Ames City Council votes to keep Furman Aquatic Center closed for the summer


Ames City Council conducting business Jan. 14, 2020.

Amber Mohmand

In its Tuesday night meeting, the Ames City Council debated back and forth with one another about the decision to open up the Furman Aquatic Center.

“As staff has pointed out, not everyone’s gonna agree with all of our decisions — which way it is one way or the other — but the point is, I trust that the Ames community understands that this Council is passionate about doing the right thing for the entire Ames community,” said Ames Mayor John Haila. “So continue to think the best of one another and continue to move forward and I trust that we will come out the backside looking a lot better and a lot stronger than we are going into it as well. But, you all know attitude is 90 percent of it and so while I know Council is resolute, and once the decision is made we’re gonna support it and move on. We may not get the way we want it to, but that’s what we’re going to do. Everyone was heard and we came to the decisions that while hard, I think we believe it’s best and that’s what we would call to do.” 

Recently, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation allowing pools to open for lap swimming and lessons only.

The Council voted to keep the Furman Aquatic Center closed for the summer of 2020. 

The decision was based around the options of regulating the number of people going to the pools, as well as the locker rooms, restrooms and showers. 

“So what I tend to think about this decision [as] ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ and if we close the pool for the summer that’s definitely a cost to the Ames residents and our city revenue as well,” said Ward 4 Rep. Rachel Junck. “But if we open it and there’s an outbreak and people come from neighboring communities whose pools have closed and students don’t feel safe to come back to the fall — I mean that’s the health and safety of our residents. That’s future residents of Ames and that’s what we’ve been trying to prevent this whole time because we want to make sure that Iowa State is able to open in the fall so students and others feel safe.” 

Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin said he wanted to give the children within the community an opportunity to enjoy their summer. 

“I frankly think if we have the courage to open up Furman and give our children the opportunity to enjoy this, I think that will cause communities all over Central Iowa to revisit this,” Gartin said. “I think communities will look to Ames as an example and consider their options differently.” 

The Council voted to keep Furman Aquatic Center closed for the summer and voted in favor of opening the Brookside Park Wading area. 

Additionally, the Council discussed the options of opening sidewalk cafes, a way for restaurants to utilize the city sidewalks as outdoor seating. Reynolds signed a proclamation allowing bars to open for indoor and outdoor seating with 50 percent capacity.

The Council voted to authorize staff to begin issuing sidewalk cafe permits for restaurants and establishments that serve alcohol incidental to food service and to direct staff to accept applications for sidewalk cafes at bars. 

In regards to the fireworks display, the Council voted to cancel the event due to the high levels of contact for Iowa State Police Department officers. 

Additionally, the Council discussed a report presented by several representatives from Iowa State, including Student Government and Student Legal Services who met with landlords and the city of Ames staff to discuss various issues, such as the lease gap. 

Sandeep Stanley, senior in aerospace engineering and an off-campus residence senator for Student Government, highlighted the results of the research. 

The most impactful of the solutions considered would be implementing a mediation process, according to city documents, by allowing a platform to speak on and resolve common grievances landlords and tenants have.  

Stanley said a mediation process will allow amicability between the tenants and landlords. 

“I’d also like to highlight our suggestion for a mediation process,” Stanley said. “It seems like one of the other common sources of disagreement is when, you know, landlords try to take away tenant security deposits, as an example of like little small agreements that landlords and tenants can have that just sour their relationship when they get dragged to small claims court over you know, little things $100 or $200 here and there, that don’t seem like much to a landlord but can make or break a tenant a student who’s in financial difficulties. The Center for Creative Justice, a few years ago in [launched] a mediation process that seemed to work quite well. So we talked it over with student legal and we think that that would be a great addition.”