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The Salt Lake County Council has opted to tear out a frequently broken escalator in the north building of the county Government Center and seal off the second floor balcony where it had deposited passengers.

The change is designed to provide County Sheriff's officers protecting the building with unobstructed views of both east and west doorways into the lobby.

Previously the council had discussed replacing the escalator with a staircase, but that would have cost $240,000 more than the current plan, which rings in at about $175,000.

"That's quite a cost savings," said Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw. "It also would open up the entire atrium and make the treasurer's office less hidden."

Megan Hillyard, of administrative services, said county employees also expressed their preference — in 8,000 responses to a questionnaire about the project (that's about 2.5 answers per county employee) — for the lowest-cost option that afforded the best visibility for officers in the sheriff's protective-services division. This revised approach did not sit well with Democratic Councilman Jim Bradley, however, who argued that "there's a lot of life in this building. We want it to be a viewpiece."

Republican Councilman Steve DeBry concurred, describing an existing staircase behind doors off of the lobby as "decrepit, ugly, stinky and dirty like a maintenance shaft somewhere. Is that where we want the public to go?"

But DeBry was persuaded to vote for dropping the new staircase plan provided the existing staircase is dressed up, nearby elevators are upgraded and more signage is installed to direct the visiting public on how to get upstairs in the four-story building.

Bradley still voted no.

Councilman Michael Jenson, who's also the Unified Fire Authority chief, joked "if we get rid of the elevators, we could put in fire poles."