The first of the last three public informational meetings on the Healthy Life Center proposal was hosted Wednesday night at the Ames Public Library.
Wednesday’s meeting was the largest of them so far, having 45-50 attendees. The purpose of these meetings is to inform people about the proposed project before they vote in the Ames Referendum Vote on Sept. 10.
Nancy Caroll, Heartland Senior Services executive director, began the meeting by listing some of the individual needs the six collaborative partners have as well as the key drivers that support the Healthy Life Center.
One of those key drivers being to provide a warm water recreational pool that accommodates toddlers all the way to older adults because the Ames Municipal Pool is set to be demolished in 2022.
The other two key drivers are to assist local employers by hiring quality workers and to address health statistics, such as Iowa ranks fourth nationally in obesity.
Caroll stated the purpose statement of the center — “to provide a one of a kind Center that makes the life-long goal of healthy living accessible and enjoyable to people of all ages and socio-economic status” — that the partners stood behind throughout the project.
Caroll also spoke on the three main components of the proposal, which include physical activity, health and nutrition, and social networks.
“We had come to realize we didn’t want to just do a recreational center,” Caroll said. “And traditionally recreational centers in America always major on the physical activity.”
Caroll focused heavily on the potential opportunities and benefits of the Healthy Life Center. If the vote passes Heartland will move their services over to the center where they will continue research and regular services. Iowa State University and Des Moines Area Community College students can participate in this hands-on research.
The estimated total project cost is $49,065,000. Philanthropic Support, Mary Greeley Medical Center, Heartland Senior Services, Story County government, and the City of Ames is providing $20,000,000 (41 percent) of the funding.
The vote passing means the taxes for Ames residents will increase as they are responsible for the remaining $29,065,000 of the cost. The cost for Ames citizens who own residential property would be $44 per year, $37 of it for construction and $7 for operational subsidy.
The cost for commercial and industry property owners would be $70 per year, $58 for construction and $12 for operational subsidy.
Keith Abraham, director of Parks and Recreation representing the city of Ames, explained the anticipated admission fees of the center. There will be various options such as a daily pass or an annual pass.
After the proposal Abraham responded to questions and worries the audience had.
A major concern of Wednesday’s audience is assuring that the center will be accessible to people of every socio-economic status. A question about the needs-based scholarships which will follow the Mid Iowa Community Action (MICA) for admission fees was brought up.
Abraham said if the vote passes they will look at the policies and procedures to determine who would be eligible for the scholarships and how much those scholarships would be.
The Healthy Life Center would also have a child care center, which will be an additional cost while at the center.
Angela Shaw, an Ames citizen, was very concerned about this additional cost as it will add onto the admission fee and the cost of cooking classes or wellness classes. Shaw mentioned the middle class when asking about the cost of everything.
“When you talk about Ames population, the middle class is what runs,” Shaw said. “Those are the families, those are the people who have kids. It’s not the lower or the higher income that is gonna be hurt. The lower income will be able to meet the MICA standards, which will give them a heavy discount and so it will be affordable if not free.”
Barb Pedersen, another Ames citizen, shared Shaw’s concern on the affordability of the project.
“I’m very concerned about the population that will be priced out,” Pedersen said. “The committee needs to spend more time on how it’s going to be accessible to all socio-economic levels. It needs to be a bigger piece of the plan.”