Iron County Commissioner, Sheriff Make Case For New Jail
Iron County Commissioner Mike Bleak and Iron County Sheriff Ken Carpenter joined us on the radio show this morning to discuss the proposed new correctional facility for the county. Voters will decide on November 21st if a general obligation bond will be passed to fund the project.
Sheriff Carpenter started the discussion by saying, “the timing is not the best. This is something that's been in the works for, really, over nine years in Iron County and we would've really loved to have built this facility four years ago.” He continued, “If we could have built it four years ago we could have saved $20 million and had a two percent interest rate.”
The sheriff told us it was due to community opposition and “other factors” that the facility was not able to be built back then. Sheriff Carpenter indicated that protests over the original site selection near the Smead property was a leading factor in the community opposition at the time.
Commissioner Bleak explained to us what exactly the county was asking of the voters telling us, “the financing option we have chosen for this is a general obligation bond. What that means on the ballot it will be a yes or no question as to whether you'll support the general obligation bond for funding of the jail.”
In the ballot proposition that voters will be deciding, the county will be limited to $89.95 million for the general obligation bond. The term of the bond would be no longer than thirty one years. If the bond passes, it is estimated to add $153.04 a year to the property taxes on a home valued at $405,000. Business property at the same valuation would see a $278.25 annual tax increase according to the estimates.
Under the original proposal, property taxes on a average priced home would have increases $185 a year.
Bleak told us there were a couple of reasons it was changes to a general obligation bond. “Number one...really puts the decision in the hands of the voters but number two with that general obligation bond we can get better rates, we can get better terms as far as the bond goes.”
The commissioner told us they are working on things that would able to pay the bond off early, and that there are some “potential things” that would allow the commission to be able to lower the rate to the taxpayers.
In some of the open house presentations conducted by the county some have asked why the funding has to be strictly provided from property taxes. As it stands, property tax is the only option the county commission has for changes in tax revenue.
However, we were told in the upcoming legislative session, State Representative Rex Shipp is planning to introduce legislation that would allow the county commission to ask for an up to one percent tax increase on goods. Groceries would not be subject to that increase. Iron County voters would also have the opportunity to accept or reject that increase.
Sheriff Carpenter told us, “we're at a critical juncture. The jail is the oldest jail in the state of Utah. From a maintenance perspective it's a big black hole. It (the current facility) doesn't meet the needs of Iron County. We're completely full.”
When asked what would happen if the bond does not pass, Carpenter said, “the jail isn't going away. We have to do it. Eventually, if it comes down to it, we'll be forced to build a facility by the Utah Supreme Court just like happened last time (when) the current facility was built.”
You can listen to the two segments we had with Commissioner Bleak and Sheriff Carpenter below.
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Gallery Credit: Stacker