- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Repairs at the vacant Iowa State Penitentiary are expected to cost an additional $7 million, state officials said.

In a memo to state lawmakers last week, the Iowa Department of Corrections said the cost to fix a faulty heating and cooling system is at least $6.7 million. Prison officials said an additional $350,000 is needed for a defective smoke control system, the Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/1Fq8cNn ).

Lawmakers in 2010 agreed to borrow $131 million to build the prison, legislative documents show. But by last summer, talking points prepared by aides for Gov. Terry Branstad showed the cost had risen to $165.5 million: $160 million for construction and $5.5 million for furnishings.

A Branstad spokesman said at the time he wasn’t familiar with the figures and referred questions to the Department of Corrections and the Department of Administration. Spokesmen Fred Scaletta and Caleb Hunter didn’t respond to an inquiry about the cost discrepancy in October, and didn’t immediately return an email Monday.

Prison officials said the heating and cooling system has been redesigned and is now functioning correctly, but that the smoke control system is in the initial phases of the reengineering process.

The prison in Fort Madison was scheduled to open last March to house inmates at the old Iowa State Penitentiary, located a mile away. Construction issues have delayed the prison’s opening.

State Sen. Matt McCoy, a Des Moines Democrat, said the state needs to be more transparent about the problems surrounding the Fort Madison project. But Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said the blame falls to Democrat Chet Culver’s administration, under which the plan was developed.

Construction began in April 2010 while Culver was still governor.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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