Salt Lake County is wasting money by hiring a consultant to study whether to build a new basketball arena downtown, according to a Democratic candidate for County Commission.

Riverton Mayor Dale Gardiner, who replaced incumbent Commissioner Dave Watson last month in the race for the two-year seat against Republican M. Tom Shimizu, said Thursday the county should rely on its own experts rather than spend $300,000 for a study."There are more than 3,000 county employees," Gardiner said. "They have architects, attorneys, construction experts, real estate experts. It seems to me there is considerably more expertise there that they will find in any consulting firm in Utah."

County commissioners have pledged to spend up to $300,000 in the next three months to study whether a 25,000-seat arena and expanded covention facilities should be built. Their goal is to find a way to raise money privately for the project. They are forming a committee with county, state and Salt Lake officials and business leaders to assist the study.

County leaders said they want the study to be unbiased and objective. The county may have architects, attorneys and other experts, but it does not have experts in corporate finance, an official said.

But Gardiner, who entered the race shortly before Watson pleaded quilty to drunken driving and misdemeanor drug charges, said the money will be spent for "political expediency." The county wants to avoid making difficult decisions, he said.

Larry H. Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz, should contribute to the cost of the study, Gardiner said.

"This is the same County Commission that wouldn't pay more to put more deputy sheriffs on patrol," he said, referring to budget battles in recent years between commissioners and Sheriff N.D. Hayward.

County officials say a new facility is needed to keep the Jazz from moving to a suburb or out of state. The 12,444-seat Salt Palace will be the smallest arena in the NBAQ next season.

Commission Chairman Bart Barker said the committee will study possible location for the facilities as well as how private businesses can help fund construction.