Sevier County will spend $50,000 for a study to determine whether a new jail and public safety facility is needed that could cost several million dollars.

Half of the funding for the study is coming from a grant from the Community Impact Board, but the remainder will be county money obtained from property confiscations related to illegal drug offenses.The extent of the project will determine the cost. But if a complete public safety complex is constructed, the price tag could range between $5 million and $10 million. It would also house the state courts, Utah Highway Patrol, dispatch centers for law enforcement agencies and other offices involved with public safety.

The study is expected to be completed by April 10 under a contract with the architectural firm of Giles, Stransky, Brems and Smith.

Ken Schulsen, former Utah Public Safety Department director, told county officials that improvements are needed to bring the jail up to standards. He is working with architects in conducting the study.

Sevier County Sheriff John Meacham said the present jail won't meet the criteria that the state demands and that anticipated money from the CIB and fundings from the state to house state prison inmates would ultimately pay for the costs.

Ironically, the county has housed state prisoners for several years, and commissioners and the sheriff have complained that the county is not getting reimbursement promised by state officials.

Meacham claimed a new public safety complex wouldn't require a tax increase. That would come as a relief to county residents, who saw their county property taxes doubled by the county commission during a recent two-year period in spite of strong opposition voiced at several meetings by a substantial number of county residents.

The sheriff noted that the Sevier County jail doesn't meet standards for housing female prisoners, so they are transported to Millard County's facilities in Fillmore.

Some individuals and groups have voiced disagreement with Commission Chairman Merlin Ashman's contention that it would be in the best interests of the county and would benefit the region to consolidate the jail, law enforcement and courts into one facility. They say they fear the large cost of such a complex would adversely affect and delay other projects that are needed in the county.

Ashman reportedly admitted that it could be detrimental to other projects, defending his support of the project by noting that the American Civil Liberties Union is "down our necks all the time" and stating that commissioners realize upgrading of the jail is needed to meet current laws.

It was reported that the courts would probably occupy the space now utilized for the jail and sheriff's office if only those two operations were moved to another location. On the other hand, if all agencies occupied a new facility, the space for offices in the courthouse could be expanded.

Ashman said the state court system has allocated $290,000 to upgrade the courthouse. However, officials are unsure whether that money could be used toward construction of a new complex for all the agencies.

Meanwhile, concern about the amount of money to be spent for a new public safety facility was voiced by sponsors seeking funding for three projects that are being considered and coordinated through the Six County Association of Governments.

Salina Chamber of Commerce representatives and city officials are seeking money to build and operate a horse arena and multipurpose building in that community. Saying the center would benefit the entire area, they estimate the construction cost at $1,150,000, with an additional $50,000 per year needed for its operation.

Sponsors are seeking funding from the CIB for a facility that would house a library, Panoramaland and Sevier County economic development offices, a tourist information center for state and federal agencies, and a convention center and auditorium for the performing arts. This would be part of an expansion at the Sevier Valley Applied Technology Center in Richfield.

A third group wants to see replacement of old army barracks buildings that are used to house exhibits during the county fair as well as work toward other improvements at the fairgrounds.