Former Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini says she'll never forget Aug. 11, 1999 the day a tornado tore through Salt Lake City, killing one man and injuring more than 80 people.
"We had the crisis center set up in this crumbling building," Corradini said, gesturing to the nearly 50-year-old public safety building at 315 E. 200 South. "We started talking about replacing this crumbling building way before that tornado. It's time to replace this building."
Corradini was among the past and present city and county officials and law enforcement leaders who gathered at a press conference recently in support of Salt Lake City's $192 million public safety bond.
The event was sparked by recent criticism about the hefty price tag for the bond, which, if Proposition 1 passes on Tuesday, would cover the cost of five new public safety structures at three locations including a new public safety building with an emergency operations center. The bond would raise property taxes by about $175 per year on a $300,000 home.
"The time is now to get moving forward," Corradini said. "There's nothing more important than public safety."
In addition to Corradini, former U.S. Sen. Jake Garn, who served as mayor of Salt Lake City in 1971-74, and former Police Chief Rick Dinse support the bond proposal.
Garn said former Police Chief Dewey Phillips complained of having inadequate public safety facilities in Salt Lake City as much as 36 years ago, a gripe later adopted by Dinse during his tenure from 2000 to '06.
"When I first got here, I recognized the deplorable state of these facilities," Dinse said. "It took this long for us to put a proposition before the community."
The bond calls for a new public safety building, an emergency operations center and a combined parking/evidence storage structure to be grouped as a downtown public safety campus. It also would pay for a new west-side fire station and training center in Glendale and a combined east-side police/fire public safety facility in Sugar House.
"The infrastructure of public safety needs these improvements," Dinse said.
The most vocal criticism of the bond has come from members of the Salt Lake County Council. Councilman Joe Hatch has said too many extra projects are attached to plans for the new public safety building and are unnecessarily driving up the bond's price tag.
Hatch and fellow county Councilmen Randy Horiuchi and Jim Bradley also have called for more discussion about an emergency operations center. Hatch has said the city needs to consider all of its options, including an integrated countywide emergency communications system instead of a stand-alone operation.
That view isn't shared by all county officials, including Mayor Peter Corroon and Sheriff Jim Winder, who have voiced their support for the bond.
"With regards to interagency cooperation and operability, I can assure you that conversations have been going on and will continue between Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County," Winder said. "There is simply no reason not to move ahead on Proposition 1."
The Salt Lake Chamber's board of directors also expressed concern over the bond's price tag and recently released a statement saying costs and needs for police and fire facilities need more explanation.
Restaurateur Tom Guinney said those concerns have been addressed by the City Council's creation of a public/private advisory committee, which will allow public input into how bond funds are spent.
The Salt Lake City Council, which voted unanimously to put the bond on the ballot, will have the final say on how the bond money is appropriated.
"A yes vote does not obligate us to spend the entire approved amount of $192 million," City Councilman Eric Jergensen said. "What it does, however, is allow us to move decisively, efficiently and effectively forward ... to finalize a set of public safety facilities that will assure that each tax dollar is spent wisely or, frankly, not spent at all."
Councilwoman Jill Remington Love said the council has conducted "exhaustive analysis" of the city's public safety needs and possible solutions. Acquiring property for the public safety complex and other facilities has kept the bond issue from being placed on the ballot before now, Love said.
"We've come to the point where we can't even wait for that," she said. "We have to go ahead and get the funding, and then we'll find the site."
The Utah Taxpayers Association also has come out in opposition to the bond, with Royce Van Tassell, the nonprofit organization's vice president, calling it a "Christmas wish list of projects instead of asking for an meeting the absolute real needs."
"Instead of asking taxpayers to pony-up for one of the largest bonds in Salt Lake's history, maybe they should do some housecleaning and make sure their management can handle these problems as they come up in the future," Van Tassell said.
It's expected that the public safety complex would be built in or near downtown. A site has not been announced, but negotiations for property are under way.The Glendale fire station and training center would be built at the existing location of station No. 14 at 1560 S. Industrial Road. The combined police/fire station in Sugar House is proposed for the southeast corner of Fairmont Park. That facility would replace fire station No. 3 at 1085 E. Simpson Ave.
Contributing: Amelia Nielson-Stowell