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DENVER-Voters narrowly defeated a $325-million jail, which would have been the largest construction project in this city. Voters defeated a property tax increase by a 51.9% to 48.1% margin.

Residents near the jail organized a classic NIMBY — Not In My Back Yard — defense, which pitted the neighborhood against City Hall.

Mayor Wellington Webb remains a strong supporter of the jail, noting the current one will be just as crowded today, despite the defeat. Webb says people are in an anti-tax increase move, given the deterioration of the economy.

The jail was to have been built on property owned by Sears near Interstate 25 and Sixth Avenue. It’s an industrial neighborhood separated from residential homes by railroad tracks, but people nearby still feared having prisoners so close to their homes.

Sears was willing to sell the site to the city for $20 million.

The current county jail houses 1,921 inmates, but it was built for 1,350. The city’s lockup holds 245, while it is only suppose to hold a maximum of 158.

Webb worries a federal lawsuit because of the chronic, overcrowded conditions in the existing facilities.

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