"No plans" are in place for the 27-acre Iowa Juvenile Home / State Training School for Girls campus in Toledo which was ordered closed on Jan. 15 by Gov. Terry Branstad and Department of Human Services Director Charles Palmer, it was learned last Wednesday, June 25.
Palmer was here and spent about one-half hour meeting with Mayor Dave Svoboda, 2nd Ward Council member Joe Boll and District 72 State Rep. Dean Fisher. Also on hand was Palmer's assistant, Jennifer Harbison.
Svoboda and Fisher said after the meeting Palmer made it clear state officials "are looking to the community for ideas for what to do with the facility." Palmer continued to maintain Gov. Branstad and DHS are focused on "doing what's best for Toledo."
The Western-Leander Clark College bell stands in silence last week on the closed Iowa Juvenile Home / State Training School for Girls campus in Toledo.
New ideas for the usage may be directed to Tama County Economic Development Executive Director Heath Kellogg, Fisher or Svoboda, they said.
Palmer said the equipment and furnishings in the buildings continues to be removed and distributed to other state facilities. He said the Iowa State Patrol, which has provided security for the grounds since the closing will be replaced by a private security firm on July 1.
That company will do routine building checks to ensure they are maintained as well as protect the property, Fisher said.
The Iowa Juvenile Home / State Training school for girls was Toledo's largest employer. Some 93 employees lost their jobs when it was closed.
Other placements were made for the students.
The institution came under fire from Disability rights Iowa for allegedly not providing proper education for students and for keeping up to three females in seclusion rooms for extended lengths of time. Disability Rights Iowa is a non-profit attorney organization funded by the federal government.
An appeal of a Polk County District Court judge's order to reopen the Toledo institution has yet to be ruled upon by the Iowa Supreme Court. Four Democrat state senators including Steve Sodders, State Center, and Danny Homan, head of the Iowa Association of State, County and Municipal Employees filed the suit.
The governor appealed the decision.
Palmer's meeting came after a Jan. 30 letter from the Governor's Office said that Palmer had been requested to meet with local officials.
The Chronicle since asked DHS whom Palmer had met with and was told "former staff and students."
On two occasions since February, members of the Toledo City Council, Tama, City Council and Board of Supervisors have been asked if that had any contact with Palmer. All said none. Mayor Svoboda said he was contacted on Tuesday to set up the meeting.
Rep. Fisher did say he has been in almost daily contact with Harbison, Palmer's assistant, since the closing.