Big Project for Small Town Now a Go
By Dave Franzman, Reporter
VAN HORNE, Iowa- The Benton County community of Van Horne is about to embark on a municipal building boom.
At least it’s a boom if you consider Van Horne is a town of fewer than 700 residents.
Beginning about two years ago, Van Horne residents passed a bond issue and began seeking donations for three civic projects. The community wanted to build a new town library and community center. The current city hall would close and move into a refurbished old library. The total price tag is $1.3-million dollars.
But all the talking and planning is about to shift into construction after the community received an Iowa Community Attractions and Tourism (CAT) grant in the amount of $165,000 last week. That put the entire project within $3,600 of its goal and residents quickly found those final few dollars.
Town librarian Patrice Strellner kept missing calls when she tried to find out the results of the CAT grant application last week. When she finally got the news, she said it was worth the wait.
“We’ve been trying to prepare and now all of a sudden it’s like, here we go. And we feel like everything is happening at once and it’s so exciting,” Strellner said.
The new library, which will go up next to the old one, will still have a place for all the books. But Strellner wanted more technology and more space for both kids and teens. She’ll get that with a new library.
Van Horne Mayor Marty Junge said the current town community center actually began life about a 100 years ago as a chicken coop. A new facility for community events and meetings will go up next to the volunteer fire station. The mayor said last, but not least, is what the town plans to do with the current city hall. Junge said the building is literally falling apart and nobody new to the community is impressed when they see the stacked boxes or records and other municipal junk scattered around the single room office.
Junge said “the kind of money we raised, for a town this size, shows a lot for the community.” And he added “There are a few naysayers out there who said it’ll never happen. I think they’re now starting to tread water backwards, because it is going to happen.”
The mayor said 70 percent of voters approved a $400-thousand dollar bond issue for the new municipal buildings. The volunteer fund raising brought in more than $700,000. The community hasn’t spent a lot on city buildings in recent years. A new fire station 20 years ago was the most recent community building project.
Beth Hoopes, a member of the town’s events committee, said as news of the final dollars came in the excitement started building.
“We have a lot of events going on and planned and me, being from the events committee, we need the building space for the community,” Hoopes said.
The mayor expects the town to get bids in April on the three projects and start work almost immediately this spring. Junge expects to open two new civic buildings and move into a new city hall space by this fall.
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