As the summer rolls on, the work toward finding resolution to the Iowa Juvenile Home (IJH) facility continues in earnest. An update on what is happening is in order.
The legislative session ended with no action being taken by the legislature. The Senate had inserted language and funding into the Health and Human Services budget attempting to re-open the IJH as a girls-only Juvenile Delinquent (JD) facility but that effort was rejected as unworkable. A girls JD facility would have held typically from 10-15 children with a statutory limit of 20 children and a staff of 54. This plan was far too small for the Toledo facility's 27 acres and 13 buildings and out of line in cost. We need a much larger vision to utilize the facility and maximize the benefit to Iowans and maximize the taxpayers' dollars.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) has continued to remove the furniture and other items, distributing what could be used to other state facilities and selling what was left. The flags that made up the "Avenue of Flags" that were donated to the IJH by area citizens are being returned to the donors or where a singular donor can't be identified they are being donated to the Toledo American Legion for resolution. Historical artifacts and photos are still awaiting disposition, I am in contact frequently with DHS regarding these items.
Since the end of session I have been working with the Tama County Economic Development Commission (TEDC) in seeking an alternate use for the facility that creates employment for the area and puts this facility back to work for Iowans. We are focusing on alternatives that are oriented to education, health care, mental health and child care that are in keeping with the facilities history. We are pursuing several promising possibilities but at this point it is too early in the process to discuss specific projects. Our goal is to present the governor's office several workable options for the facility under local control.
On July 23 a group of local leaders including TEDC members took an extensive tour through the buildings. It is essential that TEDC and others understand what the facility offers and its condition so that we can best match the tenant to the facility. The school is a centerpiece and it is in excellent condition. Most of the cottages are in excellent condition, a few need some updating. An open question will be the impact occupancy regulations will have on the facilities usage such as the need for sprinkler systems, Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, and so on. The end usage of certain buildings could determine which regulations apply and then the cost of compliance could determine whether or not some of the older buildings are usable or should be removed. This issue is being studied.
Finding a suitable use for the Toledo facility is a complicated process. I and the rest of our city and county leaders are committed to working through the issues and putting this facility back to work for Iowa and for the Toledo area. We would appreciate your support and your feedback as we work through this process.
As always, feel free to contact me with your thoughts and concerns. My contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org 641-750-3594
State Rep. Dean Fisher represents District 72