There’s growing frustration among lawmakers about the not-yet-opened state prison in Fort Madison. Representative Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, says he has an email that confirms water pipes froze at the facility this week — information that contradicts a written statement issued by the Department of Corrections on Wednesday afternoon.
“There is an extreme lack of clarity and I’m getting conflicting reports,” Kaufmann said today. “And there’s definitely not been forthrightness with the pipe issue.”
Kaufmann is chairman of the House Oversight Committee, a panel that launched an investigation of problems at the state prison in January. Kaufmann said the committee is going to seek more detailed information from state prison officials as well as top administrators in the agency that’s overseeing the construction project.
“I will have an extensive list of questions for both agencies to answer,” Kaufmann said.
Last week the director of the Department of Administrative Services appeared before the committee and said she did not know the answers to most of the questions committee members posed to her. Today the committee’s meeting room was packed with other legislators who do not serve on the panel, but have become interested in the battle to find answers about the delayed prison opening.
The state’s new maximum security prison was to open nearly a year ago, but problems were discovered with the facility’s heating, cooling and ventilation systems. The latest problem cropped up this week when cold air was discovered seeping into the facility’s recreational building and adjacent “mechanical alleyways.” State prison officials issued a written statement Wednesday, saying the water was turned off to pipes in the area before any froze.