A Republican state legislator says now may not be the time to invest in a new state prison as the state looks for money to help towns rebuild after the devastating floods and tornadoes of the spring.
Representative Bill Schickel, a Republican from Mason City who is not seeking re-election, says if the Governor calls a special session of the Legislature to deal with disaster recovery, lawmakers may want to reconsider the plan they passed last session to build a new prison in Fort Madison.
"Whether that remains a priority or whether that money is properly spent there or spent on disaster recovery I think is a discussion we need to have," Schickel says. While larger cities like Cedar Rapids and Iowa City received much of the media attention during June’s serious flooding, towns like Palo to the northwest of Cedar Rapids were often overlooked.
Palo City Councilwoman Paula Gunter says her hometown was completely evacuated as nearly every home and business took on water. And she says Palo’s a long way from recovery. "We might have about 30 families back in their homes, but it is a ghost town and It’s kind of eerie to be there after dark," Gunter says. "The street lights are on, but there are no houselights on and there’s no activity on the streets."
Some of Gunter’s neighbors have sold their homes and are leaving town for good, but she remains confident that most of Palo’s displaced residents will someday move back. Gunter and Schickel made her comments this morning on "The Exchange" on Iowa Public Radio.