost is," she said.
"We're so excited," Joiner said. "This has been such a long time coming, especially for the Friends."
By way of another Rasmuson grant, this fall, the library will receive some new furniture.
"This should give people a taste of what's coming," Joiner said.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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