As the voting date to approve the bond referendum for the Healthy Life Center approaches, visitors express concerns for accessibility for all socio-economic status, environmental compatibility and overall costs.
Nancy Carroll, Heartland Senior Services executive director, and Keith Abraham, director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Ames, spoke at an informational meeting about the proposed Healthy Life Center project. The meeting was packed with Ames community members and took place at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Ames Public Library.
Improving the health of Iowa’s population, creating a program accessible to all socio-economic statuses and building social connections for all ages were the key topics during this informational presentation. Another driver for the Healthy Life Center was a warm water recreational pool to accommodate children and older adults after the demolition of the Ames Municipal Pool in 2022.
With the proposal of the warm water pool, visitors have expressed concerns for the costs and reasons for the Healthy Life Center. One visitor questioned the need to create the Healthy Life Center for a new pool rather than adding a warm water pool to the Furman Aquatic Center.
Abraham said the cost of the whole project would be cheaper than creating separate projects. The Healthy Life Center is estimated to cost about $49 million while Philanthropic Support, Mary Greeley Medical Center, Heartland Senior Services, Story County government and the City of Ames will provide $20 million. The proposed Bond Referendum will be over $29 million, costing community members $44 per year.
Erve Klaas, a community member who attended the informational meeting, said he has concerns about the environmental impact the Healthy Life Center brings.
“Sooner or later this community has to face up to the fact that we have a climate crisis and we have to go to zero emissions within 10 years – starting now,” Klaas said. “I don’t see anything said about whether or not you are using renewable for this facility or whether or not if energy efficient materials are being used in construction. Those have to be considered now, not next year, not in 10 years.”
Abraham said the Healthy Life Center will follow the city regulations for environmental concerns. Visitors have also said they are concerned about the economic accessibility the Healthy Life Center will provide.
The admission cost for the Healthy Life Center is estimated for an annual pass of $275 for children under the age of 17, $550 for adults between the ages 18 and 61, $350 for adults over the age of 62 and $850 for a household of five. Abraham said there will also be a scholarship program that will be based on Mid-Iowa Community Action guidelines, which is still in the process of figuring out how much it will offer.
“We will be [giving scholarships] based on how much we have or how much we can get so it could be anywhere from 25 percent – maybe there might even be some cases where we do 100 percent scholarships for individuals,” Abraham said.
Abraham said the exact amount for the scholarship will not be confirmed until the Bond Referendum has been passed.
“I think there are people in Ames or Story County that there is no way they could afford [the admission fee] and yet the information always says this is for all ages and for all incomes,” said Mary Desparol, an audience member of the informational meeting. “That can’t be true then, it can’t be for all incomes unless they get a 100 percent scholarship.”
Desparol said she knows some Ames community members who have struggled financially.
“I just know that there are people who have trouble making it from paycheck-to-paycheck, so they can’t afford [the Healthy Life Center],” Desparol said.
The last informational meeting will be Sept. 4 at the Ames Public Library. Eight polls will be open for voting in the Bond Referendum on Sept. 10.