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South Salt Lake doesn't have what it takes to support a homeless shelter, its mayor and others argued Monday.
That's proven by "simple math," according to a news release: South Salt Lake is Salt Lake County's second-least-populated city and has its lowest median income.
"We simply cannot provide the resources to support a safe and productive shelter," said Mayor Cherie Wood in the release.
Two South Salt Lake sites are contemplated for a 200-or-more-bed homeless shelter in Salt Lake County, at 3091 S. Main and 1144 W. 3300 South. Three other site finalists are in West Valley City.
The county has until March 30 to recommend one site to the state's Homeless Coordinating Committee for final approval and may consider unnamed sites in the interim, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said Monday.
West Valley City had prepared for the county's announcement of the five known finalists Friday and lined up two news conferences later that same afternoon.
On Monday, Wood took her turn, armed now with a public relations firm and a dedicated website. Wood, speaking outside Woodrow Wilson Elementary alongside City Council Chairman Ben Pender and members of South Salt Lake's police and fire departments, said she was "not here to pick a fight with West Valley." The county's site-selection procedure "should be scrapped and we should start over and have all the right players at the table," she said.
"There is not an easy solution and we understand that," Wood said. "Clearly this rushed process has resulted in a flawed proposal."
South Salt Lake's news release did mention that "for comparison," West Valley City is more than five times as populated and has a higher median income.
McAdams said Wood's concerns are "incredibly valuable" and "should be part of the calculation as we look to find the best location for these services."
Wood said South Salt Lake's police and fire departments are already "stretched."
South Salt Lake police spokesman Gary Keller said 88 units of permanent supportive housing at Grace Mary Manor are the source of 260 calls per year, and a shelter with more than 200 beds might require a 20 percent increase in his department's staffing.
South Salt Lake's resources are further strained by commuting workers and tax-exempt properties that deliver regional services, like the county's Oxbow and metro jails, officials said.
McAdams said the problem illustrates the wisdom of failed legislation proposed by Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, who would have used county property taxes to reimburse municipalities with large shelters at a rate of up to $900 per bed.
"That's something that we should revisit," McAdams said.
Travis Massey said he moved to South Salt Lake in 2009 and later bought a house, where he now lives with his wife and their two young children.
Massey said he loves South Salt Lake's diversity and doesn't worry about a shelter's effect on his family's safety, but that the county is "foisting this site on a city that's already doing all that it can," Massey said.
Lexi Aerakis, who owns the Crown Burgers restaurant at 3270 State St., said homeless people sit outside the doors and sleep on the lawn outside. One man spits at her when she asks him to leave, she said.
"We can't just have all of it concentrated in one area," Aerakis said. "I don't want this to be a backyard for everyone to sleep in."
And even if they could support a shelter, South Salt Lake officials said, the proposed sites don't meet the county's stated selection criteria.
The site at 3091 S. Main is a 13-minute walk from the nearest light-rail station, the city says, and just as far from the nearest grocer. Meanwhile, a state liquor store is less than a 4-minute walk.
Larry and Jessica Mamey own an office building at 3046 S. Main that they say is already "inundated" with homeless people.
"Main Street is the heart of South Salt Lake," Larry Mamey said. "Why would you put a homeless shelter in the heart of South Salt Lake?"
The nearest grocer to 1144 W. 3300 South is a 14-minute walk, while the Creative Learning Academy day care is 177 feet away.
Pender said county inmates are released from the metro jail throughout the day and congregate at a nearby gas station store.
Tuesday's open house at the Capitol is the first of up to four opportunities for the public to provide feedback on the sites which Salt Lake City opted against when it sited four proposed shelters last fall.
Of those locations, two will house shelters: 131 E. 700 South and 275 W. High Ave.
Stakeholders decided midway through the legislative session to scrap two sites including one that generated an uproar in a Sugar House neighborhood of single-family homes and locate a shelter elsewhere in the county. Not wanting a repeat of Salt Lake City's yearlong siting process, they gave McAdams a little more than a month to pick the county site.
To aid in that effort, a state funding bill run by Majority Whip Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, gives McAdams and the state committee the power to override the policies of affected municipalities.
The ultimate goal is to better direct homeless people toward services and housing and phase out an emergency shelter at 210 S. Rio Grande St. in downtown Salt Lake City that leaders say is less effectual and suited to drug traffickers.
McAdams said the feedback on the county's proposed site finalists has been "what we expected."
"It's hard for people to see the facilities as we see them," he said. "They're imagining what they're seeing in the downtown right now. I hope people can come to see that these are human beings. ... We're trying to help them gain stability and self-reliance."
Salt Lake County has scheduled the following three opportunities for the public to give feedback on possible shelter sites. On March 28, its Site Evaluation Committee is slated to deliberate from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the state Capitol (350 State St.) in Senate Room 210. Its recommendation to the State Homeless Coordinating Committee is due March 30.
Tuesday • From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., an open house will be held at the state Capitol (350 State St.) in the Senate Building cafeteria.
Saturday • From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., an open house will be held at the state Capitol (350 State St.) in the Senate Building cafeteria.
March 22 • From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the Site Evaluation Committee will meet and invite public comment at the state Capitol (350 State St.) in Senate Room 210.
1820 W. Printers Row (2300 South) • West Valley City, southwest of Glendale Golf Course, 3 acres assessed by the county at $2.5 million.
2411 S. Winston St. (1070 West) • West Valley City, just south of Glendale Golf Course and just west of the Jordan River, 0.9 acres assessed by the county at $1.7 million.
2249 S. Winston St. (1070 West)* • West Valley City, just south of Glendale Golf Course and just west of the Jordan River, 1.9 acres assessed by the county at $330,000.
3091 S. Main • South Salt Lake, currently occupied by Utah Trailways bus services and less than a quarter-mile from a state liquor store, 1 acre assessed by the county at $400,000.
1144 W. 3300 South • South Salt Lake, adjacent to the Jordan River and James Madison Park and near the county's Oxbow jail, 2.6 acres assessed by the county at $3 million.
* Indicates a vacant lot