Federal, state and local law enforcement officials kicked off Salt Lake County's campaign for passage of a jail bond on Friday by voicing unanimous support for a proposed South Salt Lake minimum security jail.
The County Commission chairman also put a projected price tag on the proposed facility - just under $11 million - after weeks of hedging on a bottom-line construction figure.Commissioner Mike Stewart said the projected cost is higher than the $8 million original estimate because kitchen and laundry facilities to support both the existing jail and the proposed project were added to building plans.
Additional preparation needed at the 33rd South and 12th West building site pushed cost projections higher, as did provisions to recover from the bonds some $1 million in design work and other up-front expenditures.
The precise amount of the jail bond issue and the expected May 23 special election won't be official until next week, when commissioners are scheduled to approve the bond resolution.
More than 30 representatives of all local police agencies, the various state public safety divisions and the FBI appeared at a press conference with county attorney David Yocom to support the jail proposal.
"We have officers on the street daily who catch criminals, but the jail has no place to put them," Yocom said. "The presence of these officers shows the unity of support we have for a new jail."
The existing jail is so overcrowded that many misdemeanor offenders who would otherwise be jailed instead are cited and released. During March, the jail - with an official capacity of 550 inmates - held a daily average of more than 650 prisoners, with a one-day peak of 707.
"We have to tell our officers to be selective about who they bring to jail," Sheriff N.D. "Pete" Hayward said.
Yocom anticipates no strong opposition to the bond issue but said he feels the county must build the jail even if voters reject the bond - expected to add about $3 annually to the property tax bill on a $70,000 home - or face prisoner lawsuits and federal court decrees to reduce overcrowding.
"We're asking voters for approval so we can build the jail at the lowest cost, using the county's triple A credit rating," he said. The county could build the proposed 360-bed facility if the bond fails but would have to pay higher interest rates to borrow, thus increasing the total cost.
Yocom said he hopes an appeal to block construction filed by potential neighbors of the new jail can be settled without litigation.