Recently, the Iowa Department of Transportation awarded more than $20,000 to nine communities or organizations to help with beautification projects. The money comes from the Keep Iowa Beautiful program and executive director Gerry (Jerry) Schnepf says it should make a lasting impact on the towns.
The awarded funds will finance riverfront, street, and park improvements and help efforts to boost recycling. This is the sixth and final year of funding for the program. Schnepf says a state income tax check-off financed the program, but that check-off was not renewed by the legislature.
"The nice part about this – this was Iowans supporting themselves," Schnepf said. "They were checking off to make sure that those funds could come back to improve and enhance communities. I would hope at some point we would find another source (of funding) to award small grants." Schnepf says litter control and beautification efforts can do wonders for economic development. He says Iowa cities and towns only have one shot at making a good first impression to new visitors.
"When you come to a community or neighborhood, you make your judgement in that first 30 seconds," Schnepf said. "So, that’s why it’s important…to attract residents, business and tourism."
The final round of Keep Iowa Beautiful funding will benefit the following towns and organizations: Charles City Area Chamber of Commerce ($2,500), Greenfield Chamber/Main Street ($2,800), Hamilton County Agricultural Extension District ($850), Iowa Whitewater Coalition Inc. ($2,000), City of Kellogg ($2,500), Red Oak Optimist Club and Rotary Club ($2,812), River Action Inc. ($2,500), City of Sioux City ($3,000), and Winneshiek County Soil and Water Conservation District ($1,696).
Another $8,852 will be used for statewide efforts. Schnepf says, despite the loss in funding through the tax check-off, the Keep Iowa Beautiful statewide program will continue to operate.