Ames Downtown Plaza Plan sees budget shortfalls


Photo by Katherine Kealey/Iowa State Daily

City manager Steve Schainker and Ames Mayor Join Haila listening to consultancy from city staff during the April 26 meeting.

Katherine Kealey

The Ames City Council saw a budget deficit in the Downtown Plaza development plan after examining five construction bids for the project due to increased costs.

The new totals resulted in a shortfall of $959,479. City staff informed the council all the bids were realistic, and it was unlikely rebidding at another time would result in cheaper costs. The total funding for the entire project is $4,555,121, and the estimated project total could amount to $5,514,600. 

The Downtown Plaza Plan for the City of Ames will create a water channel and spray pad park and an ice-skating ribbon. The plan will also establish a hardscape and green landscape area with benches, a small performance stage, year-round universal public restrooms and space for food trucks.

The only possible alteration to meet the original budget is eliminating the ice component, which is estimated to cost $1.2 million to $1.3 million. The ice component is an asset to the four-season vision of the plan, therefore wasn’t the preferred course of action. 

Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin said he supports the Downtown Plaza development, but he reminded the council of the potential expenses of the Climate Action Plan.

“So at some point council, if you believe in that [the Climate Action Plan’s expenses] kind of investment you are going to have to make some hard decisions,” Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin said. “You are going to have to choose between amenities like this and investing for the climate.”

The council accepted the report of bids and instructed city staff to bring back recommendations to reduce costs and find additional funding. Mayor John Haila said the council remains consistent with its priorities of addressing climate changes and furthering development within the City of Ames. 

After selling alcohol to minors on two occasions, the council voted to deny the 12-month beer permit and liquor license renewals for Wasabi Ames and Mongolian Buffet. The Ames Police Department recommended allowing the businesses to apply for a six-month license. This will allow the business and police department to evaluate needed changes to prevent sales to underage customers attempting to buy alcohol. 

The Ames City Council heard a report evaluating possible safety improvements to the intersection of Bloomington Road and Fletcher Boulevard. The current crosswalk does comply with the Federal Highway Administration. 

The motion came before the council after the executive director of Friendship Ark Homes and Community Services requested the city to consider additional safety measures at the intersection. 

During the meeting, multiple community members spoke on the issue, informing the council about vulnerable pedestrians within the area, including individuals with disabilities and the elderly population.

Potential changes to improve safety would be implementing a pedestrian refuge island between the two-way streets. While the width of the streets will permit creating a turning lane and the pedestrian island, the addition would require construction outside of the current Capital Improvements Plan. For this reason, city staff recommended the addition take place with a larger-scale project.  

The council voted to accept the report and directed city staff to include the improvements in the next Capital Improvement Plans while investigating the possibility of a speed feedback sign for the area.

Bryce Garman, a senior majoring in public relations, was approved to the Ames City Council as ex-officio. Garman was elected by the Iowa State Student Government to serve in this role. 

The lights over the U.S. Highway 30 have recently been used for recognition purposes. To maintain consistency of this use, the city developed criteria to ensure these light displays are used for acceptable purposes. The council approved including the Ames Bandshell in the light display policy to ensure consistency of use.

The criteria include commemorating observances recognized by local, state or national proclamations, as well as supporting local sports or honoring individuals who have had a profound impact on the surrounding community. 

The council also approved an added provision to grant them the discretion to determine what events, activities or milestones are worthy of recognition outside of the listed criteria.

The council also approved an amendment to the criteria proposed by Ward 3 Rep. Anita Rollins to ensure diversity is considered when evaluating the light display use.

“The diversity of our community is a strength,” Rollins said, reading her amendment to the council. “As an affirmation of this strength, the Council will strive to overcome historical biases by carefully considering ideas, cultures and experiences it is affirming, and not affirming, through its decision related to the uses of this policy.”

The Ames City Council meets at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at the Ames City Hall. The meeting can be viewed via the Ames City Council YouTube.