Iowa Prison to Cost $7 Million More to Open

FORT MADISON, Iowa — The new 800-bed Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison still remains empty, almost a year and a half after a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in October 2013. Repairs needed to open the vacant $132 million prison will cost at least an additional $7 million, state officials told The Des Moines Register.

The state fire marshal’s office still hasn’t authorized occupancy because of a lack of compliance with the state’s building code. Iowa Department of Corrections officials told state lawmakers in a memo last week that the cost for fixing a malfunctioning geothermal heating and cooling system at the new penitentiary is at least $6.7 million, as bills continue to be received and processed. The projected expenses for making changes to a faulty smoke control system are also at least $350,000, although total costs are unknown because the design still isn’t completed, prison officials said.

The new prison’s geothermal system, which transfers heat to and from the ground, was redesigned and is now working properly, officials said. However, the smoke control system, which would clear smoke from maximum-security cells, is only in the initial stages of engineering design. It is still undetermined when the system will be ready. The general contractor for the project was Chicago-based Walsh Construction; the company has yet to make a public statement about the controversy.

Lawmakers in 2010 agreed to borrow $131 million to build the prison, legislative documents show. By summer 2014, the construction costs had risen to $165.5 million: $160 million for construction and $5.5 million for furnishings, according to the Sioux City Journal. The 92-acre men’s penitentiary comprises 12 new buildings for a total of 472,000 square feet.