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Newscast 4.17.24: Woodbury County Jail delayed further to July; Iowa parents concerned about teachers possibly having guns in schools; Iowa legislators could get $10K pay raises

Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center
The Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center building is show in October 2023 as construction continues towards a planned opening in spring 2024.

The often-delayed completion of the Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center has been moved further back to early July, according to a county official.

Law Enforcement Center Authority Chairman Ron Wieck in a Tuesday release said the delay is due to work needed on mechanical systems and one of the elevators.

The new county jail was to have opened at one point in September 2023, and more recent projections were April, then May, and the latest timeline now says July. Wieck in the release pointed to an engineering firm consultant, Introba, as making errors in mechanical engineering services.

The delays are costing the county in lost revenues, so the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors have retained an attorney firm to pursue financial damages.

County voters in March 2020 approved a bond issue of $54 million to help pay for the project, to move away from an outmoded jail in downtown Sioux City.

*In the final days of the Iowa Legislature, Governor Kim Reynolds is expected to soon sign a bill passed by both chambers that would allow school district workers to have guns as they work.

Reynolds and majority party Republicans contend having armed school employees will make schools more secure, during an era when mass school shootings are common. A school shooting in Perry, Iowa, took place in January.

The bill that’s on the governor’s desk has been publicly supported by officials in the Northwest Iowa school districts of Cherokee and Spirit Lake. No school districts would be required to have employees have guns, but they could choose affirmatively to do so.

The measure would create a permit for school staff who volunteer to carry weapons in school buildings. They would have to pass an annual background check and go through training. The names of school staff issued a weapons permit would be kept confidential.

The bill also grants qualified immunity to school districts that allow teacher to carry guns, which Republicans say should address the concerns of insurers. Cherokee and Spirit Lake schools both repealed armed teacher policies last year because their insurance carrier, EMC, said it would stop covering the districts.

Sixty percent of Iowans support armed staff in some way according to a February Des Moines Register poll, but some parents aren’t so sure.

Cam Campbell is the mother of a student in Waterloo Community Schools. Campbell worries that allowing firearms in the district could make school less safe for her middle schooler.

*Additionally, members of the Iowa House of Representatives have advanced a bill to raise their own pay and that of statewide elected officials like the governor.

They would all get a $10,000 raise. That would put state lawmakers’ salaries at $35,000 per year, plus per-diem payments for travel during the legislative session. Under the bill, the governor would make $140,000 per year, with most other statewide elected officials earning $113,000.

Republican Representative Steven Holt of Denison says lawmakers haven’t gotten a pay raise since 2007, so some lawmakers are leaving because they can’t afford to stay.

When that legislative pay raise was approved in 2007 also marked the last time the state hourly minimum wage was raised.