Proposed Healthy Life Center sparks differing views

Ames voters rejected a bond funding the Healthy Life Center Tuesday by a 51.5-48.5 margin.

Jacob Smith

Do you think we should vote for or against the Healthy Life Center (HLC) and why?

“Definitely vote ‘yes’ on the bond issue; the project has so many layers of value but the most important is it has a visionary approach to keep Story County residents healthy & offers affordable health opportunities to an overwhelming portion of our population,” Jon Fleming wrote over email.

“This question is a little hard to answer because it comes off as should we vote for the HLC.  Personally, as of right now, I will be voting ‘no’. How should others vote? Well, that’s on them to do the research. The reason why I will be voting no is because I just don’t feel like enough research has been put into the project.  Honestly, the research may have been done, just not presented well publicly. Too many times have I seen responses saying, ‘these are great questions and if you’d like to contact me direct I’d be more than happy to answer them for you.’ This comes off as if they don’t want information to be public, whether that’s their intention or not doesn’t matter to me. It’s how it is presented,” Jonathan Pierce wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“We should vote ‘yes’ for the HLC. The HLC is a once-in-a-lifetime concept that brings together six entities to contribute to this community wellness center. Iowa currently ranks fourth in obesity among our 50 states. The HLC will provide exercise options (gyms, indoor/year-round swimming, a walking/running track, etc.), a demonstration kitchen where nutrition and foods classes can be conducted for the community and opportunities for social engagement by all citizens – year round,” Pamela White wrote over email.

“Against. It’s not the city’s job to compete against companies here already. Costs are tentative.. they don’t know true costs yet… they don’t know how many members they will have… most of the offerings are here already like coffee shop, cooking lessons, track, gardening, physical therapy. The county and Mary Greeley are government agencies so it’s like we are paying taxes for them already. How do they have that much money? Plus they are not committed for the full term. Also to me, when the city comes out with all the big guns it seems suspicious. They will be building a non-tax entity and will necessarily be taking customers from tax based ones. This is a very grandiose plan using other people’s money,” Roman Lynch wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“Vote ‘for’! Absolutely. it’s a betterment to the community as a whole and offers things for everyone to enjoy,” Ali Jalae Harrelson wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“‘No’ this time around,” Alexandra Distance Everheart Wilson wrote over Facebook Messenger.

How is the HLC a benefit/detriment to the Ames community?

“I feel like the HLC could be a great benefit to the community, to those who can pay. It’s understandable that a project of this size is going to have costs, but for it to be considered a community project the community as a whole will need to be included and have access to it.  With at least three other major gyms in Ames that provide roughly the same services, the one thing that stops people from going is cost. $800 yearly is beyond the reach of many, and [I] feel like it’s just not inclusive. Another possible detriment is the rise of the property values affecting renters. On average, property taxes will rise $80 a year. Not much, but with the stranglehold the large rental companies already have on the renters of this town, it’s just another way to justify the ever increasing rental rates. I don’t think I lived a single year where the large property management companies didn’t raise the cost of rent, and this is again another reason for them to justify that cost,” Jonathan Pierce wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“Value [seen] above as well as high potential to lower health care insurance premiums and increase in property resale value; No long term detriment – the value of the HLC will pay for the modest increase in property taxes multiple times over,” Jon Fleming wrote over email.

“Benefit I think would be for senior care. [They] do need a new place, but not $50,000,000 for one. Detriment… it takes a little freedom away… they obligate us for a very long time and we really don’t know for how much for the period. Property taxes going up will not attract more people,” Roman Lynch wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“HLC is a huge benefit. It will attract employees to businesses [in] Ames because of the unique offerings. It will help keep our citizens healthy as just mentioned,” Pamela White wrote over email.

“People who are struggling financially will be excluded from events and participation. Even a sliding scale fee excludes people who are flat broke trying to keep their mouths above water financially; it would be a detriment to these persons whose priority needs should be met first (housing, healthcare),” Alexandra Distance Everheart Wilson wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“It offers a place for children, students, parents, young people, middle age people and our elderly. It helps people not only help build and maintain a healthy lifestyle but also offers things to do in your pastime as a hobby or passion,” Ali Jalae Harrelson wrote over Facebook Messenger.

What was the deciding factor/what convinced you to have an opinion this way?

“I don’t think I’ve completely decided yet. When I posted my two cents on Ames People there were a few people who posted some very good research that was done. The problem that I have and basically the main deciding factor is that our public officials are not the ones providing that information. I feel they are keeping too much of the word ‘maybe’. If I was given more definitive answers, my vote would almost assuredly swing to the ‘yes’. But forcing others to hope on that ‘maybe we’ll have a sliding scale for fees’ just doesn’t do it for me,” Jonathan Pierce wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“My many years of practicing medicine taught me preventive health care is the optimal approach; the HLC does exactly this,” Jon Fleming wrote over email.

“The massive amount of money we will []. Also, trying to sell it by telling us ‘a $49,000,000 building for $29,000,000,’ and the city shouldn’t be pushing a plan like this when we have most of this here already. And another moving to the mall soon,” Roman Lynch wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“Ames needs a community center, gyms, and a year-round indoor pool. If we do not get the HLC, there will be no indoor pool for the community when the high school renovation is complete. Misinformation has circulated suggesting Ames citizens can access the ISU Recreation Services programs, services and facilities (including pools), but this is not the case. Only current students and staff/faculty/retirees/alumni association members who pay the required fee have access,” Pamela White wrote over email.

