Nearly $1 million for the new Willow Library and community centre is on the Mat-Su Borough’s chopping block as assemblymembers look at next year’s budget.

More than 100 people turned out to an assembly budget hearing in Willow on Monday night to fight for their funding.

“Libraries such as Willow’s provides access to information and technology at all levels,” said Ann Yadon, the chair of the Mat-Su Borough Library Board.

"While we may have big hearts, we don’t have a big bank account. We need your help,” Tam Boeve told the assembly. "We’ll continue to donate our time and money and apply for grants but realistically this project won’t happen without your financial support.”

A $5.6 million improvement project would double the size of the library and upgrade the community center, something librarian Julie Mitchell said is desperately needed.

“It’s a huge project and in the past for the other libraries in Sutton and Talkeetna that state paid for half and that’s not possible now with the state of the economy,” Mitchell said.

Now, local funding for the project could be in jeopardy too. The Willow Library Association asked the Assembly for a $1.9 million contribution to the facility.

The latest budget proposal only includes an even million.

Association Vice Chair Bill Mailer said that impacts how they can fundraise going forward.

“It’s important people understand funders, like the Rasmusson Foundation where we intend to apply, they want a significant contribution from the public sector, the borough or the state,” Mailer said, adding the $1.9 funding would get them to two-thirds of their overall goal.

Earlier this year the Mat-Su Health Foundation gave a $1.7 million grant but library supporters said without the borough’s full funding the project still might not happen.

"In order to use this grant, we must have 90 percent of the funds secured. If this project is to move forward it is imperative the Mat-Su Borough generously help fund the replacement to the library center,” Melinda Dale told Assembly members.

At the end of the meeting, Borough Mayor Vern Halter, who lives in Willow, said he hasn’t taken a $10,000 raise that was in the borough budget the past two years. He offered that money to the library project instead.

“Get the project funded and built," he said. "That would be my goal. Our library is small and old and I’d like to see that happen.”

The Mat-Su Borough Assembly will begin budget deliberations on Thursday night at assembly chambers in Palmer at 6 p.m.

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