- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa’s new but empty prison in Fort Madison has a problem with the air ventilation system in one of its buildings, just the latest problem for the prison, the head of a legislative oversight committee said Thursday to lawmakers keeping tabs on the $166 million facility and its multiple design issues.

Rep. Bobby Kaufman, chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, said he learned recently about the problem at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison. He expressed concern about the potential costs.

“I think the taxpayers deserve to know what that number is,” he said, referencing how much it might cost to fix that issue but others as well.

Several issues have plagued the prison since it was scheduled to open in March 2014. A flawed geothermal heating and cooling system has been repaired, though there are still problems with a smoke evacuation system and roof work at another building.

Brad Hier, deputy director with the state Department of Corrections, said contractors are reviewing the ventilation system problem. He called it minor, but he also didn’t know when it might be fixed. He said the other problems are also being investigated.

Hier said he doesn’t know when the prison might finally open, though he said a pending report from the State Fire Marshal will help the agency set a better timetable.

“Our goal right now … is get into the facility as soon as possible once it is safe and secure for staff and the public and the offender population,” he said.

Lawmakers on the committee have been questioning the Corrections Department and others in an effort to understand who is responsible for the various design issues and mounting costs associated with them. Kaufman said he and the committee will soon begin the process of reviewing documents released to them by the Department of Administrative Services on the issue.

“I just think we need to have a better grasp on how many dollars, at least everything that’s happened up to date, is going to cost. And we’re slowly getting that, but there’s still unanswered questions,” he said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide