• Thu December 18 2008
  • Posted Dec 18, 2008
By Jennifer Jacobs There is good news for tourism projects that have been in limbo since state grant money was diverted for disaster recovery. The state will pump nearly $2 million into Vision Iowa's Community Attraction and Tourism grant program, commonly referred to as CAT, state officials said Thursday. That means four projects will again be at the top of the approval pipeline for the state grant program: a much-anticipated recreation trail loop in Dallas and Guthrie counties, a nature center at Lake Iowa Park, a downtown streetscape renovation in Jefferson and a recreation center at Sheldon. The projects were each on the cusp of securing a grant when Gov. Chet Culver rerouted the program's money to help pay for flood and tornado recovery. Organizers were left wondering how they could make do without their last, critical piece of funding. The CAT program, which is administered by the Vision Iowa board, will likely just "pick up where we left off," said program manager Alaina Santizo. Santizo said she was going to call the organizers of the four projects Thursday, "but I didn't want to get them all excited before I have too much to say." There are still questions about when the Vision Iowa board will meet next. It will likely be January or February. It's possible the board can shell out grants at that meeting. The grant money requested far exceeds the $1.9 million that the state will transfer back to CAT later this week. In the past, the Vision Iowa board dished out multiyear grants. That's allowed by law. And last spring, state lawmakers approved giving Vision Iowa $12 million each year for smaller tourism projects and $10 million for projects on rivers and lakes each year until summer 2013. But it's unclear whether lawmakers will stick with that plan, given the state's tighter financial picture. A total of 18 projects were in various stages of the grant approval process. Santizo said she hopes committee meetings and the scoring process will resume again soon. "More or less, we really hope to get back into the swing of things," she said. Culver spokesman Troy Price said the $1.9 million that will be transferred back to CAT will come from the Loan and Credit Guarantee program, which makes loan and credit guarantees to businesses. The loan program will still have $2.6 million, he said. The projects that were promised Vision Iowa awards before Culver's announcement in September have always been on track to get their money. One project that received a grant just before the rest of the program's money was diverted is a 25-mile trail from Ankeny to Woodward. That project's $1.75 million grant hinges on organizers meeting a fundraising goal of $550,000. Organizers said Wednesday they met that goal. Meanwhile, Santizo said she isn't sure if Vision Iowa will begin accepting applications for new projects yet.

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