I was amazed by David Yocom's editorial (Aug. 1) in which he embraced the ill-conceived idea that construction of the new jail should be at the Murray site rather than the current downtown maximum security jail site which is within two blocks of the new courts complex and ready for immediate construction.
Yocom chaired a citizen's advisory committee that was tasked with the job of recommending a site for construction of a new jail. By secret ballot the committee voted to recommend the Murray jail site. During the final vote, Yocom not only cast his vote but cast at least two proxy votes. The people for whom he cast votes were not present to hear the final presentation before the committee; he could use their votes as he chose. What happened to the "one man, one vote" concept? Yocom succeeded in conducting the vote by secret ballot.The committee should be reconvened and asked to conduct a proper vote that would be open to the examination of the citizens of Salt Lake County. Until that time, the committee's vote can be given no credence.
If the Murray site is approved by the County Commission, construction will be delayed for five to 10 years. Lawsuits, environmental impact studies, cost analysis, de-annexation, conditional-use permits, and opposition by citizens and environmental concerns will force the county to postpone actual construction, contrary to the safety concerns of Salt Lake County.
In order to start construction in Murray, Little Cottonwood Creek must be entirely diverted from its current course to a lateral distance of two to three blocks. Even before this diversion may be started, there must be an environmental impact study completed. Conservationists will be very concerned when a wetland is disturbed. Probably lawsuits will follow.
There has never been a detailed cost analysis of the Murray jail site. We not only don't know exactly how much it will cost to relocate Little Cottonwood Creek, but we don't know the actual cost of constructing the jail itself. The detailed study needed to answer basic questions of cost will take substantial time.
The jail should be co-located with the courts. When Yocom was fighting to have the new courts complex constructed in Murray (a battle he lost), he sponsored, at the expense of the county attorney's budget, an expert from Washington state to speak to the advisory committee. The expert stressed that a nationwide study had been conducted that showed that the most practical, economic and efficient criminal justice system must have the jail and the court complex in close proximity. He has conveniently forgotten his own expert's testimony and now pushes to move the jail six miles from the court.
Murray city would have to de-annex approximately eight acres of its property to the county, land it won't give up. The current Murray jail site is opposed by the Murray mayor and citizens of Murray. There is a Murray city citizens committee formed for the purpose of fighting the Murray jail site. The mayor made the statement to the jail advisory committee that Murray only covers an area approximately eight miles square and that the proposed jail site would occupy some of the most commercially developable land in the city. The mayor's opposition, coupled with the citizen's opposition to the jail site will delay construction. Lawsuits are inevitable.
Yocom has publicly stated that getting the jail into Murray is only the first step of his plan. His second step is to construct an office complex next to the Murray jail in which he plans to house all court support staff such as the district attorney's office, adult probation and parole, pretrial services, and the legal defender's office. It makes no difference to him that these agencies desire to remain as they now are, within walking distance from the court. He plans to build the "Taj-Yocom" and force them to commute six miles to do their job. Where are the millions needed to build Yocom's dream castle after building the new jail and courts complex?
Because of overcrowding, prisoners are being released through the jail's back door on a daily basis. It is shameful that the current chief prosecutor, Yocom, has such little regard for the public safety that he pushes jail construction on a site destined to continue the current trend of prisoner release.
The impact of having prisoners freed each day so that Yocom can follow his own personal political agenda in Murray shows a totally selfish disregard for the welfare of the citizens of Salt Lake County.
Yocom doesn't get it. We need a jail today, not a Yocom dream in future years.