GSB members express safety concerns to Ames City Council

Brian Voss

Safety concerns around the city of Ames and Iowa State were expressed at the joint meeting between the City Council and the Government of the Student Body.

Alexandria Harvey, City Council liaison to the city of Ames, expressed concerns about insufficient lighting in Campustown.

Harvey noted that her car has been vandalized three times in Campustown.

City Councilman Peter Orazem said about a year ago the chief of police wanted to put in more cameras in Campustown, but no action was passed by City Council.

Harvey said Campustown would be better lit if it had LED lights opposed to the current sodium lights.

City Manager Steve Schainker said the light poles in Campustown would have to be changed to change the lights to LED lights.

Sen. Michael Plantenberg said he took a survey of students living in Wallace and Wilson halls, and concerns were expressed about the lighting on Welch Avenue between the towers and the south end of Campustown.

In addition, concerns about the lighting on Mortensen Road were expressed.

Schainker said institutional roads, such as Mortensen, are Iowa State’s responsibility to maintain, not the city’s.

Schainker said the cost to light Mortensen Road could range anywhere from $50,000 to $160,000 depending on if new metals poles and wiring are needed.

Harvey expressed concerns from students about fire safety issues in old apartments that often serve as student housing.

Schainker noted the City Council will be reviewing all codes after Jan. 1.

The conversation about fire safety transitioned to safety in greek houses. Several members of the City Council reaffirmed their commitment to greek housing at Iowa State.

“There’s been some miscommunication around that, I think. I can speak for myself, I don’t think it was the council’s intent to have the rental housing code apply to greek housing…” said council member Tom Wacha.

Concerns were also expressed about the need for safe bike paths across the city.

Brian Phillips, an employee at the City Manager’s Office working in management analysis said a task force has recently been established to investigate ways to help reduce collisions involving bicyclists.

In other business, Harvey said some students feel like they do not have a mechanism to assist them when they have problems with their landlords.

Sen. Matt Kerns said the University Affairs Committee is currently looking into having a campus-landlord liaison. Harvey said in 2008, the effort to have a landlord-campus liaison was looked into.

Orazem said he believed the liaison idea did not carry through after a GSB turnover occurred and the new GSB officials did not continue those efforts.

“Almost all Iowa State undergraduates at some point move off campus even if they start on campus, and I do think that for many of them this will be the first big contract that they’ve ever actually had to sign, and so I do think there’s also a role for some kind of education related to that,” Orazem said.

Judy Parks, acting city attorney for Ames, noted that student legal services could assist students who are having problems with landlords.

Harvey said she had some friends who struggled to get the inspector to come inspect their apartment.

Schainker said the city needs students to call in and make complaints when issues such as that arise.

“We can inspect every year, we can inspect every six months. As soon as we leave, a violation can occur. So, we need your help as tenants if you believe there is a violation, you can call in and we respond to complaints,” Schainker said.

Iowa State’s growing student enrollment was discussed. 

Wacha said the community of Ames needs to find a balance as a city between providing the necessary housing for enrollment while keeping the enrollment fluctuations to a minimum.

“A big concern I think that the City Council has, at least I do, is enrollment is at an all time high this fall at Iowa State and there’s a whole bunch of apartments that are built, maybe too many, and then something happens to the economy or the world and enrollment starts to drop,” Wacha said.