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By: Courtney Orton
September 9, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY — On Wednesday, the Utah Taxpayers Association did something it normally doesn’t. It endorsed Salt Lake City’s plan to spend more money, specifically to build a new $125 million public safety building.

The taxpayers association did not support this issue when it was first on the ballot in 2007, but the organization now says a new building is a must.

“I’m here to announce, this morning, that hell has frozen over and the Utah taxpayers association proudly endorses this bond election,” says Sen. Howard Stephenson, who is also the President of the Utah Taxpayers Association.

The rare endorsement comes just two months before Salt Lake voters get to vote on Proposition 1 in November–a measure that would allocate $125 million to build a new public safety building, emergency operations center and underground parking structure in Salt Lake.

“We have toured the facility and have found that it really is an embarrassment to our community,” says Stephenson. “With sewage leaking through the ceiling, other water damage, Visqueen having to cover the shelves in the evidence room to keep the evidence from being damaged; it’s time for a new building.”

The proposal this time around is $67 million less than it was in 2007 and would cost the owner of a $260,000 home about $6 a month, or $75 a year.

“I know this is not an easy thing, as Senator Stephenson has indicated, for the Utah Taxpayers Association to step out and support any kind of bond election that imposes additional costs on our taxpayers. It obviously reflects the incredible need,” Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said.

“We feel comfortable that the city is asking for the amount of money to provide what is actually needed and not just what would be wanted in an optimum situation,” explained Stephenson.

The city is talking with state leaders about the possibility of sharing the emergency operations center, which would cut down on cost too.

“The public safety complex could go forward with or without the state’s participation,” Becker said. “We intend to use the time from the bond election until about the time the Legislature is done to do further planning on the development of the facility itself and some preliminary design work anticipating that by the end of the legislative session, we’ll know whether or not the state will be part of that emergency operations center or not.”