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Library study approved; residential wind power isn't

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By Mike Malloy


(Feb. 24, 2010 - 10 a.m.) The new library project took another step forward, though not without clearing a small hurdle.

The Ames City Council voted 5-1 to approve paying up to $68,000 to the Hodge Group of Dublin, Oh.

The Hodge Group will assess public support for both a bond referendum and the willingness to give privately toward a new library building. Its bid was the most expensive – the lowest was $28,100 – but library director Art Weeks said he didn’t want to do the study on the cheap.


Weeks relied heavily on references and said that Hodge had “sterling” references while others were lacking.

“I had to jog a guy’s memory that he’d even done business with one of the other firms,” Weeks said.

Council member Jeremy Davis voted against funding the study, saying that the public input process was insufficient in selecting a site for the proposed 94,000-square foot building.  

“By bringing a proposal like this in, without having the public behind a specific location first, is going to cause problems down the road,” Davis said. “I think you may have put the caboose before the engine.”

Resident Holly Fuchs also said that public input had been insufficient,  but Weeks strongly disagreed.

“That’s a frustration,” Weeks said after the meeting. “We had 19 total meetings attended by over 600 people. I will admit that there weren’t those kind of meetings to arrive at the 94,000 figure…I’ve never seen it done that way, and a lot of it is based on standards: So many books per square foot, how much egress you have to have for (the Americans with Disabilities Act). We would have been doing Architecture 101 and 102.”

Weeks added that consultant Anders Dahlgren spoke with key community leaders, and that in addition to the 19 public meetings, the public is free to communicate their feelings in a variety of ways, including the public library’s blog.

Council member Tom Wacha said of the space issue, “Let's leave that up to the experts,” adding that he regularly uses the library but that doesn’t qualify him to draw up a construction plan.

Council member Matthew Goodman suggested that, given the recession, that this was a poor time to ask for donations or try to pass a bond referendum, but Weeks countered that a major addition to the library was completed in 1940 and the planning for that began in the midst of the Great Depression.

Transportation hub still in limbo. CyRide director Sheri Kyras addressed the council concerning the proposed Campustown intermodal transportation facility. Last week, Ames was awarded an $8.463 million federal grant toward the project, however, the facility was slated to cost $43.6 million, and about $39 million was to be paid with federal dollars.

Kyras said she’s still waiting to have a conversation with the federal department of transportation regarding how the amount was determined. Kyras said she was happy about being one of 51 projects nationally to receive money, but admitted that the project may have to be dramatically scaled back to fit the funding.

“While we’re excited about the opportunity, we’re not sure what that dollar amount means,” Kyras said. “Once we understand what the dollar amount means, then we can go forward.”

The project is a joint venture between the city, CyRide and Iowa State, and Kyras said the university hadn’t made any decisions on how to proceed.

Residential wind turbines not approved. An Ames resident waiting to harness the wind will have to wait a little longer.

The council approved allowing wind turbines in certain commercial and industrial zones, but not in residential areas.

Jami Larson said he would like to see wind turbines – a machine with a propeller-like blade that turns wind into electricity – ultimately be a part of the city’s code, but fears creating unsightly properties.

“I find those systems to be unattractive,” Larson said.

He referenced requirements that certain mechanical devices in commercial areas be screened from view.

“The Casey’s at Clark and Lincoln Way has a residential-style fence around an exhaust system, and the fence looks hideous,” Larson said.

Peter Orazem agreed.

“Let some other town figure out how this works and we can copy that down the road,” Orazem said.

City planner Sam Perry, who has overseen the city’s efforts to incorporate alternative energy sources into its code, said allowing wind turbines in non-residential could be a first step toward wider use.

“The council doesn’t want to get the neighborhood riled up about the aesthetic issues,” Perry said. “Maybe if some rooftop ones go on commercial areas, then people can see them and understand how big they are and what they sound like, or don’t sound like, and they get more comfortable with it.”

The debate may have been much ado about nothing. Few have expressed interest in having such devices, on homes or businesses.

Perry said he had one request Monday, but, “It has been so long ago since somebody has asked that I can’t remember any others.”

Green grants. The council approved accepting $544,000 in federal money to partially pay for new, energy-efficient heating pumps at city hall. The building’s current heat pumps were replaced in 1990, and have outlived their useful life. The project would cost a total of $926,600 and reduce the building’s annual carbon dioxide output by 57 tons (3.7 percent).

The council also approved applying for state funding for green transportation projects. Those considered are updated street and parking lot lighting, energy conservation programs, efficiencies at the animal control facility, and a waste-biofuels conservation study.

To view’s archives of Ames city council agendas, meeting minutes, reports and city-related information, visit 

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