Capital Improvement Plan proposes $309 million for utilities, transportation


Cleo Westin

City council meetings can be viewed on the AmesTelevision YouTube channel.

The Ames City Council received status updates on projects and explanations regarding rising costs and supply chain issues as they reviewed the proposed Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

The proposed CIP divides $309 million for the city to spend over the next five years. Each city department requesting a capital improvement justified their proposed expenditures to the council.


The utility portion of the CIP composes nearly half of its total funds. The proposed $146 million would go toward improving electric, water, sewer, stormwater and resource recovery utilities.

Electrical facilities under this plan will add additional security and a universal locker room to accommodate a diversifying workforce, said Ames Director of Electric Services Donald Kom.

“Presently, all of the individuals that work out in the field are male and we want to be prepared,” Kom said. “So as the workforce diversifies we will have locker rooms available for women.”

City documents also state that there is a need at the power plant to address some of the turbine units in the future, as well as a need to install fire suppression systems in various places in the power plant.

Mayor John Haila asked city staff why tanks that were installed in 1982 have not been tested for contamination or impact on possible nearby wells for 12 years, to which Kom said he would inform the council soon on the reasoning or proposed action.

There is a proposed 5 million-gallon reservoir that would add additional redundancy in case of a natural disaster. While the city uses 6.5 million gallons of water per day, City Manager Steve Schainker said he was confident that if the city asked residents to limit non-essential water uses in the midst of a disaster, they would not use the entire reservoir in one day.

The plan also invests in watershed-based nutrient reduction, which is a result of an Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) mandate to reduce specific nutrients, however, Haila said the problem statewide would need $3 billion to be properly addressed.

“I think legislators need to understand what is being done is coming at a huge price,” Haila said. “This is just mind-numbing to me, how much, almost $80 million being spent to do an infinitesimal amount of impact.”

Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin said the watershed-based nutrient reduction project is great and will move the needle. However, he echoed concerns similar to Haila.

“I so wish we could communicate the horrendous burden the federal government is placing on us, and it is taking dollars out of the hard working taxpayers to pay for something and accomplish nothing,” Gartin said. “By contrast, this is a great project and we’re actually moving the needle– we should be excited about this.”

Gartin said Ames would not need to spend billions of dollars to create a positive impact. He asked city staff to collect data on the quantifiable impact and savings for Ames residents.

Other improvements include erosion control and low drain point improvements. Additionally, the water utility infrastructure improvements outlined in the Ames Plan 2040 will be paid through funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.


The second largest expenditure is transportation, which is proposed to receive $125 million. This includes a number of road construction projects like the S. 16th St. roadway widening, Campustown public improvements and CyRide route pavement improvement.

There are also slated improvements to the intelligent transportation system and traffic system capacity. According to Ames Director of Public Works John Joiner, this would optimize traffic and pedestrian flow and facilitate capacity upgrades at several intersections.

The CIP includes the modernization of the CyRide fleet to reduce carbon emissions. The vehicle replacement program calls for the purchasing of seven electric buses, sixteen 40-foot buses and five administrative vehicles.

Additionally, CyRide’s facilities, technology and bus stops will be updated through the CyRide improvement program. Such technology improvements include infotainment monitors on buses, electric vehicle level two chargers, and improving data in the MyState app.

The James Herman Banning Ames Municipal Airport would install wildlife fencing, demolish the vacant terminal building, replace the internal road system, restore taxiways and rehabilitate drainage areas under this proposal.

Culture and Recreation

For culture and recreation, the CIP proposes $33 million to be spent primarily on the Fitch Family Indoor Aquatic Center, which is dealing with rising costs influencing estimates.

Funds will also go toward projects like the ADA transition plan for parks, playground equipment replacements at 13 parks, repaving paths at Ada Hayden Heritage Park and installing a bridge in Moore Memorial Park.

According to city staff, since the building of the Ames Ice Arena in 2001, no one was aware the sand under the ice is supposed to be re-leveled about every five years. Therefore, the proposal includes an overdue leveling of the ice.

Additionally, the plan provides funds to purchase three columbaria for the Ames Municipal Cemetery and to replace the carpet at the Ames Public Library.

Public Safety

Ames Fire Chief Richard Higgins spoke to the council about needed improvements that have $1.2 million allocated within the CIP. The new projects include replacing one of the front-line engines and the fire station alerting system replacement project.

The fire department has been delaying replacing the fire station’s alert system at stations two and three, which are both 14 years old. Along with station alert system upgrades, Mary Greeley will be included in the project to have more advanced alerting replace their current radio-only alert system.

While these are issues that need to be addressed, Higgins assured Haila that they are not presently affecting response times.

Other Projects

The CIP plans for $875,000 in funding for the Campustown Facade and Downtown Facade incentive programs. It would also contribute to funding the neighborhood improvement program which according to city documents would foster physical improvements in neighborhoods and facilitate interaction among residents.

$375,000 is allocated to Ames City Hall for repairs and renovations.

Projects Currently Excluded

Schainker said more projects will be necessary for the future but are not currently in the CIP. The excluded projects include the relocation of Fire Station #2, a new animal control facility, a new fourth fire station, the development of a new west-side community park and additional gym space for the city.

The city will gather public input on the CIP next Tuesday during their usual meeting.