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$25 million bond approved for new Tooele jail

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TOOELE — Tooele County commissioners have approved a $25 million bond to build a new jail.

The jail will house 249 prisoners and may be expanded in the future to include more than 500 beds, the Tooele Transcript Bulletin reported.

The 73,000-square-foot jail will likely be located about 12 miles south of Tooele.

Overcrowding has been an issue at the current jail, which has an average population of 120 prisoners. Since 2008, the jail has only accepted prisoners with felony charges or those charged with misdemeanors for assault, domestic violence or driving under the influence.

It was built in 1990, originally with 44 beds.

"Not only are we overcrowded, but our facility is out of shape and we're spending more on repairs than it's worth," county Commissioner Jerry Hurst said.

Property taxes will not rise for county residents because commissioners chose to use a revenue bond. They have slightly higher interest rates but do not require approval by voters.

Hurst said that the county will partially pay for the bonds by housing federal prisoners.

"They pay enough that that will help subsidize the rest of the jail with that federal contract," Hurst said.

The timing is right for a bond, said Alex Buxton, vice president with Zions Bank Public Finance.

"It certainly seems like the right time for the county to move forward on this project," he said.

However, it was not a good time to put a bond on the ballot, county Auditor Mike Jensen said.

"We knew it wasn't a real good time to put this to a vote of the public in the economy the way it was," Jensen said.