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Education key part of library campaign

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Logo courtesy of Renew Your Library Campaign

By Andrew Duffelmeyer


(Sept. 29, 20011- 9:45 a.m.) The head of a group advocating for the approval of an $18 million renovation and expansion of the Ames Public Library says her main strategy is to educate the community on the library building's needs.

"We have a worn out building, really worn out," said Pat Brown, chairwoman of Renew Your Library. "And even if the bond issue were not to pass millions would have to be paid for repairs simply because things wear out. So the thought is why not spend a little bit more and get a building that is really spectacular?"

That education piece is already available in a number of forms, like in handouts at the library and through the library's website. Another effort to directly advocate for passage of the bond is also underway, Brown said, and that will include signs, door-knocking and advertisements.

About 15 people are working on the get-out-the-vote committee alone, Brown said, along with "scores" of volunteers. The Ames Public Library Friends Foundation has provided funds for the effort, which also includes a website and outreach through Facebook and Twitter.

Brown said she hopes there won't be an opposition group formed to oppose the bond, as there was to work against the $65 million, six-elementary school bonding plan turned down by voters Sept. 13. She's not sure what impact that vote will have on the library's bonding proposal.

"This is for the community, the common good," Brown said. "Of course I don't know but I would think that people would support such a lovely institution that helps so many people and that brings so many people to the community. It says a lot about Ames, the quality of our library."

There's no question the economy is a factor and a fair consideration when looking at renovating and expanding the library, Brown said. But she thinks the advantages to building now - like low construction costs - and the fact that work on the building is needed anyway outweigh those concerns.

The bond, which voters will weigh-in on Nov. 8, is expected to cost taxpayers $29.70 per $100,000 of residential property valuation and $61.20 per $100,000 of commercial property valuation. The library has committed to raising $2 million on it's own for the project.

"Now is the time to invest," she said. "It's like buying stocks in a bull market, not in a bear market. I'm not being inconsiderate of people on fixed income and things, I know it's difficult. But I would hope they would have a little vision for where this community needs to be."

Some things tell you a story about the values of a community, Brown said. She used the well-maintained medians along Fleur Drive in Des Moines and that city's downtown sculpture park as examples, and she thinks Ames should make a similar investment in an institution many hold in high esteem.

"I get up every morning and say 'this will pass,'" Brown said. "It's right for the community."

Cost concerns

77,000 - 48,000 = 29,000 additional square feet

$18,000,000 / 29,000 = $620 per square foot gained

According to Reed construction data (2008), libraries in Des Moines would be $141.99 per square foot. That is their HIGHEST figure with union labor, their lowest using union labor is $119 per square foot. All figures are for a 2 story building (This is their public info, from 2008, but how much can things have gone up from the top of a construction bust? If anyone has a subscription and has access to current data, feel free to post it)

see for yourself

$18,000,000/77,000 = $233 per square foot of the total finished building

so the bond amount for the total building (including existing structure) is still above average, even if you reduce the book value of the structure built in 1984 to zero - has the average value of a house or commercial building built in 1984 gone up or down since 1984?

and this is only the bond amount, it doesn't include the fundraising part

Here's some info from Marshalltown's library site about their new library, opened Dec 2008


key quotes:

"38,970 square feet of space, double the current library"

"How much will the new library cost?
The new library will cost $8.65 million. That figure includes purchasing some additional
property, developing the site, construction costs, architectural costs, furnishings,
equipment, and moving expenses."

$8,650,000/38,970 = $221.96 per square foot

Good Plan

Ames has had a long an open process about the library needs. In that process a strong message was heard from citizens and elected officials that the historic aspects of the current library need to be preserved and the library stay at the current location. The bond issue plan reflects this overwhelming input.

Two story construction is more expensive. The rest of the library is being renovated. Renovation is more expansive than building new. This plan reflects the priorities of the people of Ames.

Renovation is more expansive than building new?

'The rest of the library is being renovated. Renovation is more expansive than building new'


you're saying it's common experience for a 27 year old building to have a negative value?

if that were true, we would see public libraries of this age being town down all the time

can anyone provide a list of libraries built from 1974-1984 that needed to be gutted or town down?

if this is true, libraries all over the nation should be encountering the same issues

and if it's not common, we need to find out why this library was so poorly planned or poorly maintained so that we do not make the same mistakes


'torn' down, not 'town' down

you heard a different message than I did

"In that process a strong message was heard from citizens and elected officials that the historic aspects of the current library need to be preserved and the library stay at the current location. "

yes, the community DID say 'Dont tear down a 27 year old building!' (as i recall, there never were any plans to tear down the 1904-1940) sections in the original proposal)

it's wasnt because a building built in 1984 was particularly 'historic', it's because they thought tearing down a building that wasnt that old was a waste of money!

however, I did not hear them say 'spend just as much (or more) renovating it as a new building would cost'

Schools, Water plant, Electric plant.....

there are a lot of things coming up

it one thing to say 'it's only $45 *more* per year on a $150,000 house', but what will the total be once *all* of the bond proposals are in? and what are all the alternatives?

that is what we need to be educated on


The cost of the future water plant is already being added to our utility bills every year so that when they finally get the go-ahead to build, the revenue will be there. I think the electric bills have some sort of surcharge on them, too. The library does not charge for services, so there is no way to build up a piggy bank.

