$260,000 donation

The Sun Prairie Education Foundation received its largest, one-time donation ever when members of the Sun Prairie Improvement Council (top photo) presented a check for $260,000 during the Keys to the Future event, held Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 at Loft at 132 in downtown Sun Prairie. Presenting the check were (from left) Kevin Noskowiak, Gene Schey, Ron Blawusch, Peter Steitz and Larry Jacobson. The Sun Prairie Improvement Council, formerly known as the Sun Prairie Industrial Development Corporation, was a non-profit entity that sold lots in the Sun Prairie Business Park until recently. The amount presented to the SPEF as well as the Sun Prairie Library Foundation and the Sun Prairie Media Center represent the proceeds from sales of lots in the park before the council was disbanded.

In the brief span of about three weeks, members of the Sun Prairie Improvement Council (formerly the Sun Prairie Industrial Development Corporation) gave away $580,000 and committed to spending more.

According to the council’s historical documents:

The council, and its predecessor, began developing the Sun Prairie Business Park in 1983, after some period of planning.

They both operated with volunteer directors and officers and no employees. The corporation and the improvement council purchased land from local land owners including the Hovel, Renk and Hanley families.

Purchases were made using several financing methods, including land contracts and mortgage loans. Debts were paid as lots were sold to new tenants in the Sun Prairie Business Park.

The final phase of the Sun Prairie Business Park was the acquisition of the Hanley property on the east end of the park. The City of Sun Prairie suggested financing would be easier if the improvement council assigned its purchase contract for the land to the City of Sun Prairie, and the improvement council would retain an option to purchase the lots as new buyers were found.

The improvement council continued to market the park as it had in the past. The option was extended once, but due to the economic and real estate downturn during 2008-13, sales lagged. When the extension expired in 2014, the city decided to take over marketing those lots.

The improvement council still owned three lots and continued to market them until the final lot sold recently. The council’s board of directors decided to end the corporation’s affairs and dissolve the corporation.

All debts were paid in full, and a surplus of fund remained. The funds had to be distributed to organizations eligible to receive those funds under the Internal Revenue Code.

This part is crucial: the original and continuing purpose of the corporations was the development and improvement of Sun Prairie. That’s why the funds were distributed to the Sun Prairie Library Foundation, the Sun Prairie Education Foundation ($260,000 each) and the Friends of KIDS-4 ($60,000) as well as committing money for a new K-9, the equipment for that dog, and replacing the current K-9 when it is eligible to retire.

None of the recipients were informed of the donations until after the decisions were made as to all recipients.

The surprise factor behind bestowing each of the gifts was perhaps the most enjoyable for those groups.

For the Sun Prairie Education Foundation, the money represented its largest single gift -- and perhaps the largest single surprise for its supporters.

Those who remember the longtime members of the council/corporation’s board of directors -- with names like Bogle, Orfan, Fenske, Eustice and Schey -- know that these donations are not just a tribute to the current needs of Sun Prairie, but also to the previous board members’ legacy of service to the community.

The SPIDC (before it became the improvement council) also gave money to local groups for important causes. It is fitting that as the improvement council dissolves, it is giving leadership donations to worthy causes.

Thank you, council and corporation board members. Your generosity and leadership will be missed in the ever-expanding community of Sun Prairie.

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