Salt Lake County has changed its mind on the location of a proposed new minimum security jail.
Instead of building the 350-bed facility on the old Vitro site as formerly proposed, the county will move two blocks west to a 40-acre parcel it already owns that occupies an oxbow bend on the east bank of the Jordan River.The location has been approved by county commissioners and by the Criminal Justice Advisory Council, a group of judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers and corrections officials which advises commissioners.
The decision is apparently final, with only potential public opposition and necessary approval from the South Salt Lake Planning Commission remaining as possible obstacles to the project.
The oxbow site sits between 11th West and the Jordan River just north of 33rd South. The river surrounds the property on three sides, and an 18-home subdivision sits immediately east of the site.
County officials have already begun approaching those homeowners to gauge potential opposition to the jail. Thirteen of the 18 property owners have been contacted and only one has firmly opposed the proposed facility, said Roger Hillam, manager of the county's real estate division.
"About 40 percent don't seem to care," Hillam told the advisory council Thursday. "Most of the owners said, `Buy us out and we'll go away.' "
The county may indeed buy the property owners out if it needs more land to expand the jail to 500 beds in the future, but that won't happen right away.
Initial plans call for development of the facility on 15 to 18 usable acres of land, with the remainder of the property given to Army Corps of Engineers-mandated wetlands and to the Provo-Jordan River Parkway riverside trail project.
The major advantage of the oxbow site over the Vitro property is that the county already owns it and can probably develop it more quickly, Hillam said. Although radioactive tailing were hauled away from the old Vitro site last year, it has not yet been certified for development by the federal Department of Energy.
The Central Valley Water Reclamation District, which owns the Vitro site, had proposed trading 15 acres to the county in exchange for the waiver of $1.2 million in dumping fees at the county landfill.
The county purchased the oxbow property in 1972 to develop a park. But the area never developed as residential neighborhoods, and instead a smaller park was built to the south. The area is now zoned for light industrial use, and as it grows those businesses will be good neighbors for the jail, county officials said.
A county planning task force is still studying possible designs and the cost of building the jail, but the price tag is expected to be in the $8 million to $10 million range.