Radio Iowa reported in a story circulated on Tuesday, june 3, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad "may order the demolition of cottages for delinquent teenage girls on the now-closed Iowa Juvenile Home campus in Toledo."
"It's already in bad shape and I think the task force that we appointed said the residential aspect of that didn't meet the standards that we require of non-profits in the state of Iowa," Branstad is said to have told reporters.
In an email, The News-Herald sought more information on this development from the Governor's office and learned the cottages were termed "unsafe" by Jerry Foxhaven, a Drake University law professor who headed the Task Force. Foxhaven has an extensive background in the area of child protection.
The newer cottages on the Iowa Juvenile Home / State Training School for Girls campus in Toledo sit vacant on Tuesday, June 3. Gov. Branstad is reported considering ordering the buildings torn down.
Jimmy Centers, communications director for the Governor's Office, also answered in an email, "Gov. Branstad was simply referring to the fact that the cottages have been deemed unsafe to house children. The governor's utmost concern is the health, safety and well-being of the children who resided at the Iowa Juvenile Home. The governor believes they are now being well-served in alternative placement.
"Additionally, you may know the budget approved by Gov. Branstad has $500,000 for maintenance and upkeep of the IJH campus. Gov. Branstad is committed to working to find a long-term solution for the campus that fits the needs of the community."
Ordered closed in January
Branstad and Department of Human Services head Charles Palmer ordered the Juvenile Home / State Training School for Girls closed on Jan. 15.
Students on campus had been moved to other placements and more than 90 employees lost their jobs. The move came after an investigation by a federally-funded nonprofit attorney group, Disability Rights Iowa, alleged inadequate education was being provided and some students were being illegally kept in isolation rooms.
Centers was asked about the January request Branstad reportedly made for Department of Human Services head Charles Palmer "to meet with community members to gather information about future plans and potential uses for the campus."
Centers was told the newspaper has been unable to identify any community members who have been contacted and asked "Will there be community input or not?"
In response, Centers stood behind the same reply received earlier from Amy Lorentzen-McCoy, Human Services media spokesperson: "DHS Dir. Chuck Palmer has been in touch with community members. As DHS public information officer Amy McCoy emailed you on April 18, 2014, "Director Palmer has met with former staff and students, and had discussions with local legislators."
Centers denied there are any present plans for use of the campus. "Gov. Branstad is committed to working to find a long-term solution for the campus that fits the needs of the community," Centers wrote.
The order by a Polk County District Court Judge to reopen the Juvenile Home / state Training School for girls remains before the Iowa Supreme Court on appeal by the Governor and DHS.
The lawsuit was brought by four Democratic legislators and Danny Homan, Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) in Iowa after Branstad and Palmer ordered the facility closed on Jan. 15.
Centers was asked by the News-Herald: "Is Gov. Branstad awaiting a Supreme Court decision on the suit filed by senators and AFSCME before moving forward with IJH? It is known furnishing and equipment have already been removed from the campus."
Centers said, "Gov. Branstad's utmost concern is the health, safety and well-being of the former residents of the Iowa Juvenile Home. The governor is committed to ensuring the children receive the education they deserve. DHS has assured Gov. Branstad that the department will be able to provide funding for the compensatory education for the youth who were denied their education at the Iowa Juvenile Home. DHS, in conjunction with the Department of Administrative Services and the Department of Public Safety are maintaining and securing the campus in Toledo."
The Iowa State Patrol has an officer visible at almost all times on the campus, a practice observed now in Toledo for several months.