MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa -- Iowa's largest veterans home is announcing it is closing one of its residential halls, and critics claim it's part of a bigger problem the state is facing.
The Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown confirmed on Tuesday it is planning to close Heinz Hall. The closure would require veteran residents to give up their single rooms and share a room with another resident.
Commandant Timon Oujiri first made the announcement at a town hall meeting on Monday. He says the move out of Heinz Hall is due to its aging infrastructure and living conditions that are not ideal. Officials say Sheeler Hall will house those residents. Right now, construction work is underway to renovate Sheeler; this is expected to be complete by September of 2018.
Oujiri told Channel 13 his plan on doubling up residents is only a temporary fix. He did not say when residents would go back to having their own rooms.
AFSCME President Danny Homan was as at the meeting, and says he left with more questions than answers about the possible change.
“He doesn't have a plan. I was there. I heard a man point blank ask, 'how long is temporary going to be?' The commandant says, ‘I haven't even gone in and measured in the rooms and we haven't looked at the rooms to see how it's going to hold two people. We haven't done nothing,’” he says.
Homan believes the move isn’t because of improvement needs, but rather due the state’s budget cuts toward veterans services.
“It has everything to do with things like giving Apple $20 million to create 50 jobs. It has everything do with priorities that House and Senate Republicans and governor have put forth for the citizens of this state,” he says.
Homan is calling for legislative action. Democratic State Representative Mark Smith is planning to meet with speaker of House later this week in hopes of forming an oversight committee to discuss the issue.