The Iowa House last night ratified the controversial deal to buy land near Ankeny for a new Polk County drivers license station. D-O-T director Mark Wandro struck the nine-million dollar deal without telling lawmakers, but despite the uproar, republicans who lead the House refused to consider denying Wandro the money. Just two republicans spoke out against Wandro’s actions. Representative Gene Maddox, a republican from the Des Moines suburb of Clive, was the first. “It appears to me that the process that DOT and director Wandro followed in this is just inexcusable,” Maddox says. Representative Joe Hutter of Bettendorf was the other republican to raise concerns about Wandro’s secret action. “We’ve got to create more checks and balances in state government,” Hutter says. “We’ve been here now for almost two months talking about the needs for education…and yet we’ll spend 10 million dollars for bricks and mortar,” Hutter says. Representative Wayne Ford, a democrat from Des Moines, represents the Highland Park neighborhood where the current drivers license station for Polk County is located. “We just renovated our whole community…most downtowns are gone and we’ve got our own downtown in my district and you’re telling me I shouldn’t be upset?” Ford asked. Representative Ed Fallon, a democrat from Des Moines, says the move will be devastating for the Highland Park neighborhood where the current Polk County drivers license station is today. Fallon says if the license center leaves that neighborhood it would be akin to Maytag leaving Newton or the Vet’s Hospital leaving Knoxville. But Representative Dan Huseman, a republican from Aurelia, says the Ankeny location should be more efficient and he urged House members to approve the design and construction money for it. Huseman says the D-O-T has promised to open an office in the Des Moines city limits that will do license renewals. In addition — since there’s no bus service to the new site, the D-O-T promised Huseman they’d come up with some sort of transportation to the site. Huseman expects legislators to hold the D-O-T to those promises. “When we come back to the legislature next year at this time, we will know if there’s been progress made,” Huseman says.
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