Opposition to prison relocation the focus of meeting in Tooele County

Posted at 10:17 PM, Dec 19, 2014

TOOELE COUNTY, Utah -- More than 200 people turned out at Grantsville High School Friday night to speak out against the state prison relocating to their community.

"When people talk about Tooele County, I've heard it called the dumping grounds for anything not wanted in the state, so I feel a lot of that stuff is always being pushed on Tooele County, if we don't want it, let's send it out to Tooele County," resident Jodie Cook said.

Tooele County residents said they feel the most vulnerable when it comes to the prison relocation because they have a lot of open land and a small population compared to the other locations being proposed.

As of now, the Prison Relocation Commission has a total of four possible sites: two in Salt Lake County near the airport, one in Utah County in Eagle Mountain, and one in Tooele County across from the Miller Motor Sports Park.

Many people at the meeting are also under the impression that more sites will even be added in Tooele County. Residents said due to the lack of resources, like water and sewer utilities, Tooele is not a good location. They also said they will lose land that could be used for economic development.

"We wouldn't of moved here if we knew a state prison was going to be here," said resident Tami Chambers. "We came because we wanted open land for our children, we wanted a safe peaceful place to raise our two girls."

Grantsville Mayor Brent Marshall also spoke out against the prison.

"We're not in favor of it, we don't want it, we don't have those resources that the prisoners need," he said. "They need people that can help them with the drug addictions and the mental health and other educational means, and we don't have those resources available in this small community."

The Prison Relocation Commission does have a list of criteria they will evaluate when deciding where to relocate the prison.

Proximity - 35%
Land and Environment - 15%
Infrastructure - 15%
Community Services - 10%
Development Costs - 10%
Community Acceptance - 15%

The community support has been the biggest hurdle for the Prison Relocation Commission. Senator Jerry Stevenson, Co-Chair of the commission, said there have been days when he's received more than 300 emails from different citizens against the prison coming to their town.

The next Prison Relocation Commission meeting will be held on Monday, at which time it is possible the commission will narrow down the number of sites to the final two. However, it's also a possibility new sites could be added to the list before state lawmakers make their final vote in January.