The City of Winchester officially broke ground on a half million dollar investment in their library today.
The Carnegie Library, built in 1910, is having a 1000 square foot extension to the west side of the library built. The addition is nearly a decade in the making and is being fully funded by grants from the Illinois State Library and the USDA Rural Development office.
Mayor Rex McIntire says its an investment in the future of the city: “This is a big thing for the City of Winchester. It’s great for our community, because it’s great for our youth of the community. They are our future, and we have to take care of them. We belong to the CEO entrepreneurship program of Morgan and Scott County. We supported it from the very beginning. This place runs right into the same ballpark as that. It helps get your youth interested in the community and hopefully you can keep them here. I’m very proud of the fact that the last three years our population has not declined. It had for twenty years previous to that. With the last three years, we actually had a slight increase. It was only a half of a percent but that is better than losing people.”
McIntire says that the investments in the library, the downtown area, the pool, and future plans for upgrading city streets has led to local economic development, and has been a key for Winchester maintaining its population by attracting younger families. The need for the upgrade to the library comes on the heels of the youth reading program needing more space.
Representatives from the USDA said that Winchester’s library grant was due to funds made available by the federal government for the 2019 Mississippi and Illinois River flooding. They said several of the grants went out along the western portion of the state, but Winchester’s $331,000 grant for the library was the largest that has been given in over 30 years. The city also received initially $188,250 from the Illinois State Library for the project. The USDA Rural Development Office partnered with Congressman Darin LaHood’s office, and in a matter of approximately 30 days was able to secure the remaining funds to get the project started. The project is under the direction of Trotter General Contracting out of Rushville. Dwight Reynolds of the USDA presented the library with a placard commemorating the grant.
Descendants of A.P. Grout, who originally deeded the land that the library sets on in 1910, were also on hand yesterday. The Griner Family deeded the extra portion of the property so the addition could be added. Craig Aossey of Frankfort, Kentucky and Winchester High School graduate, did the architect renderings for the project.
McIntire says the ground-breaking today was a long time coming: “The first application for the State Library grant, I think was made in 2010. That was three years prior to my term as mayor. Mayor [Dave] Newman was here at that time. They worked with the Library Board and they applied for the grant, and as Library Chair Merrilyn Fedder mentioned today, they were successful in submitting the application but the state just ran out of money to fund it.”
Mark Shaffer, Construction Grant Consultant for the Illinois State Library said during the ceremony that the library’s addition is an extension of Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White’s emphasis on the importance of local public libraries. Shaffer commended retired librarian Darlene Smith, the Winchester Library Board, and the city for remaining persistent. Shaffer also commented on the Prairie Style construction of the library, and how the addition will stick with the unique architecture.
McIntire estimates that the addition to the library will be completed and honored with a ribbon cutting sometime next Spring.