Salt Lake County officials haven't given up on calling a jail bond election this year, but they probably will delay until November the vote on raising property taxes to provide funding for a new minimum security facility.
County commissioners had hoped to call a bond election in May, see an early summer beginning of construction and an opening of the proposed 350-bed jail for low-risk prisoners by November 1990.But Tuesday, commissioners meeting with members of the county's jail task force decided to push that timetable back nearly a year, saying a new agreement with Salt Lake City allowing an expansion of the downtown jail will temporarily ease overcrowding pressures and buy enough time to permit the delay.
The decision was based on task force members' reports that final construction estimates for the jail project could not be ready until late March, and on opinions that zoning negotiations with South Salt Lake - where the county proposes to build the jail - will drag on longer than first hoped.
Commissioners decided those factors would make it difficult for the county to meet the necessary schedule for a May bond election, and delaying the vote until June was rejected because of reluctance to hold the election during the summer vacation season.
A delay of the bond vote was made possible by a recently signed lease allowing a 120-bed expansion of the Metro Hall of Justice jail into city-owned space vacated by the Salt Lake Police Department's move to a new building.
"That space may buy us a year," said commission chairman Mike Stewart.
The new plan is for a November bond vote held in conjunction with city elections and a state-wide referendum on a Winter Olympics bid. Voter approval would allow a spring 1990 construction start date.
But the bad news for commissioners was a task force report that jail construction cost estimates have escalated beyond the $8 million the county had projected.
County Budget Director Nelson G. Williams now estimates construction at $9 million, while the county attorney's office estimated the necessary bond issue at closer to $12 million - a figure Stewart said was unacceptable.
"This is not our highest (spending) priority," Stewart said. "The public would rather have us spend $12 million on the arts, or new convention facilities."
But to build the facility to proper standards, construct needed support facilities and design into the facility future expansion capability, the county will have to spend more than the $8 million originally estimated, task force members reported.
Annual operations costs for the facility - described as a barracks with a chain-link fence - are estimated at $2.7 million.
Commissioners want to build the jail on about 15 acres of a 40-acre parcel of county property at approximately 12th West and 33rd South. The proposed jail site is bounded on three sides by the Jordan River. An 18-home subdivision lies just to the east.