Elkader awarded grant for Keystone Bridge

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By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


The city of Elkader was recently awarded a $9,000 grant from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, as part of the Emergency Historical Resource Development Program from the State Historical Society of Iowa. 


The lengthy application for the grant included a series of questions about the project and organization, the impact of the project on the community, historic preservation methods and the budget. It was submitted under the name of the county, a key requirement of the application process because it is a certified local government. 


According to Elkader City Administrator Jennifer Cowsert, the $9,000 was awarded because the “committee could see that there is an urgent need and that the community is committed to preserving this historic bridge.” It is specifically for the stones and stone repair portion of the Keystone Bridge rehab project. 


“By partnering with the Clayton County Historic Preservation Commission on this application and receiving the funding from the Department of Cultural Affairs, it shows this bridge is an asset to so many beyond just Elkader. We are very appreciative of this funding and their support of our preservation efforts,” Cowsert said. 


The addition of this grant, along with private donations, local fundraising efforts and other grants, brings the total amount raised for the bridge to around $27,500. That is lower than what was previously anticipated, especially with the GoFundMe page currently accepting local donations. So far, that effort has raised just over $900. 


“The fundraising isn’t going as well as I had hoped. We had a lot of suggestions to create a GoFundMe Page before we created it, so I assumed it would take off faster. We are very appreciative of everyone who has donated though,” Cowsert said. 


Applying for grants has also hit a wall, mostly due to the fact the project has already started. According to Cowsert,  “many/most grants don’t want you to spend money before being awarded the grant.” 


With the money that’s been currently raised, the city still needs to find roughly $1.7 million to cover added repair costs. 


While grants have been helpful, they’re also difficult to get, and with local fundraising coming in below expectations, the city council recently approved Resolution 2022-34, which set a public hearing for interim financing so the city can borrow the required funds needed to cover the remaining $1.7 million. 


Cowsert repeatedly stated city officials are “still hoping to find other funding” so they don’t need to borrow as much for permanent financing. 


That additional financing will come with a hard cap of $3 million, above what is needed as an insurance policy in case something else unexpected “comes up,” which can with large construction projects. 


If the council approves a future resolution authorizing a loan after the public hearing, the current plan is to use Central State Bank (CSB), which offered a lower interest rate compared to another local bank. According to Cowsert, CSB is offering a 2.45 percent interest rate, which was about 2 percent lower than the other bank that was contacted. 


Cowsert added CSB indicated during the conversation that the reduced rate of 2.45 percent is CSB’s way of “making a donation to the bridge project.” 


When it comes to how this will impact future debt limits, budgets and even property taxes, a lot remains unknown until the final amount of permanent financing is established. Cowsert reiterated the city is hopeful of finding other funding. 


The public hearing regarding permanent financing is scheduled for the Oct. 10 council meeting.

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