City Council passes amended budget and makes Chinese New Year official holiday


Photo by Finn McNally/Iowa State Daily

Mayor John Haila stands with a group of Ames residents as Chinese New Year becomes an official holiday in Ames during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Finn Mcnally

The Ames City Council approved multiple additions to their budget for the fiscal year of 2022/2023, including funding for Human Services and public arts. Mayor John Haila proclaimed Feb. 1— Chinese New Year— an official holiday in Ames.

The funding requested for Human Services will be used for housing and mental health services. An increase of $835,000 was requested for The Bridge Home, a homeless shelter in Ames— over half a million dollars more than originally proposed. The additional funds will cover emergency shelter and transitional living services.

“We need to have a way to provide services to our most vulnerable residents,” Ward 2 Rep. Tim Gartin said. “There are people that are counting on us to get this right. This is a community issue.”

The City of Ames will also now recognize Feb. 1 as the official holiday, Chinese New Year.

Haila said the holiday has been celebrated by people of Chinese descent for 2000 years and that Ames has a large Chinese population. He encouraged Ames residents to take time to learn about the holiday.

The council also approved budget increases of $46,000 for public arts, $68,000 for Ames Main Street and $150,000 for the Ames History Museum.

The council heard from the president of Home Allies, Lauris Olson, but did not fully approve her request. Olson requested that the funds for Home Allies be added to the budget. That included $24,500 for rent assistance and $25,000 for construction costs. 

Home Allies is an Ames-based non-profit that aims to raise money to build affordable housing and help people facing home insecurity.

Olson said that low-wage earners in Ames are unable to find affordable housing and are moving out of the community. She also said the budget was for economic development, and housing is directly tied to economic development.

The council decided to approve the $25,000 for construction costs but did not include the $24,500 for rent assistance. A program called ASSET, a partnership between the city of Ames, Story County, Iowa State and United Way, is already in place to evaluate and provide funding for social service organizations. The council decided the rent assistance funding should be requested through the ASSET program.

The council also approved a request to implement a temporary Downtown Residential Overnight Parking Pass. The pass will cost $25 a month and is intended to help facilitate residents in the downtown area to park overnight. 

The permit is the first of its kind in Ames and would apply seven days a week overnight. During the day, the spots would still be used for meter parking, but the spots are intended for residents to have somewhere to park their vehicles after and before work. The permit does not include Main Street parking due to the number of restaurants and businesses there and is temporary so that it can be adjusted later.

The next council meeting will be on Feb. 22 and can be attended in person at Ames City Hall or virtually on the City of Ames website or their Youtube channel.