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Four more department presentations continue week of council budget meetings

Ames+Mayor+John+Haila+listens+to+a+presentation+during+the+Ames+City+Council+meeting+on+Feb.+6%2C+2023+at+Ames+City+Hall.
Elizabeth Lane
Ames Mayor John Haila listens to a presentation during the Ames City Council meeting on Feb. 6, 2023 at Ames City Hall.

In the second of three meetings this week, the Ames City Council continued to hear from city staff about their departments’ budgets including electric, parks and recreation, fire and police.

The final meeting of the week is Thursday and the council will listen to public input and vote on the budget during their meeting Tuesday.

Electric

Ames Electric Director Donald Kom presented the Ames energy production breakdown and Mayor John Haila said he was “struck by the incredible difference” between “retail solar” and “utility” wind and solar.

“When we have 30 megawatts of wind we have about two megawatts of solar but wind is twice as effective, if you will,” Kom said. “Solar is about 18% effective, our wind is probably in that 30 range, new wind turbines can achieve roughly 50% availability.”

Kom also said retail renewable energy sources refer to residential and commercial properties while utility refers to places like the SunSmart solar farm by the James Herman Banning Airport.

The recommended budgets for electric services for the upcoming fiscal year compared to the current fiscal year are:

  • Electric distribution is recommended a budget of $6.75 million, an 8% increase.
  • Technical services are recommended a budget of $1.45 million, a 2.9% increase.
  • Electric fund is recommended a budget of $40.07 million, a 16.4% increase.

Parks and recreation

Ames Parks and Recreation Director Keith Abraham updated the council on a variety of projects and said the Fitch Family Aquatic Center will begin asbestos abatement next week and still plans to open in November 2025.

Abraham also promoted programs within the department that improved accessibility at the Homewood Golf Course.

“We don’t know of anybody else in Iowa that’s doing this and what a great thing to be the first,” Abraham told the council Wednesday.

The recommended budgets for parks and recreation for the upcoming fiscal year compared to the current fiscal year are:

  • Administration is recommended a budget of $457,706, an increase of 8.8%.
  • Instructional programs are recommended a budget of $239,769, an increase of 2.3%.
  • Athletic programs are recommended a budget of $117,873, an increase of 1.5%.
  • Aquatics programs are recommended a budget of $1.04 million, an increase of 12.4%.
  • The community center and auditorium are recommended a budget of $462,201, an increase of 7.5%.
  • Wellness programs are recommended a budget of $347,436, an increase of 10.9%.
  • Homewood Golf Course is recommended $383,362, an increase of 8.8%.
  • Ames/ISU Ice Arena is recommended a budget of $569,809, an increase of 9%.
  • Park maintenance is recommended a budget of $2.05 million, an increase of 11.2%.

Public safety

Ames Police Chief Geoff Huff told the council that they were actively seeking to hire six police officers, three dispatchers and “several” community safety officers. Huff presented several statistics that showed there were 850 more mental health calls in 2023 than in 2022. He also reported a 100% release rate for puppies from the Ames animal shelter for 11 years in a row.

After being asked by Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin about adding drug-related offenses to the presentation, Huff said “fentanyl is alive and well in Ames just like it is everywhere else.”

“So we see counterfeit pills, various powders that it’s hard to tell what’s actually in them until you test them,” Huff said. “That’s always a big concern when people are using things that they really don’t know what they’re putting into their body.”

The recommended budgets for Ames Police Department for the upcoming fiscal year compared to the current fiscal year are:

  • Patrol services are recommended a budget of $7.25 million, an increase of 4.7%.
  • Investigations services are recommended a budget of $1.35 million, an increase of 5.3%.

Ames Fire Department Chief Rich Higgins presented on the fire department and showed pictures of locations where they had to put out a fire.

“There is a reason we have codes in our communities, and it is to keep people safe,” Higgins said.

Higgins also said Iowa State contributes one fourth of the department’s operating budget and debt services which “is projected to be around $2.3 million this year.”

The recommended budgets for the Ames Fire Department for the upcoming fiscal year compared to the current fiscal year are:

  • Administration and support services are recommended a budget of $8.20 million, an increase of 3.7%.
  • Suppression and emergency action services are recommended a budget of $430,753, an increase of 3.8%.
  • Prevention and safety education services are recommended a budget of $177,547, an increase of 4%.
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