“The fact that anyone, of any income, is able to enjoy its benefits. I also believe it’s unlike anything else that most towns and cities have. And for six organizations to team up with the same passion is unheard of,” Ali Jalae Harrelson wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“HLC would be excellent after at least [two] priority issues are resolved:

1 – Housing relief for Ames’ renters and homeless population; subsistence gardening spaces should also be guaranteed (e.g. community subsistence gardens throughout the city and zoning plots near rental properties for use by tenants).

2 – Securing fiscal sponsorship for HLC to assist with the annual deficit as opposed to just the overhead. 2019 is the first year Ames dedicated $0 to housing assistance; it is not a good time to commit to an annual deficit when we’re already cutting necessities.

Another concern is that as a nation we have not come to [a] satisfactory solution on healthcare, and with Mary Greeley Medical Center footing the bill for a large portion of the overhead, that bill will be passed on to patients – many of whom are begging for adequate healthcare coverage  and/or struggling with large bills already,” Alexandra Distance Everheart Wilson wrote over Facebook Messenger.

Are there any potential changes which could be made to the HLC that would sway your opinion to vote differently? 

“No; I am completely sold,” Jon Fleming wrote over email.

“Those above priority issues should be resolved prior to putting HLC on the ballot; as a longtime advocate for those other issues, I feel a bit ignored and placated,” Alexandra Distance Everheart Wilson wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“No,” Pamela White wrote over email.

“Maybe if they made it a lot smaller. I get the feeling that they added some stuff thinking it would give it sizzle, like the coffee shop and cooking lessons and telling us what foods to eat or gardening. Physical therapy already has a home,” Roman Lynch wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“Many people are concerned about [the] cost, but those same people will spend more on themselves this week than they will in multiple years for the HLC. If cost were to go up significantly I’m sure it could sway many votes the opposite way. The only way it could sway my vote personally is if they don’t make it easily accessible to those in poverty like they’ve said they would,” Ali Jalae Harrelson wrote over Facebook Messenger.

Are there any alternatives to the HLC whether or not it is built?

“Honestly, none that I think will work. We have [many] great parks in this town. I think it would be great if some of them included some exercise equipment, especially for our senior citizens. As someone who works with adults with intellectual disabilities, I’m beyond happy with the Miracle Park coming to Inis Grove. I’m sure many community outreach programs have come and gone focusing on health. But it all reeks of a ‘Leslie Knope’ type of over-enthusiastic want to help, that most just find cloying,” Jonathan Pierce wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“Any alternative is short term, suboptimal and insufficient,” Jon Fleming wrote over email.

“Definitely something for the seniors and I could be persuaded to go for the pool even [though] there a couple pools in town, and you can swim at hotels that have those kinds of arrangements,” Roman Lynch wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“No. There are none planned,” Pamela White wrote over email.

“Housing is a necessity. I live in my vehicle currently and housing assistance programs in place only provide subpar solutions; housing is still very expensive and Ames appears to be doing nothing about it. I want a place to lay my head [at] night and grow food, but in the current rent-based economy these basic needs are withheld from us. HLC has a community garden, but driving across town to tend a garden in an institutional or highly-controlled environment as opposed to gardening next to my home is unappealing and expensive. Housing and more community gardens throughout the city would be a better alternative that would make me feel healthier physically, mentally, emotionally and financially,” Alexandra Distance Everheart Wilson wrote over Facebook Messenger.

 “Not at the same level, no. I personally am a member of Planet Fitness and am so excited for it coming to Ames! But the HLC isn’t just about physical fitness and it has more to offer than any gym for less than the cost of having all those things together. The YMCA [Young Men’s Christian Association], for instance, offers a lot to individuals and families, but that’s at $61 per person per month. The HLC is offering more than the YMCA for $32 per person per month! Most will pay more monthly for just a gym membership,” Ali Jalae Harrelson wrote over Facebook Messenger.

Anything you want to say to readers about the HLC?

“If I had anything to say about the HLC [it’s] that I think it is a wonderful idea. I do know a lot of work went into it, I just would like to see the work. I hope your readers look at all the work presented go and make their decision off of that work and not from the propaganda being sent from either side,” Jonathan Pierce wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“Ames is always listed as a top five college [towns] in the country by nearly every metric; this is because those that came before us embraced unique opportunities such as the HLC. We now have another terrific opportunity to continue this rich tradition,” Jon Fleming wrote over email.

“I believe governments should stay out of our lives as much as possible. It is easy to spend other people’s money. [Their] job is to encourage and support private organizations as much as possible and see if the same thing can be accomplished by them. People should try to be healthy and eat the right foods, but it should be us who decide what we do and eat. We already know generally and a $50,000,000 building probably will do little to spur most folks into a life change. This my opinion,” Roman Lynch wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“Please vote ‘yes’. You will be pleased with the positive impact it will have on our community – Ames and all of Story County,” Pamela White wrote over email.

“It is [a] wonderful chance to move our community forward,” Ted Joanie wrote over email.

“Thank you for hearing me out. I wrote a proposed housing relief program on called the Right to Homestead Act [that] I encourage people to please read. I’d like Ames to implement a version of this locally to greatly reduce stress and improve the health of Ames citizens,” Alexandra Distance Everheart Wilson wrote over Facebook Messenger.

“Vote yes! If not for you, [then] for your neighbors. As many know, mental illness and obesity are at an all time rise in this country. The HLC, in my opinion, will battle both of these with a vengeance. As someone who has been involved in long term health care for 12 years, I can tell you that community and a sense of purpose is everything to the elderly. As a loving aunt, we’re always looking for more things to do with the children in our lives! It can also help the students at ISU in their pursuit of their degrees. And as a young woman, I so look forward to learning new, healthy, environmentally friendly ways of living my life,” Ali Jalae Harrelson wrote over Facebook Messenger.