Under the Golden Dome, Too – January 30

Upmeyer UTGD

Iowans work hard for the money they earn.  That’s why you’re careful with how you spend it.  As elected officials, it is our duty to ensure your taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, and when a concern is raised, we look into it.

During the beginning of each legislative session, our committees typically invite speakers in to provide testimony regarding different organizations and entities involved with state government.  This is a period of time to research various topics and ask questions about how state government programs and projects are operating.

It was a pleasure to visit with students from Hampton-Dumont and CAL High School's Tall Corn FFA Chapter in the Capitol this week.  The students and their advisor, Sarah DeBour, were in Des Moines to participate in FFA Day on the Hill.

It was a pleasure to visit with students from Hampton-Dumont and CAL High School’s Tall Corn FFA Chapter in the Capitol this week. The students and their advisor, Sarah DeBour, were in Des Moines to participate in FFA Day on the Hill.

One area of concern that has been brought to our attention is the delay surrounding the construction and opening of the new state prison in Fort Madison.  Over the past couple of weeks, members of the Government Oversight committee have started an investigation into the problems that have plagued this project for the past year.

In 2005, two prisoners escaped the Iowa State Penitentiary at Fort Madison, which was built in 1839. After the escape, Department of Corrections officials and others met to evaluate the safety and security at prisons throughout the state. Many recommendations were made, and in 2008 the General Assembly appropriated $130.7 million from the Prison Bond Fund to build a new prison in Fort Madison.

A ground breaking ceremony was held in the late summer of 2010 and the prison was expected to be completed and ready to be occupied by prisoners in late 2013. As of today, the prison is unoccupied and there is no definite timeline to move the inmates to the new prison.

Multiple issues have kept the prison closed. In late 2013, prison officials found major problems with the geothermal unit that was supposed to heat the cells. As constructed, the geothermal system could not properly heat the building.  The largest issue now facing the prison is the inability to clear smoke in case of a fire. Engineers, Department of Corrections officials, and the State Fire Marshall are currently working to solve this problem, but presently, there is no timeline for a fix.

When we began session this year, we charged the Government Oversight committee with investigating the problems surrounding the new prison.  One thing that has become clear is that each question asked by the committee appears to only generate more questions than answers.  While we are still in the information-gathering phase, I’m confident in saying Iowans are not getting a fair return on their investment.  We should all be disappointed with the way this project has transpired.

We will continue to investigate this situation and look out for your hard-earned tax dollars.  As we do with all areas of state government, we will work to provide more transparency and accountability surrounding  this project.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me at linda.upmeyer@legis.iowa.gov or 515-281-4618 with your comments, feedback, and suggestions.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Upmeyer Sig

 

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Dansette