In my family, we could never afford a new car every couple years, so we fixed up and drove our old ones for as long as we could. At some point, however, we realized that it was time to replace the old beater. I think the library has been responsible about fixing things up as well as they could over the years. But the place has been used heavily and it's time for a new model -- one that has insulation in the walls, uses energy efficiently, and reflects Ames' high regard for education and enlightenment.

Regard for education??

Then shouldn't our schools take priority over a public library?

And don't forget that you've only seen half of the increase to your water and sewer bills. The other half will be hitting us soon.

I think a lot of people planning to vote "No" on the library bond issue are not opposed to an upgrade to the library. They (and I) just don't think we can do everything at once. Sadly, we've neglected our schools for about 40 years, so they really need to take priority. The library got a very big upgrade not all that long ago, in comparison.

typical AMES

a part of the community wants everything new lets keep raising taxes so we can have shiny new stuff everywhere. Pool, water plant, electric plant, library, sewers, etc. Soon everything will be new but few can afford to live here. Raise the funds privately if you want a new library

To "Typical Ames"

Yeah, new sewers sure are useless.

What a completely idiotic statement. It's people like you that make Ames such a frustrating place to live. Why don't you move to Madrid or Boone where nothing has changed since the 1950s?

Speaking of idiot

Speaking of idiot statements......

It is hard to trust

ANO deleted this comment as it violates our rule against character assassination.


I would vote for something around 8 or 9 million, not 18.

schools and library

I would first like to see something better for the schools, and not spend so much on the library. I know the library needs updates, but schools first, library second. I think the school bond issue could be less than projected, and the library could do updates for about 9 million or so.

To schools and library

We just settled the schools and decided not to do anything right now. Maybe next year, maybe not. Let's move forward with the library, as it seems like something most reasonable people could agree on. Unlike schools, we only have one, so there shouldn't be anything controversial.

water plant

Per a previous comment, the new water plant was not optional, period. The old plant was falling apart and so very old that trying to keep it going made no financial sense.


One of the primary roles of our elected and appointed officials is to determine what the public wants and is willing to pay for, then set priorities on funding. In this capacity they have failed. Evidence in a rec. center vote going down 60-40, a school vote down 80-20, hand wringing over a food inspector that I did not even know we had and no one seems to care about which was apparently far more expensive than the state inspector. I have about a $200,000 house and my taxes have gone up $350 over the past three years, or about 15 cups of coffee a month for the library supporters. I know my taxes are going to go up for schools and utility bills will also be going way up. Based on past experience my taxes will likey go up faster than the rate of inflation even without the library and any other new things. Our elected officials have decided we needed a new court house, new county hospital, three dispatch centers, a trash system far more expensive than a landfill, more expensive wind power, that we will need a new water plant, expensive new treatment of sewage, more transit, more parks, and the list can go on. The one thing they can never decide is a priority - they want to have all these things plus any other expenses they come up with like a new library - they think the taxpayers have unlimited funds and that there are no trade-offs for the decisions they make. I'm about tapped out, but what I am more concerned about is the apparent near total lack of planning and setting of priorities. Brown points out that the building is "worn out", more likely not maintained, and the library spent hundreds of thousands on out of town consultants for gradiouse library plans that were never going to happen rather than maintaining the building. I'll be a NO on anything that is not an absolute need - I think we will find that most of the public is happy with the current library or is at least happy enough not to spend $18 million for an addition and remodel with we know we have other big expensive priorities coming up soon. Since our elected officials cannot understand tradeoffs and set priorities, we need to when we get a chance.

"expensive new treatment of sewage"

Ames was under federal and state pressure to upgrade the sewage treatment plant, and I for one am glad. The EPA is getting fed up with Iowa's dubious compliance with the Clean Water Act, and it's about time. Ames in particular was locked in a battle with the DNR for years about the amount of crud we've been dumping into the Skunk River. Iowa has the fifth-worst water quality in the nation, and while outdated sewage treatment isn't the main reason, it is certainly part of the problem.

There seems to be a long Iowa tradition of feeling okay and justified about sending our pollution downstream to become someone else's problem. The ultimate example is Iowa being a major contributor to the dead zone in the Gulf. It's time to end that tradition, and I'm glad the Ames sewage treatment plant is being upgraded.

