To keep a scorecard of suburban sentiment over next Tuesday's new jail bond issue, you might want to keep an eraser handy.
Sandy, Salt Lake City, Riverton and West Jordan appear to support the site for the county's proposed misdeamanent jail facility.West Valley City, a neighbor to the Oxbow site located on the banks of the Jordan River at 33rd South and Ninth West, is opposed.
And officials in South Salt Lake, the city in which the proposed new jail would be located, appear split.
Taxpayers for Accountable Government, a coalition of citizens and lawmakers, joined the fray Thursday night, urging voters to vote down the bond. Sen. William Barton, R-Salt Lake, president of the group, said building the jail through the county's $12 million bond package lacks economic and environmental sense, and the county should consider privatization.
Sen. Lorin Pace, R-Salt Lake, added that building more jails is a "financial hemorrhage" that is eating taxpayers alive. "Judges will not be forced to think of alternatives unless jail is not an option," Pace told about a dozen people gathered at City Hall in South Salt Lake. "The judges will not stop using the jails until we stop building them."
But County Attorney Dave Yocom said judges can't make criminals go away. "It's not a matter of whether we spend money. It's a matter of whether we have a place to put them when judges sentence them to jail," he said. "What do you do when you've got 707 people in jail and only got 500 beds?"
Residents who would be neighbors to the facility have expressed opposition because the jail would be sited in a flood plain, on land originally purchased for a park.
Technically, voters won't get a say on the jail site. The election will only determine financing plans.
Sandy and Salt Lake city councils have bought off on the proposed jail and passed resolutions asking residents to support the bond election, saying it would solve crowding at the downtown facility. Sandy officials did express concern about billing procedures for prisoners after the new facility is built, bringing up a long-time battle pitting suburban cities against the county. But Yocom asked them not to hold the new jail hostage to the old jail billing fight.
So Sandy offiicals passed a resolution of support, but asked the county to state publicly before next Tuesday's election how it plans to finance operation and maintenance costs.
Salt Lake councilmembers also nodded approval to the jail construction plan, calling on voters to approve the bond. But they also nodded to the vocal opponents of the county's site, asking in their resolution that the county commission explore all possible sites for the jail facility.
The West Valley council, listening to city residents who said they live just a stone's throw away from the site, passed a resolution opposing the site. Riverton officials voted to favor the proposal, but Mayor Dale Gardiner lambasted county commissioners for building a new county complex when they knew the jail was a more pressing issue.
The South Salt Lake council has approved the county's request for a conditional-use permit for the site, which is now zoned for agricultural use.
-Would house up to 360 misdemeanants, mostly shoplifters and drunken drivers who have run out of other options.
-Be located on county property, roughly Ninth West to 12th West and 33rd South.
-Cost $12 million;
-Ease crowding at the existing jail and reduce the county's liability in federal lawsuits filed over crowded conditions.