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Photo Courtesy Newmark Grubb Acres

Looking to buy a jail? Daggett County puts old jail up for sale for $4.45M

By Carter Williams, | Posted - Dec 11th, 2018 @ 10:29am

MANILA, Daggett County — Are you looking to buy a jail? Do you have $4.45 million lying around somewhere? If so, then you’re in luck.

Daggett County officially put the county’s 11-acre jail property up for sale on Wednesday, according to Tabitha Olorenshaw, the economic development director for the county. The jail, which opened in 1998, was shut down by the Department of Corrections in 2017 after an investigation uncovered abuse of inmates that dated back years.

That investigation prompted then-Daggett County Sheriff Jerry Jorgensen to resign and led to multiple convictions and a lawsuit.

It also left the county with a useless property that it was still paying for.

“The county has been evaluating what direction they should take for this facility. There’s still a bond against the jail, so they’ve got payments ongoing. Their conclusion was that it’d be best for them to evaluate the market’s response in an attempt to sell the jail,” said Nate Worthen, a broker with Newmark Grubb Acres in Salt Lake City, who the county hired to facilitate a deal.

Since Wednesday, there have been some unorthodox methods to drum up interest in the 20-year-old facility. For example, an ad for the jail was placed on Facebook classifieds page the day after it officially went up for sale.

“The sale includes three buildings: the jail, a greenhouse and a former church building. The building that houses the sheriff's office can also be included by negotiation,” the listing stated. “The lease rate is $5.50 (per square foot). The Seller will look at ALL reasonable offers!”

A photo inside the abandoned Daggett County Jail. The Utah Department of Corrections closed the 80-bed facility in 2017 after an investigation uncovered abuse of inmates that dated back years. (Photo courtesy Courtesy Newmark Grubb Acres)

There’s a reason for the different approaches. For starters, it’s the least populated county in the state. The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah estimated that 1,060 people currently live in the county. That means any buyer would have to likely import a labor force to run the facility, Worthen said.

“It’s going to be challenging to sell the jail,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a secret. We have employed every single advertising avenue possible. That includes the traditional commercial real estate websites, that includes the multiple listing services, and it includes things as crazy as Facebook. We’re doing everything we can.”

The Facebook ad led to some hilarious responses. Some suggested they could turn it into a bed and breakfast, while others thought it could make a good haunted house. Some couldn’t even believe the post was real. However, Worthen said the market for the facility is a little more realistic.

He suggested the property would be good for a private sector owner looking to build a correctional or rehabilitation facility.

Here’s how the process will work: County administrators will review all offers, and then vet each offer to see if it’s a viable option. Then they’ll go into negotiation if and when the best candidate emerges.

Despite the many reasons it might be difficult to sell, Worthen said the county has gotten some interest in the facility and he is optimistic it will be sold.

“We’re not interested in going down the road with a buy who is not creditworthy, who doesn’t have experience in this type of arena,” Worthen said. “We want to make sure whoever we go into contract with knows what they’re getting themselves into and has experience with their proposed use.”

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