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George thrives on grants received

GEORGE, Iowa -- Several city entities are gearing up for summer projects thanks to grants recently awarded by the Lyon County Riverboat Foundation.

The foundation distributed 39 grants to various organizations in the county during an award ceremony May 1 at the Grand Falls Casino Resort, Larchwood, Iowa.

The city of George received two grants -- $35,000 for Siebring Park and $2,200 for the George Bicentennial Museum.

City Clerk Laurie Koerselman explained the grant for the castle-design playground equipment at Siebring Park is a partial one.

The earlier portion of an equal amount was awarded during the fall 2011 grant cycle.

"The great big castle is a modular unit made from recycled plastic," Koerselman said, adding that current playground equipment is outdated.

She added that the $2,200 grant will fund the purchase of the air conditioning unit for the additional building constructed at the George Bicentennial Museum last year.

Improvements will also be conducted on the recreational trail and the train depot from grants received by George Community Foundation, a non-profit entity of the city.

The foundation received $12,000 for the expansion of the recreational trail by approximately 800 feet. The current trail will be extended to connect the swimming pool, the George Betterment Club basketball court/ice skating rink and the city campground.

Former City Clerk Bernie Weier, who refers to herself as an "interested retired individual," said the grant will assist with the cement cost.

Weier explained that the trail, which spans 3.97 miles around the city, was the result of volunteer labor. Work on the trail will begin this summer, as soon as volunteers are recruited for the project.

"We had more than 240 volunteers who helped to build our trail since 2005 to 2009," Weier said. "It was just fantastic."

The $12,000 grant will also cover the purchase of two additional basketball hoops for the George Betterment Club basketball court.

The non-profit organization has another project under its belt from an $18,000 grant -- moving and renovating the train depot.

United Farmer's Coop Lumberyard occupied the iconic structure but announced plans for sale of the depot in January. The alternative was to demolish the building, Weier said.

"That's our only link to the history of George, so we decided to move it Locker Park," she added.

Upon completion, the train depot at the new location will be converted into a shelter house. Weier added that the existing, original structure will be preserved as much as possible.

"We're so grateful because the grants have given us opportunity to turn our dreams into reality," Weier said.

The Lyon County Riverboat Foundation introduced multi-cycle grants this spring. The George Fire Department is among the five entities to receive the grants.

The foundation will award $15,170.50 to the fire department for four grant cycles, bringing the total to $60,682 to purchase a grass rig fire truck.

"The older one doesn't have the pump and roll feature, which means they can't squirt water as they're moving," Koerselman explained. "This absolutely comes in handy because last year we probably had a dozen grass fires."

Other entities that received grants were the Emergency Medical Services ($12,163.50 for automated external defibrillator) and the George-Little Rock School district, ($10,000 for playground improvement).

The Lyon County Riverboat Foundation is a non-profit affiliate and gaming license holder for the Grand Falls Casino. The 13-member foundation, which consists of at least one representative from each city, was initiated in June 2011.

It receives a fixed amount of net gaming revenue annually -- 50 percent of which is distributed for competitive grants over two cycles a year, -- explained Jeff Gallagher, the foundation board president.

This spring, the foundation awarded $555,700 worth of grants.

"We look forward to the future and all the things we can get done in Lyon County," Gallagher said.

Deadline for grants in the fall 2012 cycle will be in September. An exact date has yet to be determined.

Daily Globe Reporter Ana Anthony may be reached at 376-7321.