Sac City: a community gift

Longtime businessman leaves money to Sac City for beautification

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Olive Wallace, 2, of Sac City, looks through a box of Legos at the Sac City Public Library.

SAC CITY — Over the past year, Sac City has seen a number of improvements to area buildings and landscapes to help make the town more visually appealing.

And it’s all thanks to a late businessman.

The late John H. Criss, the longtime owner of Chief Clothing and a lifelong resident of Sac City who died in 2015, left $5.7 million in a trust for the town of Sac City to use.

Sac City Councilman Bruce Perry said Criss’ money had only one requirement; that it be used for projects that benefit the public. No private entities are allowed to use the money.

Among the uses the money has gone towards is Criss Park, located right next to the Sac County Freedom Rock. Perry said the park is named after John H. Criss’ great-grandfather, Judge Eugene Criss, who was the founder of Sac City.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
A new sign, complete with a digital marquee, stands outside the Sac City Public Library and Sac Community Center. Thanks to the John Criss Trust, the library and community center were able to build this sign, which both entities utilize.

The park includes a gazebo.

“John actually bought that property and built the gazebo before he passed and named it in honor of Judge Criss, the founder of Sac City,” Perry said. “They’ve done some additional work in there in terms of landscaping. They commissioned a bust of Judge Criss.”

The bronze bust sits next to the gazebo.

Other town improvements include a number of new digital signs. One of them is located in between the Sac City Public Library and the Sac Community Center, and the sign is available for both entities to use.

“And they did a new marquee sign here at the entrance of Chautauqua Park,” Perry said. “They’re doing a lot of landscaping along the entrance coming into town from the east. They will be serving as a grant match for renovations for both the Chautauqua Pavilion and the log cabin in Chautauqua Park, both of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.”

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Olive Wallace, 2, of Sac City, plays in the newly-remodeled children’s area of the Sac City Public Library.

The Criss Trust has also painted city hall and re-did the ceiling tiles. Plans also call for painting the hangars at the Sac City Municipal Airport.

One of the most recent projects the Criss Trust funded was the remodel of the Sac City Library.

Kim Nelsen, Sac City Library director, said a number of changes have been made to the building that patrons will immediately notice.

“New LED lights have been installed throughout the library, making it much more energy efficient,” she said. “We are already seeing a remarkable difference in our energy bills.”

New ceiling tiles were also installed, the carpeting was replaced for the first time since the library was built in 1989, and the building was also painted.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Sac City Library Board members Sandy Zeman, left, and Randy Russom, demonstrate how the life-sized Lite Brite works in the library’s newly-remodeled teen room. The library recently reopened after a monthlong renovation, which saw the entire building improved.

In addition, the library also remodeled its teen room and children’s play area.

The teen room includes a life-sized Lite Brite, where teens can use cribbage pegs to make designs on a specially-designed wall that has holes which fit the pegs.

Nelsen said the parking lot was also expanded, which alleviated a parking issue that both the library and Sac Community Center had been facing.

“The library shares a parking lot with the Sac Community Center,” Nelsen said. “With both the library and Community Center being well-used, parking has been an issue.”

She said Brandon Steiger, the director of the Sac Community Center, was able to secure funding from the Criss Trust to expand the parking lot.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Kase Glasknapp, 2, of Sac City, looks over the wall in the new Sac City Public Library playscape. The library recently underwent a renovation, which led to a number of improvements to the building.

The Criss Trust has three trustees; Sac City Mayor Scott Bundt, as well as Dewey Reece and Renae Jacobsen, both longtime friends of Criss.

Reece and Jacobsen were both present at the library’s re-opening on Feb. 8.

The library and community center improvements are among the most visible improvements the Criss Trust has funded.

“Those are very focal points in the community,” Reece said. “It helps everyone, and John wanted his money to help as many people as it was possible.”

He added that he enjoys being a part of making sure the money is going towards Criss’ wishes.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
A bust of Judge Eugene Criss, the founder of Sac City, stands just outside of downtown Sac City. His great-great grandson, John Criss, left several million dollars to Sac City when he died a few years ago. That money has been used over the past year for a number of community improvements.

“We’re having fun,” he said. “John had that vision to do good for the city, and it’s so fun to see his wishes happen. And to be a part of it.”

“It’s exciting to be a part of it,” Jacobsen added.

While the Criss Trust has helped improve the community, Perry said other parts of Sac City have seen growth as well.

About a year and a half ago, the city finished a facade improvement project, which saw a number of facades in downtown Sac City be remodeled with the help of a Community Block Development Grant.

“This was a project that actually came in under budget, which was nice,” Perry said. “But more importantly, it spurred other property owners to work on their properties.”

A number of Sac City property owners, who were not impacted by the facade improvement project, decided to fund their own improvements, Perry said.

“There were five or six of them that just independently worked on their storefronts,” he said. “It’s always great when grant funds are able to spur additional investment.”

Sac City also welcomed some new businesses over the past year, including a new bakery that opened up earlier this month.