Republicans in the Iowa House late last week voted to keep the maintainance staff employed at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo, but they voted down the idea of reopening the facility for delinquent teenage girls.

The home is in Representative Dean Fisher’s district. Fisher, a Republican from Garwin, sponsored the proposal to keep maintenance staff at the facility and his fellow Republicans voted for that plan instead.

“While I don’t expect this to be the last word on the Juvenile Home this session, it is important to make sure we have these maintenance funds as a stop-gap measure to ensure the facility is maintained,” Fisher said. “This amendment calls for the maintenance personnel to remain as state employees, specifically the employees who have worked at the facility for many years and know every circuit breaker and every valve and what is an historical artifact and what is junk.”

Republican Governor Terry Branstad closed the facility in January after accounts surfaced of mistreatment of some of the delinquent teenage girls who were sent to the home. House Democratic Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown said the legislature’s first priority should be the teenagers who need the home’s services rather than the adults who maintain the facility.

“A rather ridiculous situation where we are working to protect these kinds of things and not the most troubled youth in our society,” Smith said. “…Children are far more important than property is.”

Smith tried to attach a proposal that called for reopening the Juvenile Home to a budget bill that House was debating, but the Republicans in the House voted that down. However, Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, promised to work with Senate Democrats to find a “common solution” to the issue.

“When the governor suddenly closed the Toledo facility, all of us were in kind of a state of shock because it wasn’t a phasing out of the facility. It was like,” Heaton said, snapping his fingers, “just like that, it closed.”

In late February, Democrats in the Iowa Senate passed a bill that did not specifically call for reopening the Toledo home, but the bill did call for the state to operate a facility for delinquent girls. Governor Branstad has said privately-run facilities are capable of caring for the delinquent teenage girls who’ve committed crimes and who often are a danger to themselves and others. A handful of legislators and the president of the union that represent workers at the home have sued the governor over his decision to close the home.