Salt Lake police have completed their move from the Metropolitan Hall of Justice to their new headquarters, leaving the city and Salt Lake County to ponder what to do with the nearly empty Hall of Justice building.
Salt Lake County sheriff's officials are the only ones left in the complex at 450 S. Third East, following the police department's month-long exodus to 315 E. Second South.Under an agreement reached by the city and county in 1961 when they banded together to build the Metropolitan Hall of Justice, the city owns 51 percent of the building and the county 49 percent.
County officials would like to move sheriff's personnel now working on the ninth and 10th floors of the Hall of Justice to the second and third floors of the building's low-rise wing, said county property acquisitions manager Roger Hillman.
In a meeting last week, city officials considered the possibility of moving two of three divisions that now must lease office space, costing taxpayers $350,000 yearly, into the city-owned portion of the building.
The city's traffic, engineering and data processing divisions are housed in buildings leased by the city. Officials at the meeting weighed the advantages of moving the traffic and engineering facilities into the Metropolitan Hall of Justice.
But at that same meeting, Mayor Palmer DePaulis suggested the long-term solution to housing those divisions could rest in moving two divisions into the city-owned 3rd Circuit Court Building, 240 E. Fourth South.
The state court administrator's office is negotiating with the city under an extended lease for a new lease to the building, city property manager Eric Thorpe said. The state pays $172,000 in rent for the building, he said.
If the city and county pursued their respective plans, that would, of course, leave the high-rise portion of the Metropolitan Hall of Justice, considered seismically unstable, empty.
DePaulis said he was concerned about the safety of the high-rise and called for a "thorough and complete study as to whether we should fix it up or tear it down."
"I think the county is just as concerned over the safety of the tower as the city is," Hillam said.
Thorpe suggested demolishing the building would be "the lesser of two evils."
Meanwhile, the county is considering building temporary jail facilities in the second floor of the Metropolitan Hall of Justice low-rise building where Salt Lake City police facilities used to be housed. Hillam called the temporary jail a top priority.
The city and county are currently studying how to solve an overcrowding problem in the county-owned jail, which also houses people arrested by Salt Lake City police.
DePaulis is awaiting a report from his chief of police, Mike Chabries, on whether people arrested by city police are being refused jail space in the overcrowded county jail - a situation DePaulis called "unconscionable."