Government spending

I'm not opining as to whether or not the spending decisions by local government were for good causes, but there are far more good causes than there is funding available. Government officials need to set priorities - want to spend a bunch of money on environmental issues - fine if that is what the citizens preference - but then maybe you can't have a bigger library. It is the same thing we all need to go through with own budgets, big difference is we don't spend out of someone else's pocket.

Government spending

I'm not opining as to whether or not the spending decisions by local government were for good causes, but there are far more good causes than there is funding available. Government officials need to set priorities - want to spend a bunch of money on environmental issues - fine if that is what the citizens preference - but then maybe you can't have a bigger library. It is the same thing we all need to go through with own budgets, big difference is we don't spend out of someone else's pocket.

sewage and skunk river

I dont know that the timing of the sewage treatment upgrades were, but once saw the skunk river a few decades ago from a bridge at the south end of town (Ken merill road perhaps) during a drought (i think the river was nearly dry at 13th street park), and as a courtesy to the readers i will say nothing other than it literally was a toilet - it was a total disgrace for the town

this was long before the processing was moved to cambridge


Actually, I believe most of our elected/appointed officials are quite educated on these subjects and many others. That said, I think they are doing this the "right way" by putting such measures to a VOTE of the people in our community. By adding a "ballot question" to an existing ballot election (school board or general election), there is not an increase in overall cost to the election. Additionally, by placing the item to be voted upon by the community, it provides a true representation of the community's viewpoint. I, for one, am glad these significant issues are placed in the hands of voters to determine whether the electorate is ready or not to accept a bond issuance and subsequent tax increases to pay for the bonds.


These items were ballot questions not because that is what public officials want, but what is required by law. We don't vote on the water bonds or I'm guessing that would go down too or at least be scaled back. As far as adding to election costs, again that was a change in the law - public officials used to "game" the system on the bond voting date. I recall when we voted on the rec center we had three elections, a council vote, a council runoff, and then a vote on the rec center. This gaming of the vote dates led the legislature to restrict the allowed dates for referendum voting.

Schools First

We need to get the school thing settled first. The library can make do...perhaps with donations and volunteer labor we can do some of the things the library needs

this forum

I have no connection with Ames News Online, have never met any of the staff, and have never been in the office. But I intend to reach into my wallet and pony up for a supporter subscription because I appreciate this news source and this forum. I hope other readers will consider doing the same. Thanks.

Lisa D'Aurenno-voting no

I like this news source too. The other reads like fox.

The library may well need more space, but I will vote no. The schools are more important. Unfortunately Ames turned down a school plan that would attract families and help Ames to grow. The library plan, well thought out as it is, won't attract more people to Ames.

Ames has become way too much us vs. them and this once thoughtful community has decided to embrace viciousness and repeat the negative without checking. I hope people start to realize the damage that this has caused in our community. Sadly, the ones who have the influence to get people all worked up are the few who benefit and the few that let others do the dirty work for them.

The political patronage in Ames has become more apparent than ever. The school superintendent's hiring of Kathy Hansen(school reporter from Tribune)is an example of this. To those of yuo who paid attention and saw how favorable Hanson was to central administration no matter what, you would realize the huge ethical breech here. This is just one example.

It is absolutely essential that the press be truthful, accurate, and comprehensive in its coverage of local governments. It is instrumental in a democracy. The Tribune has fallen way short, especially in the last year.

Thank you ames news online for honest coverage and for not letting the all-powerful superintendent of schools, Ames developers,and the Ames Economic Development Committee influence you.

Thanks to ANO

I agree that the Trib. has fallen short lately. My spouse and I were so disgusted with how they treated the school board elections, and just how they treated the board over the last year that we canceled our subscription and gave the money to ANO.


Sorry, but you are wrong. That plan didn't attract many, thank goodness. There was no damage done to the community, in fact, glad to see the community come together to vote no on a ridiculous bond issue. 80% voted no. There was no ethical breach made by the school. They can hire who they want. Your claims are ridiculous, and you need to move on.

Seriously over-used

Anyone still claiming that people whose opinions don't match their own needs to "move on" obviously needs to remove their blinders and find a fresher expression. The phrase "Is that the best you've got?" comes to mind.

I would say that 20% means that plan attracted quite a few. One out of every 5. And they are/were just as "right" in their reasoning as you felt in yours. I have noticed they haven't told you to "move on" or "move out of Ames". I've also noticed that you haven't bothered to extend the same courtesy to them. (Although, quite frankly, I never expected anything else from you.)

To even remotely claim that the whole school bond issue wasn't divisive and didn't cause any damage to the community is to refuse to acknowledge the truth. Or, put another way, to insist on living in la-la-land.

moving on

The Roosevelt group will never move on. This group and the smart growth group are deleted by ANO as it violates rules against name-calling.

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