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City council approves budget, new animal shelter could break ground in 2026

Ames+Mayor+John+Haila+listens+to+a+presentation+during+City+Council+Meeting%2C+Nov.+28%2C+2023.
Josue Aleman
Ames Mayor John Haila listens to a presentation during City Council Meeting, Nov. 28, 2023.

Several Ames animal shelter volunteers asked the council for a new shelter before the Ames City Council approved the city’s $301 million budget for fiscal year 2024/25 Tuesday at its fifth meeting in 12 days, which included $100,000 to begin the process for a new shelter.

Volunteers described to the council during the public comment period of the budget their “Tetris room” and said there was no room for programming or meet-and-greet adoptions. Ames Mayor John Haila said the city “understands the urgent nature” of the conditions at the animal shelter but added that the Legislature restricted the city’s ability to accelerate building a new shelter.

“The Legislature changed the law, and now cities can only have one bond issue a year—it used to be three or four or five times a year—and can only occur on Election Day in November,” Haila said.

Ames City Manager Steve Schainker said the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts in July, allocates $100,000 to begin building a new shelter.

“I put $100,000 in there for this year, which will allow us to hire a consultant, which we do all the time prior to a bond issue—just like we’ve done with the swimming pool—that allows us to develop a conceptual layout of the project along with costs because costs are very important,” Schainker said.

Haila added that the volunteers are doing a “phenomenal job” but said he did not want them to have a “false illusion” that they are breaking ground for a new shelter in “six months or a year.”

The timeline he told the volunteers was a bond issue vote on the 2025 election ballot and breaking ground in 2026.

“If the Legislature hadn’t changed the laws, maybe the bond issue could happen in the spring of next year. That is not allowed anymore, statutorily,” Haila said.

There are two more opportunities remaining for public input on the budget. The council set a hearing for the public to address the council on property tax collections April 9. The last opportunity for public input will take place April 28, for the budget’s final adoption.

Additional measures

On the budget, city staff suggested an amendment, which was approved, to remove one full-time equivalent of an already vacant police position following a settlement with a police union.

Ward 1 Rep. Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen’s motion to begin a test electric bike program for city employees was approved 6-0 despite Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin saying he was “afraid” of mandating city employees to bike.

“We’re paying people to do jobs, and automobiles are going to be more cost-effective,” Gartin said.

Schainker said it would not make sense to mandate Ames city staff bike while on city business and that the program would be voluntary.

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