When he was elected county attorney two years ago, Dave Yocom says one of his first acts was to promise Sheriff Pete Hayward he would build him a new jail.
"You want to bet?" was Hayward's cynical response.Yocom admits he has stuck his political neck out on the jail issue, which has already angered some South Salt Lake residents who have expressed security and flooding concerns over the Oxbow site, originally purchased as part of the Jordan River Parkway.
West Valley officials joined the jail fray Tuesday night, by asking why the county doesn't build its minimum-security facility on the Dimple Dell property, in an exclusive eastside Sandy neighborhood where a golf course is planned. Actually, city bosses wanted to know why the jail wouldn't be located anywhere not threatened by floodwaters.
"I really think that it's a whitewash job, and I'm offended," said West Valley Councilwoman Janice Fisher. "I think it insults our intelligence to build a facility of that many millions of dollars in a flood plain.
"And I'm especially irritated that Salt Lake County and Utah State government continues to dump on this side of the valley," she said, citing three corrections facilities built within a three-mile radius.
The county has scheduled a $12 million general-obligation bond election for May 23 to finance construction to solve overcrowding at the 23-year-old downtown jail facility, where Yocom said prisoners are treated to "medieval" conditions.
"If the bond passes, it doesn't matter what we say or what the neighbors say, that's where it's going to go," said West Valley Councilman Leland Delange.
An irritated Yocom responded to Fisher, terming her comments "a campaign speech," and said those concerns had been addressed by experts. Plans call for the two-pod facility to be built on three feet of fill dirt, set back 75 feet from the river. The county plans to shore up banks of the river to prevent erosion, and by federal mandate, will preserve the wetlands in the area.
Jail opponents have used as ammunition a November letter written by a Corps of Engineers official recommending the county not build the jail on the Oxbow site because it was under 4 feet of water during the 1983-84 floods.
County plans call for buildings on just four acres of the 40-acre site, located just outside West Valley City limits near the Jordan River about 33rd South and 12th West.
"You people have the impression that the county is jamming this down your throat," Yocom said. "One thing you've got to remember is that your people are the third largest users of our jail."
And Yocom told City Council members they should know better than anyone that the hysteria surrounding correctional facilities is unjustified because of the successful relationship enjoyed with the Decker Lake youth facility.
"As we saw with the youth facility in West Valley City, the hysteria usually goes away," Yocom said. "The property values are not affected. I've seen the preliminary drawings and basically it's going to look like a school or a junior college campus. There won't be a bar in this facility."
South Salt Lake's council last month voted to grant the county a conditional-use permit for the facility, overruling a decision by the city's Planning Commission, then agreed to open the matter again.
Fisher asked that jail concerns be placed on the West Valley Council's agenda for Thursday and said she plans to express her personal opposition to South Salt Lake officials.
"It affects more citizens in West Valley than it does in South Salt Lake," Kris Bowles told the council.