Kanab • It took 20 years, but Kane County finally cut the ribbon Wednesday on its new Public Safety Complex in Kanab, which includes a badly needed, larger jail.
The county's sheriff's office and Utah Highway Patrol office will move into the building next week when inmates will begin hearing the sound of jail doors closing.
The new jail has 192 beds compared with 22 at the old facility and will allow the county to contract with the state for 160 prison inmates. The state will pay the county $47 a day per prisoner and relieve overcrowding at its two prisons.
For chief deputy Tracy Glover, the occasion was long awaited. Tracy oversaw the jail's design and construction, as well as the land acquisition from the Bureau of Land Management.
"It's a good day," he said at Wednesday's ceremony.
Kane County Sheriff Lamont Smith said talk of a new jail was underway when he was first elected 17 years ago. "We knew we had to do something," he said. "There was a danger of overcrowding [at the old jail]."
Public tours will be conducted Friday, from 5-8 p.m., and visitors can stay overnight for $15, which includes a "Jail and Breakfast" T-shirt.
Lt. Gov. Greg Bell told the 100 people at the ceremony that the jail epitomizes how rural Utahns pull together to get projects completed.
"This is a statement of permanence," said Bell. "It tells people you're open for business … I congratulate you on your accomplishment."
Republican State Rep. Mike Noel, who represents the area and lives in Kanab, said the new jail will add up to 28 well-paying jobs, including more deputies, dispatchers and a nurse.
He noted the jail will offer programs to reduce the number of returning inmates. "It is not appropriate to just house people when the majority want to be rehabilitated, be it from sex abuse, get a GED, or from drugs and alcohol. We need to give hope and not create a desperate situation."
The county received a $10 million loan from the state's community impact board and a $7.5 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development office to pay for the complex.
Tom Patterson, executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections, said 21 of 29 counties contract with the state to house 1,500 prison inmates. He said most inmates sent to county jails are low-risk offenders and do not have "perpetual medical" problems.
"It makes good economic sense," said Patterson, adding it is less expensive to farm out prisoners than concentrate them at the prisons in Salt Lake County and at Gunnison.
The new jail has many state-of-the-art features, including video screens for inmates/visitor communication. All inmate activities can be monitored from a pod area and glass windows, many of them reflective, have replaced traditional bars.
The facility also features classrooms and a chapel.
A memorial on the front of the jail pays tribute to Brian Harris, a Kane County deputy shot and killed last year in the line of duty.