New downtown offices for Salt Lake County prosecutors will end up costing taxpayers about $41.8 million.
That is $10.8 million more than projected two years ago, but $1 million less than District Attorney Sim Gill requested last month after a yearlong review of plans to erect the multistory building on the southwest corner of 600 South and State Street.
The County Council on Tuesday authorized the issuance of bonds to cover the extra amount. In doing so, the council stripped the budget of $217,000 for art at the building and instructed Gill to find another $800,000 in cuts or come up with other revenue to make up the difference.
"It's a good investment for us operationally as well as financially," said Gill, a Democrat who persuaded the GOP-led council to swallow hard and accept the higher price tag with figures that showed a consolidated headquarters operation will save the county $15 million over the 30-year life of the bonds, mostly in rental payments.
In addition, Gill said, engineering designed to make the building a "net-zero" energy user will cut electrical and heating costs during that stretch by $3.5 million to $6.7 million.
Prosecutors currently are spread between rented space downtown and in West Jordan, along with administrative offices at the County Government Center, 2001 S. State St.
Consolidating those operations into one building will provide economies of scale fewer front-desk receptionists, office managers and printing machines, for instance reducing the district attorney's total office space from 127,000 square feet to 91,000.
"When you add all of those components together, it makes fiscal sense, it makes operational sense, and there are long-term energy savings," Gill said. "Even with the additional cost, it will save taxpayers money."
County Councilman Michael Jensen, a Republican whose motion received unanimous approval, said, "We wanted the D.A. to have what it needed. But at the same time, we felt like we needed to show a little fiscal restraint."
"Because we missed the mark with the projections that were given to us by the former chief administrative officer of the county," Jensen added, "we felt we had to make some cuts and make the district attorney have a little bit of pain."
Artists will have some pain, too.
Republican Councilmen David Wilde and Richard Snelgrove had been particularly insistent that artwork was not necessary despite defenses of its value by Valerie Price, the county's public arts program coordinator, and Vicki Bourns, the Zoo, Arts and Parks program manager.
While Gill said he supports the arts, the first-term D.A. added that "what's most important to me is to have a building that is functional and fulfills its utilitarian purposes. Whether we have art is a policy decision, and the council is the best place to make those decisions. … It's much more important to have a building than a statue in the courtyard."