Uintah County seeks state funding for new jail

Uintah County seeks state funding for new jail

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Uintah County officials want the state to help pay for a $50 million public safety complex and jail, which would nearly triple the number of inmates that could be housed there and ease overcrowding.

County officials are seeking $40 million from the state Permanent Community Impact Fund Board.

On Thursday, the board will hear the county's request for $20 million in grant funding and a $20 million, 35-year loan to fund the $49.5 million project.

The county has $10 million in cash saved toward the proposed 288-bed jail, according to a report submitted to the board.

The current jail's capacity is 104. On Friday, 109 inmates were housed at the jail.

"There were a couple days we've been at 120-plus," Sheriff Jeff Merrill said. "We are way overcrowded, and it doesn't seem to be easing any."

The jail also has mechanical and structural problems.

When jail doors malfunction, parts must be made from scratch.

"Basically, we are operating an old jail with older technology," Merrill said. "Things are wearing out prematurely because of the amount of people."

The proposed facility would be built on 14 acres of county land near the 8th District Courthouse in Vernal, Merrill said. Besides a 288-bed jail, the proposed facility would house jail administration, the sheriff's office, an emergency operating center, county prosecutors and county justice court.

By increasing its jailing capacity by about 176 percent, the county will be able to hold additional state inmates.

The Utah Department of Corrections contracts with 21 counties to house about 1,500 of its inmates and ease overcrowding at state prisons. The state pays each county $45 per day per inmate, said Angie Welling, a DOC spokeswoman.

Uintah County is contracted to house 32 state inmates and had 31 as of Friday, Welling said.

If the county receives state funding, the new jail could open by fall 2009.

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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