Iowa residents concerned over long vacant VA hospital
KNOXVILLE, Iowa (AP) — Residents of an Iowa city are growing frustrated with the federal government’s inaction on a long-closed Veterans Affairs hospital that has been allowed to fall into ruin.
The Des Moines Register reports that the Knoxville hospital closed in 2004 when the VA decided to move most of its services to a location in Des Moines.
The Knoxville hospital has 39 buildings, some of which date back to 1905. Residents say many of the buildings have mold, asbestos, leaking roofs and peeling paint.
“It’s sad to look at that campus and know what it was, and how great it was in this community,” said Richard Biddle, an Army veteran and retired VA employee. “It’s sickening.”
The VA is working to improve the grounds and plans to hire a private security firm to stop vandalism, said Gail Graham, the central Iowa director of the VA health system. The VA spends nearly $2 million annually on basic maintenance, she said.
“We know that when you drive into Knoxville, this is one of the first things you see,” Graham said. “And we want to make sure it isn’t an eyesore to you.”
The VA had signed an agreement with the Knoxville Veterans’ Alliance a few years after closing the campus. It put the local group in charge of finding new tenants. The agreement expired December 2016 and the group wasn’t successful in selling the property.
The federal government hopes to sell the property to private developers within a year and has enlisted specialists from the U.S. General Services Administration, who dispose of surplus federal property.
“Who’s going to buy it? Are they going to tear it down? Are they going to put a hog processing plant in there? I think that we should have some input and be informed,” Biddle said.
Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com