DES MOINES, Iowa — Government officials will use project labor agreements for the construction of two major prison projects, marking the first time PLAs have been used for an Iowa state project.
In March, Gov. Chet Culver accepted a recommendation from the Department of Administrative Services to use PLAs to build a replacement to the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison and to improve the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women in Mitchellville.
The decision follows an executive order from Culver directing state agencies to consider using PLAs for construction projects exceeding $25 million.
“This agreement ensures Iowa workers are paid the wages and receive the benefits they deserve, while keeping these critical projects on time and budget,” Culver says.
John Baldwin, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, agreed that PLAs are the right fit for large projects, such as prison construction.
“Prison construction presents unique challenges,” Baldwin says. “Hundreds of craftsmen will be on these jobs at the same time and it is imperative to have firm control of the building process. PLAs keep projects on time and on budget.”
The PLAs in the two projects involve the Southeast Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council and the Central Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council.
With PLAs, fair wages can be negotiated locally with building trades councils and construction workers. In return, workers agree not to strike during the course of the project, keeping construction on time and on budget.
A groundbreaking was recently held for the proposed $131 million prison project in Fort Madison. All construction bids and documents are expected in by August, according to Brad Heir, Iowa’s deputy director of administration.
The 800-bed maximum-security institution will replace the Iowa State Penitentiary, which was built in 1839 — it’s considered the oldest prison west of the Mississippi River —and is the state’s only maximum-security institution.
The Iowa State Penitentiary has the capacity for approximately 1,000 inmates and is staffed by 510 employees.
Located on the Iowa State Penitentiary grounds are the John Bennett Correctional Center, a medium-security institution that holds 150 inmates, and a clinical care unit for 200 inmates with mental and health problems, both of which will remain operational after the new facility is complete.
Plans for the replacement facility call for three separate buildings to house maximum and medium security inmates, as well as a mental health center and 44 acres of grounds surrounded by high-tech motion detection fences.
The new prison, which is scheduled for completion by late 2012 or early 2013, will maintain the penitentiary’s current staffing. Venture Architects Inc. of Milwaukee, architecture and engineering firm Durrant of Des Moines and HOK of St. Louis are working on the project.
In Mitchellville, the medium/minimum security Correctional Institution for Women, which houses approximately 550 inmates and is staffed by 190 employees, will receive $68 million in renovations.
Renovations include improving the dining hall, expanding a laundry facility and adding a new medical facility and residential hall. The new facility will have room for approximately 888 female inmates and will centralize almost all women’s services for the state, including intake and all but the most acute medical needs. Groundbreaking and site work are scheduled to take place in late August, says Heir.
“The Mitchellville facility will operate as a full campus while construction is going on,” Heir says.
Renovations are expected to be complete by 2012. Architectural and engineering firm STV of New York, Design Alliance, Inc. architectural firm of Waukee, Iowa, and Brooks Borg Skiles architecture and engineering of Des Moines are working on the project.
Both projects will be paid through the prison infrastructure fund, made up of financing from current court fines and fees and the issuance of tobacco revenue bonds.
Iowa inmate populations are expected to exceed official capacity of 7,414 by 982 inmates by June 2010, according to prison population forecasts released in 2009. Long-term projections puts Iowa’s inmate population at 9,025 by June 2019, an increase caused largely by tougher sentencing standards for offenders of violent crimes.
In March 2010, Iowa’s state prison population reached 8,345.