An emotional citizens group confronted Davis County commissioners Wednesday, protesting the pending sale of property in west Farmington for a state-run juvenile detention facility.
The group of about 20, headed by spokesman Rulon Homer, requested, and at times demanded, that the commission refuse to sell the land to the state."We're not opposed to your opposition," said Chairman Gayle Stevenson. "We're trying to stay neutral." He said the commission has no choice but to sell the property.
The group, however, had no intention of accepting neutrality from the commission.
"We don't want you to be neutral," said one irate citizen.
Tonna Bounds, a west Farmington resident, called the proposal a "cram-down . . . The citizenry has not been told what they need to know." She said Farmington does not have many major streets and there is an access problem. Others said the residential area is incompatible with such a facility.
"We're obligated to sell," Stevenson said. "We're bound by the contract, which we've already signed." He justified the commission's action by referring to a letter, dated June 23, which said the city of Farmington "will neither oppose nor favor" the youth detention facility in Farmington. At this point, some of the citizens began leaving the meeting. Commissioner J. Dell Holbrook attempted to calm the group.
"It appears you're storming out and we're the bad guys," he said. "I'm not trying to justify one thing."
Another citizen reminded the commissioners, "You'll be up for re-election soon. You guys need to get on board."
Holbrook said the commissioners have tried to address the issues the best way they could. "Maybe we took the wrong position, but we didn't want the state to shove it down our throats," he said.
A frustrated Stevenson said, "It's really a done deal. My suggestion is to deal with it with reason, not emotions. You want somebody to be the bad guy. The facts won't support that."
The vice chairman of the citizens group, John Parlett, expressed concerns with the facility's location in a residential area.
"It's my understanding that 20 percent of people in jail are child molesters," he said. "We don't think the state should dictate to the citizens where these types of facilities should go. Our kids are exposed to that right now, and now we'll have a bunch of juvenile delinquents at the same place. What does that expose our kids to? Make 'em condemn it. That's all we're asking."
Earl Kemp, planning and zoning vice chairman for Farmington, said the city is not arguing against such a facility but "what we are saying, as loud and clear as we can, is the site you've selected has significant problems." He said the Farmington City Council, the mayor and the Planning Commission have all opposed the site.
"The overriding issue is related to access," he said. "Most states in this country put these types of facilities in industrial areas." He questioned why the state, when considering a "negative facility" like a jail, battered women's shelter or youth detention facility, says " `put it in Farmington.' Why not the positive facilities? For example, we've put in a proposal for a 100-acre community college in Farmington."
Flint Richards, co-owner of a dairy situated next to the proposed site, said it doesn't seem reasonable to put the facility there.
"They didn't look for any other sites," he said. "I could help them pick out a better, cheaper site." He said the site does not have freeway access and is in a residential/agricultural area. "There is nowhere in west Farmington where there is direct freeway access."
He expressed concerns that because of the nature of a dairy business, state officials could force him to "shut down sometime in the future."
Kemp said their position is not "don't put it in my back yard. But there was a promise that hardened criminals wouldn't be put in the adult facility that's there now. Now they have hardened criminals. I know that things change, but what does that say about their promises?" He said the state "sidestepped" the city.
Farmington has sent a letter to Gov. Mike Leavitt, dated Aug. 4, stating its unanimous opposition to the proposed site.
"We urge you to cancel the siting of a new juvenile detention facility in Farmington just west of I-15," the letter in part says.
"About two weeks ago, DFCM and Youth Corrections held a public hearing in Farmington concerning the facility."