FARMINGTON — Davis County has proposed a bond issuance of up to $9.5 million to pay for a new medical wing at the jail to deal with growing numbers of inmates suffering from drug addictions or mental health problems.
County Clerk-Auditor Curtis Koch said officials hope for a 10-year bond that would generate funds for the jail expansion without a tax increase.
At historically low interest rates, Koch said, it is hoped the bond could be repaid early, after five years, if favorable financial conditions persist.
In 2025, a $5.5 million fund balance will become available, when a long-term bonding package for the existing jail is retired, he said.
Officials also plan to use about $2.3 million built up in the jail commissary fund. That revenue comes from inmates buying “Snickers, hamburgers,” and other food and personal items during their incarceration, Koch said.
Further, about $3.5 million in the public safety building and grounds fund may be used, he said.
County commissioners on Tuesday approved a resolution setting the bonding process in motion. The next step is a public hearing at 4 p.m. Dec. 3 at the county office building, 61 S. Main St. in Farmington.
The county jail, built in 1990, has six medical observation cells.
“It was designed for minor or minimal medical issues,” said Arnold Butcher, chief deputy sheriff of corrections.
But today, jails are dealing with an explosion of opioid-addicted inmates, some entering lockup in withdrawal and needing close supervision. Officials also complain that jails have become society’s de facto mental institutions.
“The demographics have changed in the jail population,” Koch said. “It’s what you see in our society.”
Butcher said a request for proposals to build a medical unit of 23 to 26 beds is being circulated now. The new structure will be built between the original jail and an expansion erected in 2007, he said.
The new beds will be for observation of ill inmates and will not be used as general housing cells, Butcher said.
Need for more medical capacity became starkly clear in 2016-17 with a run of seven deaths in the Davis jail.
Four were suicides. Three others resulted in legal action against the county: Heather Miller bled to death after falling from her top bunk; Kara Noakes died of heart trouble after a misdemeanor arrest; and Gregory Hayes died in the jail booking area of a drug overdose.
Weber County, facing similar trends, is planning a medical wing upgrade, Sheriff Ryan Arbon has said.