Governor Gary Herbert is looking to step up efforts to clean up the downtown Rio Grande area and Pioneer Park, and make them places residents feel safe to be in once more. He says he is even open to the idea of calling a special legislative session of the Utah legislature in required in order to address the issue of the massive amount of drugs, violence, public health hazards, and homeless people that has turned the once vibrant area of the city into a place many people avoid. He says he plans to direct a multi-agency response that will include different departments under his jurisdiction, such as the Utah Department of Health and the Department of Workforce Services, as well as multi-jurisdictional law enforcement agencies.
One option being considered it reopening an old jail for medical treatment and bed space, potentially providing an additional 300 places for people to sleep. The Oxborrow Jail has been closed for eight years and it is estimated renovations, repairs, and ongoing maintenance will come with an estimated $9 million price tag. So far the governor has not given a price estimate on how much he expects the initiative to cost the state, but he made clear he is determined to tackle the issue head on.
Currently violence is on the rise in the Pioneer Park and the surrounding area. Many businesses close to the area have already had to relocate or close entirely as the environment has driven away customers and made the cost of doing business in that location too high to merit staying.
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