City Council votes to reduce potential business reimbursement, approves flood mitigation project


Talon Delaney/Iowa State Daily

RDG Planner Marty Shukert (right of the dais) walks through different strengths and challenges Council members wrote down. 

Talon Delaney

The Ames City Council reduced a potential $45,000 reimbursement to $293 after being told the city had no legal responsibility to pay.

The $293 reimbursement will be awarded to JCorp, Inc., a construction and architecture company out of Huxley, Iowa. JCorp and the City of Ames began negotiating a housing subdivision plan in June 2017, but the partnership ended in January 2018.

The Council felt it was important to establish a precedent in this case, but others thought the gesture seemed insulting.

The Council also approved a $5 million flood mitigation project and hosted a workshop for the City of Ames Comprehensive plan with RDG Planning and Design associates.

In the time JCorp and the city were in a partnership, JCorp accrued $90,000 in expenditures and believed the city should help with those costs in the spirit of their partnership.

“Legally, you don’t owe us a dime,” said Ben Jensen who spoke on behalf of his father, Duane Jensen, an engineer with JCorp. “When we go into a partnership, we look to follow it to completion. It’s been a frustrating process to hear ‘the project failed and it’s on your dime.’ That doesn’t sound like a partnership.”

The Council deliberated the proposal, and failed to get an unanimous vote before passing the resolution. In the end, Ward One Rep. Gloria Betcher motioned that JCorp be awarded $293 for road-measuring fees, and nothing else. Ward Two Rep. Tim Gartin opposed this decision.

“This just seems like a paltry amount,” Gartin said to Betcher. “I know your intentions are good, but it just feels like an insult to give someone $293.”

Members of the Council felt they must demonstrate that any taxpayer money being spent is for a public service. They were chiefly concerned about this issue as a matter of precedent. If they weren’t legally obligated to reimburse a corporation, but they did it anyway, it could seem like they were giving gifts to corporations.

“I motioned to hear this in the first place because I wanted to know if this was something that was even possible or advisable,” Betcher said. “The reports show that it’s possible but it’s not quite advisable. I understand the precedent this could set, and I don’t see a way around it.”

Gartin was the only Council member who did not approve the resolution. Jensen left the Council Chambers immediately after Betcher’s motion passed.

The Council also approved a $5,040,000 stormwater management plan. Seventy-five percent of those funds will come from federal spending through a FEMA grant and the remaining $1.26 million will come from local spending. Those costs include construction, engineering and land acquisition.

The City approved the spending and appointed Municipal Engineer Tracy Warner to be the City Authorized Representative for the project. They tabled a discussion about land acquisition along Duff Avenue for a later meeting.

The meeting was preceded by a workshop with RDG Planning and Design, a contractor Ames has partnered with to complete the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The plan seeks to enhance, alter and reform the city’s architecture with long scale goals in mind.

The Council was mainly concerned about whether or not RDG would manage to get enough public input about the project. In tentative schedule displayed by RDG, they only allotted time in January 2019 for community focus groups.

“I’ve been talking about this project on the radio, and to lots of different people,” Mayor John Haila said. “But I haven’t told them that it’s all going to be happening in January. It’s absolutely critical we get a wide cross section of public input.”

RDG staff assured the Council that they are willing to seek out as much public input that the council deems necessary.

“For us, focus groups are an immersion of the issues,” said Marty Shukert, an RDG planner. “We’ll need your help getting in touch with groups and people we need to talk to.”

Shukert said RDG wants to interact with people from a wide array of Ames neighborhoods, companies, demographics and social organizations.