SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah State Prison is moving, but where will it go?
In a packed meeting at the Utah State Capitol on Thursday, a commission set up to evaluate possible locations. The Prison Relocation Commission (PRC) will give a recommendation to the Utah State Legislature by the 2015 session.
The Utah State Prison needs more than 3,000 new beds over the next 20 years to keep up with population growth.
A consultant hired by the state recommends a new prison be built by 2018, but no later than 2021. It will cost an estimated $1 billion to move the existing prison and build a new one.
Such a hefty price tag "gives us an allergic reaction," said Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville.
Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, told the commission the economic benefits that come from developing the existing prison site were big. Prison relocation consultants said as much as $1.8 billion could be generated in economic development each year from the existing site at Point of the Mountain.
Moving the prison won't be easy, the consultant told the PRC.
From the presentation:
The consultant told the PRC that a new prison has needs. It must be close to population, infrastructure (medical, legal, etc.), have easy transportation and community support.
From the presentation:
"I'm pleased to hear there are already communities interested," the consultant told the PRC.
He recommended the state avoid building in seismic zones, wetlands and flood plains. A suggestion was made that the PRC evaluate public lands owned by cities, the state of Utah or the federal government as potential prison sites.
A number of possible sites will be proposed in time for the 2015 legislative session. Rep. Wilson said he had already been contacted by people interested in selling land for the new prison.
FOX 13 is told some potential sites being floated include land in Utah County, on the west side of Salt Lake County, in Tooele County and off I-80 near Salt Lake City International Airport.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," Utah Dept. of Corrections Executive Director Rollin Cook told the commission, adding that many existing facilities are "antiquated."
Cook said a new prison would have better facilities for sex offender and substance abuse treatment, medical care and educational opportunities to reduce recidivism among inmates. It would also be better for corrections officers and staff, he said.
Cook pointed out the current prison does not even have HVAC.
He urged the PRC to make sure the new prison was close for staff, visitors and volunteers, noting the Utah State Prison has more volunteers than any other state.
The room was filled with lobbyists, many of whom represent developers or stakeholders.
Sen. Stevenson told FOX 13 any potential site would need at least 450 acres. The commission will meet in the coming months to evaluate locations.
Read the consultant's presentation to the Prison Relocation Commission here:
Read the Utah Department of Corrections presentation here: