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Lawmakers continue to discuss future development of state prison

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Posted at 10:30 PM, Sep 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-09 09:17:40-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Less than a month after lawmakers voted to move the Draper State Prison, they are still undecided as to how it should be rebuilt in its new location in Salt Lake City.

“There’s a lot of different opinions in that room about what that process looks like,” said Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville.

Tuesday afternoon, members of the state Prison Development Commission met to discuss the next phase of the project-construction. The 10-member group was presented with three options for development; however, no one was prepared to recommend any of them.

“We want to make sure this is done in a very careful, thoughtful way because this is an irreversible decision,” said Wilson, who co-chairs the commission.

The prison’s new location is just west of the Salt Lake City International Airport. Prior to choosing the site, lawmakers estimated it would take three years to construct a new prison, with a price tag of $550 million.

But those numbers could change. Jim Russell of the Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management (DFCM) painted a different picture for the commission during Tuesday’s meeting. He provided three construction methods, which gave a timeline of approximately four to six years for construction and no cost estimate.

When asked whether or not the state would be sticking to its initial price estimate, Wilson said it was not entirely clear. Because the number was given before they had any kind of master plan for the project, he explained it’s likely that it will change. There is also concern about expenses associated with soil at the new site, explained Wilson, would could increase costs.

“I think we’ll have a much better feel by the general session this winter how much that budget number will really be,” Wilson said. “I hope it comes in less. We’ll see.”

During the meeting, Russell endorsed one option for construction, which he said would offer the state more flexibility in scheduling and lead to a greater collaboration between state-based construction companies.

“It’s critical to our project to determine this upfront,” Russell said.

But after two hours of debate, lawmakers did not want to endorse any of the choices. They agreed to reconvene in three weeks, at which point they hope to make a recommendation to DFCM. While it’s unlikely the agency would ignore the commission’s wishes, lawmakers are not able to mandate the state follow any one option.

“There are a lot of different directions this can go, and we want to make sure we take care and decide what that is right on the front end and get it right,” said co-chair, Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton.