Ames voters rejected funding for a $29 million bond to fund the long-planned Healthy Life Center in a referendum Tuesday.
The public was closely divided, with the share of the vote for no at 51.5 percent and the share of the vote for yes at 48.5 percent. The yes side needed to reach a 60 percent threshold in order for the implementation of the bond issue.
The failure to approve the bond makes the construction of the Healthy Life Center unlikely. Private donors and the six entities who collaborated on the project — Mary Greeley Medical Center, Iowa State, Des Moines Area Community College, Story County and Heartland Senior Services — pledged roughly $20 million to its construction.
Nancy Carroll, executive director of Heartland Senior Services, said before the results were known it would be difficult for the project to move forward if the bond were rejected by voters. She said the private donors had been brought together and the $20 million they collectively accounted for would be difficult to get together again.
The campaign for a no vote was supported by significant spending from a political action committee (PAC) created by the Ames Fitness Center. The PAC, registered as “Citizens of Ames for Responsible Economics,” spent at least $18,234 as of Aug. 27, according to filings with the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board.
What comes next for the project is unclear at this stage, with the next moves by private donors unknown. Ames City Council had offered its unanimous support for the Healthy Life Center during its Aug. 27 meeting, and 2nd Ward Rep. Tim Gartin took to social media to drum up support for a yes vote, touting the Ames Tribune editorial board’s endorsement of a yes vote.
Ames Mayor John Haila said many were “disappointed” at the outcome of the result, KCCI reports.
“[W]e respect the decision the voters made and we are going to positively move forward, but it will need to be in a different direction,” Haila said.