The top legislator on a key committee is calling for extensions on the eviction notices sent to employees who live in state-owned housing inside 23 state parks. The Department of Natural Resources estimates it would cost a million dollars to fix code violations and deferred maintenance, so park rangers, managers and other staff who live in the homes have been told to move out by November 30th. Representative Timi Brown-Powers of Waterloo is the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. She says some of these parks are in remote areas and it’s a safety issue.
The agency says radios and cell phones can quickly summon on-call staff and two-thirds of state parks, forests and preserves do not have on-site housing for staff today. Brown-Powers says the 26 employees who are impacted should be given longer grace periods to find other housing, especially since applicants for these jobs were rejected if they did not agree to live in the homes within the parks.
Brown-Powers says the DNR is using a million dollars to buy new signs for the parks rather than fix the dilapidated housing for park employees, and that’s demoralizing for the staff.
Representative Sharon Steckman, from Mason City, says a park ranger told her he sold his classic car to come up with the down payment for a home outside the park where he works.
An agency spokeswoman says the DNR’s decision was not taken lightly, and officials took into consideration the condition of the houses as well as the future of the State Park system as a whole.