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With a critical decision by the Common Council still pending, Portage Public Library officials are moving forward with plans for a fundraising campaign to support their proposed $1.5 million library expansion project.

The group hopes to raise at least $800,000 from the public through its campaign, while the city's decision to support the project would accommodate the rest.

Library officials asked the city to pony up $400,000. The Bidwell Foundation would match half of that amount, or $200,000. The foundation also would match another $100,000 raised by the community. Both grants are contingent on the project being under construction by Dec. 31, 2012.

Without the city's involvement, the grant likely would disappear.

Library Board President Rich Davis said Tuesday after a planning meeting that it would be very difficult to advance the expansion project without the city's help, but he couldn't answer whether its lack of support would kill the fundraising campaign and subsequently the project.

"I'm not sure how we would proceed," Davis said.

Most of Tuesday's meeting revolved around organization and laying the groundwork for a formal campaign kickoff commencing Jan. 23. In the meantime, the task force has been holding focus groups, designing marketing collateral, coming up with talking points and shooting video for a marketing movie that will premiere on the night of the official kickoff.

The group discussed the names of potential fundraising campaign leaders and donors at Tuesday's meeting.

The process is being guided by an Indiana-based fundraising consultant firm, Woodburn, Kyle & Co. That firm was hired in August at a cost of $90,000 plus some expenses such as partial cost of air travel. In June, the library board had voted to pay the firm $12,500 to conduct a feasibility study.

The nearly 6,000-square-foot expansion of the 253 W. Edgewater St. building would entail improvements to stormwater issues at the main entrance, interior renovations to create a young adult area, the addition of a children's area and other interior changes related to staffing.

The city's potential commitment for the expansion remains unclear.

Only one Common Council member - Fred Reckling - has stated support for the project. Others have said they are on the fence.

Among the undecideds is Common Council member Doug Klapper.

"I see both sides of it," Klapper said prior to an unrelated meeting Tuesday.

A final decision will be made by Dec. 8 when the Council approves the city's 2012 budget. The tea leaves, however, may settle next week at a planned special meeting of the Council to discuss next year's budget and to make decisions on it.

If the city does decide to contribute the $400,000, the money likely will have to be part of a borrowing plan. There is currently not enough money in the city budget to accommodate the funding without borrowing.

The general manager of the Daily Register, Matt Meyers, is a member of the fundraising task force. He attended Tuesday's meeting and will be the chairman of the group's public relations efforts.

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