There’s been another setback in plans to move inmates into the new Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison. First, the harsh winter slowed construction work and delayed the transfer of inmates. Now, Department of Corrections spokesperson Fred Scaletta says the new facility’s heating and cooling system is acting up. “The geothermal system is working, but it’s not working to the standards that we could anticipate some of the weather we might have in Iowa, such as a very hot summer or a very cold winter,” Scaletta says. “We want to make sure that everything is operational when we make the transition.”
Around 550 of the state’s toughest criminals are housed in the old Iowa State Pen, originally built in 1839. It’s still unclear when they might be moved into the prison, which has room for 800 inmates. “We’re not really sure how long it’s going to take,” Scaletta says of the fix to the geothermal system. “I think they’re aware of how to fix it, it’s just a matter of getting it done.”
The geothermal system in the new administration building is operating properly, according to Scaletta. Several administrative staff have already occupied their new offices. The new prison carries a price tag of roughly $130 million. It’s unclear how much more will need to be spent on the heating and cooling system. “There will be some added costs, but we won’t know how to address those with the contractors until we get a final statement,” Scaletta said.
In October of last year, reporters were given a tour of the new Iowa State Penitentiary. At the time, corrections officials said inmates would be transferred into the new facility in March of this year.