Legislators create commission regarding proposed prison relocation

Posted at 9:29 PM, Mar 13, 2014

DRAPER, Utah -- The Utah State Prison could be just years away from being torn down. Utah lawmakers are creating a new commission, responsible for finding where a new prison could be built.

The sponsor of the bill, Senator Jerry Stevenson, R-District 21, said moving the Draper prison is a no brainer, but a new poll from the University of Utah shows more than 30 percent of Utahns don't want the prison relocated and 21 percent are unsure.

"We will put about $250 million into Draper over the next 20 years in repair if we don't move, and the prison property certainly has some value,” Stevenson said.

The commission, approved by the Utah legislature, has been two years in the making.  The Prison Relocation and Development Authority has been working on figuring out how much the state stands to gain by moving the Draper prison, a facility which houses more than 4,000 inmates and sits on 680 acres worth millions if sold.

A study by PRADA indicates it would cost $783 million to keep the prison at its current location over the next two decades, but a move could generate a $1.8 billion economic boost annually.

"If you look at across the Wasatch Front, if you look at the I80 corridor you will see there are some locations that fits into it really well," Stevenson said.

It's not clear where the Draper prison would relocate, if at all. That will be up to the new seven-member commission, made up of three Senators and four House Representatives, to decide.

Ultimately the Utah legislature has to approve the plan, which could come as early as next year. The commission has $3.5 million to play with; the money will most likely be used to bid on potential property for the new prison site.

As for what happens to the vacancy left behind in Draper, Stevenson said there's a lot to be built.

"I think what could possibly get there is if we look at what we have 114th South and you look at Adobe, I think you end up with is a Silicon Strip, if you will, of very high-tech businesses,” he said.

That's an area often referred to as the Silicon Slopes of Utah. This marks the beginning of the real debate over where the Draper prison should move, an answer Utahns will have by about this time next legislative session.