Grand County Discusses Jail Upgrade Options

MOAB, Utah — The Grand County Jail in Moab, Utah, is in need of major repairs. The Times-Independent reported that a new study states the county could save money in the long run if it replaced its aging jail; however, the county may only have enough funding to remodel the current facility.

A majority of Grand County Council members reached an agreement in early April that the county should move forward with repairs of its existing jail, awaiting further review of the facility’s long-term needs. Although it could take years to pull together enough funding for a new building, Grand County Sheriff Steve White said major repairs to the jail are necessary now, reported The Times-Independent.

Major maintenance issues include the jail’s leaky roof, worn-out flooring and kitchen facilities that are in “horrible” shape, according to Grand County Council chairman Lynn Jackson. A draft impact fee plan from county contractor Horrocks Engineers estimates that it would cost about $1.5 million to resolve the most pressing maintenance issues at the jail.

In addition to the jail’s short-term maintenance needs, it would cost about $4 million to remodel the 64-bed facility, according to the plan. If the county wants to bring the jail into compliance with updated building codes, energy codes or Americans With Disabilities Act requirements, however, overall renovation costs would undoubtedly increase, the plan states. In comparison, the plan projects that it could cost anywhere between $11.3 million and $17.5 million to build a new law enforcement center, depending on the design.

The plan states that the jail, which was built in 1937 and renovated in 1992, has several architectural and design flaws, such as unsafe conditions inside the jail’s vehicle bay and blind corners inside the jail that expose officers to unnecessary risks.

If the county built a new jail using modern designs, it would need fewer officers per shift and would incorporate energy-efficient features, both of which would cut down on long-term operating expenses, the plan states. By consolidating law enforcement and Emergency Medical Services under one roof, the county would also eliminate inefficiencies that slow down response times and create more maintenance-related issues.

Although renovation work would prolong the existing jail’s lifespan, the plan says there is not enough room on the existing 3.5-acre site to accommodate future growth. That, however, does not take into consideration whether or not the jail could be expanded upward instead of outward. As of now, inmate overcrowding is not an issue, despite projections that show the facility will need 131 beds by 2060.