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Committee making quiet progress in Carnegie fundraising

BEMIDJI –The Save the Carnegie committee is making some quiet progress in its fundraising efforts to restore the aging building. 

The committee found out that their application for a grant from the George W. Neilson Foundation was approved a couple weeks ago, netting $150,000. That’s on top of the $100,000 the city has pledged, in addition to several other donations, said committee chair Lew Crenshaw.

The committee hopes to raise about $1.6 million through donations and grants to renovate and rehabilitate the 102 year-old library, which is on the National Registry of Historic Places.

On Tuesday, the city council approved the committee’s plan to apply for a grant from the Blandin Foundation. They’re hoping to get another $150,000 there, said city clerk Kay Murphy. The committee may also look at getting Legacy grant money from the state, she said. 

Meanwhile, the group is talking to people in the community who might have the financial resources to be a large contribution to the project, Crenshaw said. He referred to this as the “quiet period” of fundraising, when the committee develops its strategy and seeks out benefactors.

Next year, Crenshaw hopes to bring the fundraising to the community at large, including traveling to the Minnesota State Fair and doing more promotion through two websites.

“We’ll be very visible then,” he said.

 The committee is working on a 16-month fundraising timeline, said Murphy, who added that they plan on starting the renovation in spring 2014.

The library’s future has been a source of discussion in recent years. The city council’s decision to make plans for Library Park without the Carnegie building prompted protest among those who wanted to see it preserved.

The council directed in July, however, that the building must be moved back 10 feet from Paul Bunyan Drive, adding some additional costs.

Murphy said that any extra funds they raise will likely go to an endowment fund for building upkeep in the future.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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