ISU sustainability director to help with city’s energy conservation efforts

James Heggen

The Ames City Council approved a contract Tuesday night to employ the services of the ISU sustainability director to help with Ames’ energy conservation efforts.

Steve Schainker, Ames city manager, said the city has been working on internally reducing its carbon emissions to meet the goals of the mayor’s “climate protection program,” which has been approved by the council. As for getting the city involved in the process, Schainker said they lacked the staff to lead any type of task force. So, they approached the university.

The vote initially failed by 3-2. However, because it is a resolution, it must receive four votes to pass. After being reconsidered, the resolution passed 4-1.

Matthew Goodman, City Council member, initially voted against the contract, but changed his vote, allowing the measure to pass. Goodman was concerned about the way the contract was written, because it had a narrow focus on the issue of sustainability. He said he thought the city should come up with a general sustainability plan before deciding to focus on specific aspects.

“I think that conversation needs to happen,” he said.

In response to Goodman’s concerns, Mayor Ann Campbell said the plan is only a “first step.”

“When we come back to renew this contract, hopefully we will be at this stage,” she said, referring to developing a broader sustainability plan.

Schainker said the contract is very specific in listing duties for ISU Sustainability Director Merry Rankin, because the city wanted her duties to be as focused as possible as sustainability can encompass so many things.

Schainker said that after talks with Rankin and the university, they learned the term sustainability was too broad. If the responsibilities were not specific, the position would be too overwhelming and would not get anything achieved.

Under the contract, Rankin’s main objectives will be to head a “Community Sustainability Task Force,” which will work on a plan to reduce the community’s carbon footprint.

Thomas Wacha, city councilman, said if the overall sustainability plan were to be dealt with first, they would not be able to agree on the objectives.

“I’m concerned that if we tackle the sustainability plan first, three quarters of the stuff that’s going to come back are going to be things we can’t agree on,” Wacha said.

Peter Orazem said if the agenda was too broad, the chances of getting something useful were very slim.

“She will maintain her office at the university, not here, that’s important to know,” he said.

However, Schainker said Rankin and the city will remain in “constant contact” and Rankin will provide monthly progress reports.

The contract will be for one fiscal year and pay Rankin $25,000. There will be an opportunity to extend the services if desired after that time. 

A resolution was also approved choosing Neumann Monson as the architect for the transmodal hub.