Ames hosts informational meeting on proposed Healthy Life Center


Sage Smith/Iowa State Daily

An informational meeting on the proposed Healthy Life Center was hosted at the Ames Public Library on Wednesday. A member of the audience asks Parks and Recreation Director Keith Abraham a question.

Sage Smith

Another informational meeting on the proposed Healthy Life Center was hosted Wednesday by the Ames Public Library.

Nancy Carroll, Heartland Senior Services executive director, presented the proposal of the Healthy Life Center project. The financial side was explained by Keith Abraham, director of Parks and Recreation representing the City of Ames.

The Healthy Life Center will provide Ames and Story County residents with a holistic approach focusing on health-promotion and an enhanced long-term health, according to the city of Ames’s website.

The Healthy Life Center has been an ongoing project for the past three and a half years. The proposal states that the Healthy Life Center, if approved, will provide programs focused on three pieces: physical activity, health and nutrition and social networks.

The proposal for the center also includes the aspect of ‘applied student learning.’ Students from Iowa State and Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) can participate in research opportunities through the Mary Greeley Medical Center facilities within the center.

Carroll went through the conceptual floor plan, which includes an aquatic center, walking track and an indoor playground for children.

A concern that several members of the audience shared was the affordability of the Healthy Life Center.

“I’m concerned that this is going to be primarily for people of higher socio-economic status but funded by everybody,” said Ames resident Annie Panthani.

Ames resident, Ward Leek, mentioned the statistic that Iowa is ranked fourth nationally in obesity was brought up during the presentation.

“That [statistic] wasn’t based on Ames and Story County, which is probably your healthiest counties in the state,” Leek said.

Another Ames resident, Brian Behnken, commented that the statistic is a ‘scare tactic.’

“If those kids can’t afford to go there [the Healthy Life Center] how are they going to get any benefit from the facility?” Behnken said.

Some of the audience members also said they felt they couldn’t share their concern about the cost of this project.

“At least in my experience the people I talked to who are concerned [about affordability] felt like they couldn’t say anything because giving the naming of the whole thing, then it sounds like we’re not interested in people getting healthier when the real concern is that only some people will be able to use this facility,” Panthani said.

Members of the audience had the chance to voice their questions and concerns after Carroll and Abraham presented the proposal.

Panthani shared that she didn’t feel reassured by some of Carroll’s and Abraham’s answers. Panthani said the cost structure of the Healthy Life Center is not the right way to support people of all financial status.

Abraham did not publicly address Panthani’s comments and instead concluded the informational meeting, saying “so with this, I know we said we’d be here about an hour and we’ve spent about an hour and 20 minutes; what we’d like to do is thank everyone for coming and if you have any additional questions, Nancy and I will stick around.”

Property owners in Ames will be impacted if the bond referendum is approved for the Healthy Life Center. Higher taxes will be implemented on residential as well as commercial and industry property owners in Ames.

Residential property owners will pay $44 per year per $100,000 of assessed valuation — $37 of it will go towards construction and $7 for operational subsidy. Those who own commercial and industry property will pay $70 per year per $100,000 of assessed valuation — $58 for the construction and $12 for operational study.

The money provided by the Ames residents will cover 59 percent of the Healthy Life Center funding as 41 percent of it is paid by Philanthropic Support, Mary Greeley Medical Center, Heartland Senior Services, Story County government and the City of Ames.

If the Healthy Life Center vote is passed, the location of the center is set for an Iowa State University parcel at Ontario and Scholl Rd., which is currently in the CyRide green route.

Ames residents will vote on the Healthy Life Center Sept. 10; voting polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. The eight voting locations are the Ames Public Library, Grand Avenue Baptist Church, Bethesda Lutheran Church, Ascension Lutheran Church, Green Hills Community, Collegiate United Methodist Church, Buchanan Hall Room 2009 and Trinity Christian Reformed Church.