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Ground was broken Thursday at the site of Salt Lake County's new misdemeanor jail, despite strained relations between officials of South Salt Lake and the county.

The two local governments have been at odds for a year over whether the $12 million jail facility should be built at the Oxbow site, property in South Salt Lake that the county has owned since 1972 near 3300 South and 1100 West.When the county finally won a court battle to secure a conditional-use permit from South Salt Lake to build the jail, speculations followed that the city would drag its heels in granting building permits and other construction clearances. As recently as June 20, County Commission Chairman Mike Stewart said South Salt Lake was still giving the county static.

But South Salt Lake Mayor Jim Davis said Wednesday that any heel-dragging is the county's fault. "The commissioner's comments are way off base and are completely in error," Davis said. "We never got the first building plan until about two weeks ago. We didn't get anything until about two weeks ago. Our people have been instructed to expedite things as soon as they got here."

Most of the county's battle with South Salt Lake has been conducted through County Attorney David Yocom. Both he and Davis made tongue-in-cheek comments Wednesday about what might happen if both of them were at the groundbreaking armed with shovels. That was shortly before Davis got a last-minute call from the County Commission office inviting him to join the gold-shovel panel of dignitaries for the groundbreaking program.

The short notice to be part of the program was not meant to snub Davis, said Jeri Cartwright, the county's public information director, explaining that many of the plans for the groundbreaking program were made at the last minute.

With the groundbreaking at hand, Yocom said the county has committed to more improvements around the site than it probably needed to. The county is waiting for a building permit, but Yocom said he didn't know of any unresolved complications with the city.

"Yocom's the hero in this thing, even though we've had pretty loud words for each other," Davis said.

If the construction schedule goes according to the county's plan, Cracar Construction will have the building finished and ready for staff training by Nov. 1, 1991. Inmates would then start arriving Dec. 1, 1991.

The 360 new jail beds will ease crowding at the downtown jail, where the county has been under a federal court order for several months to limit the jail's population.

The county's plans are to house non-violent, misdemeanor offenders at the new Oxbow facility.


(Additional information)

Oxbow jail genesis:

-March 22, 1989 - South Salt Lake City Council approves a conditional-use permit that would allow the county to build new misdemeanor jail on county-owned land near 3300 South and 1100 West.

- May 23, 1989 - Salt Lake County voters, by a narrow margin, approve a $12 million bond for construction of the satellite jail at the South Salt Lake "Oxbow" location.

-June 14, 1989 - The South Salt Lake Council reverses its March decision and revokes the conditional-use permit for the jail.

-June 27, 1989 - The county files a lawsuit against South Salt Lake in 3rd District Court seeking the return of the conditional permit.

-Oct. 11, 1989 - 3rd District Judge Michael Murphy rules South Salt Lake was not justified in revoking the conditional-use permit for the jail.

-Nov. 13, 1989 - South Salt Lake appeals the 3rd District Court ruling to the State Supreme Court, against the advice of the city's attorney.

-ec. 13, 1989 - South Salt Lake City Council withdraws its appeal to the State Supreme Court.

-June 28, 1990 - County officials break ground for the new jail at the Oxbow site.

-Dec. 1, 1991 - Projected occupancy date for the new jail.