Dear Governor Reynolds,
My name is Jared Smith and I am the Superintendent for the South Tama County School District.
I want to start by saying thank you for visiting the Tama-Toledo community on Monday, August 17th. During your visit, you had a firsthand opportunity to witness the devastating aftermath of the derecho storm. Like many other Iowa communities, it will take years for our residents to recover.
The purpose of this letter is to ask that you consider providing our district with financial assistance to rebuild our badly-damaged middle school.
I realize we are not alone in our request as you will certainly receive countless applications for assistance in the coming weeks. However, I believe we have a compelling case as to why this request rises to the top. I hope you will consider the information below.
I had a chance to visit our battered middle school shortly after the storm.
The wreckage was stunning. Room after room experienced significant damage. Ceiling tiles littered the floor. Hallways and stairs were covered in sludge. While we have not received a final number, early indications are that damages will total several million dollars.
Our district is making things work as we search for answers. We are packing 6th - 8th grade students into a dilapidated building built during the Roosevelt era. To make room for our 5th grade students, preschool students are being displaced into Sunday School classrooms at a local church.
Clearly, this arrangement is not a long-term solution.
When I visited the Iowa Disaster Recovery website I saw a page full of photos from our community. From Mid Iowa Cooperative to South Tama County Middle School to Thys Automotive Dealership, the front-page is full of images from the Tama-Toledo community.
While photos alone should not sway your opinion, I bring this to your attention because all three structures are landmarks in our small community. Those landmarks have been reduced to rubble and debris.
In addition to those properties, the combination of storm and pandemic has hit our community hard. In the last few weeks alone, we have seen two of our most celebrated restaurants - Big T Maid Rite Diner in Toledo and King Tower Cafe in Tama - close their doors. Beyond small business, area farmers and local homeowners have also been devastated by our current situation.
The Tama-Toledo community is hurting and we need your help.
I realize I am not the only leader who will call upon your office for assistance. However, there are two factors making our situation unique.
First, the middle school was in poor condition even before the storm. Originally opened in 1915, the current middle school first opened its doors to students during the middle of World War I. While the condition of the building isn't your issue, please understand without financial assistance we will have no choice but to force our students back into this outdated building.
Second, and more importantly, there is a piece of state-owned property that could make an ideal middle school. The former Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo has sat empty since 2014. I am aware the State has tried to unload the property for years without luck. A quick Google search of "Iowa Juvenile Home" speaks to the marred history of the now-abandoned campus.
Our district has explored options for the building. We have completed countless tours and assessments of the campus, attempting to determine how our district could adapt the building to meet our needs. Unfortunately, the high costs of renovation have always prevented us from moving forward.
Your office is in a unique position where you have the opportunity to fund disaster recovery projects around the state. By funding our middle school project, you have a chance to rescue a community hit hardest by the storm, as well as provide a solution to one of your own lingering headaches.
I want to be clear this letter is not meant to be political in nature. This request would be written to any governor regardless of political affiliation. I greatly appreciate what you and all policymakers - on both sides of the aisle - do for Iowans. I am very happy focusing my energy on our community, while allowing elected officials to run our government.
I want to thank you for taking time to read this letter, and for assisting Iowans through these difficult times. I am hopeful to hear from you so we can discuss an idea that will be a "win" for everyone.
Dr. Jared Smith
South Tama County Superintendent
Community members are encouraged Send An Email to the Governor's Office . Select "Housing" as the message subject. Your support is appreciated.