MUSCATINE — Muscatine County Extension may have a new home by fall.
The Extension council purchased property at 1601 Plaza Place with a move anticipated for September. A new location for the office was sought ahead of the end of the lease term in October for 1514 Isett Ave.
Extension Director Krista Regennitter first presented information in December to the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors on the purchase of the building and planned move. She said the council could rent the current location for another five-year term beginning in October, however, rent was expected to increase by 35 percent. At the end of the term, the building would be "fair game," Regennitter said, for any interested party.
The uncertainty made the council review other options, she said, including the possibility of partnering with Muscatine Community College, comparing different buildings and considering construction. Ultimately, the council determined building a new location was too expensive, she said.
"So, we're excited to not only find a great place that's a good home for us," Regennitter said, "but also the fact that I feel like we're going to be improving that area for the community, too."
The council purchased the property for $290,400, according to a record from Muscatine Area Geographic Information Consortium, and is fundraising to remodel the building. Regennitter said the council applied for a grant from Carver Charitable Trust and is expecting to know by the end of the month if funds will be available for the project. The council was approved for a mortgage for the property from First National Bank, she said, and used existing funds to contract design services with Mike Nolan of Horizon Architecture. The council also got approval for an additional construction loan, Regennitter said.
The council is anticipating to hold the first public meeting for the bidding process at the end of the month with bids closing mid-February, Regennitter said. Work is expected to begin in March.
Cost of the remodel was more than the council anticipated, she said, because the building was divided into six units, "but we feel confident that we're going to get the funding to move forward."
It will require work to the electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems to convert the spaces into the small and large meeting rooms, kitchenette and staff offices that are planned. The large meeting room at Isett Avenue can hold about 75 people and was used consistently by more than 44 community groups last year, Regennitter said, so the council wanted to include a comparable meeting space in the new building.
The Extension office provides programs for youth and adults in the county, including 4-H and Master Gardeners. According to the extension, 805 school-age children participated in 4-H programs in the 2017-2018 program year and Master Gardeners managed three donation gardens this year, delivering more than 6,500 pounds of produce to food pantries in the county.
Being located closer to other community resources and having better security were selling points for the new location. The building is close to Weed Park, the former Colorado Elementary School, Bridgestone Bandag Wildlife Management Area and the city's trail system.
"We're really excited because this building will connect us to a lot more outdoor activities than we currently have," Regennitter said. The parking lot also has better lighting, she said, which provides a safer feeling for the youth groups that meet in the evenings.
"I feel like we've worked really hard to use the space to the best of our ability," she said.