Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Big boost for books

By MATT PHINNEY, mphinney@sastandardtimes.com or 659-8253
December 20, 2005

What a Christmas gift.

The San Angelo Health Foundation played Santa Claus on Monday, handing out about $2.6 million to 14 area nonprofit organizations. The Tom Green County Library got the lion's share receiving $1.75 million towards its move and renovations in the old Hemphill-Wells Building.

It's the largest single amount awarded by the foundation, said Larry Justiss, library administrator. County and city leaders made the library grant announcement Monday in the old department store, at 29 W. Beauregard Ave.

''This is a story of change,'' said Howard Taylor, director of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts. ''The downtown group is active in the positive things that are happening. This is very symbolic of where the community is going.''

The grant pushes the money available for the library move to $8.7 million, including the value of the building. The total bill is estimated to be $16.5 million.

Trying to protect taxpayers' dollars, an independent committee has until Dec. 31, 2010 - the deadline to open the library under the lease agreement - to raise the needed money.

The San Angelo Area Foundation is the administrator for the ''Beacon to the Future'' fund, which will be spent paying for the move and renovations. The foundation is accepting donations for the fund.

Monday's grants represent the foundation's most-significant commitment in total dollars and number of awards in one quarter. It's the foundation's ninth year of awarding grants. The foundation has given more than $24 million to more than 130 organizations and 288 projects.

Justiss also announced David Price of Burnet has been hired as consultant for the project. Price has been a library consultant since 1969, with jobs including California's state library system, and county and city libraries in Austin and Fort Worth.

''There are some empty, gaping holes in downtown,'' Taylor said. ''This will help fuel a dynamic infusion of life in downtown.''