Prison relocation group has yet to request proposals for developing Point of the Mountain

Published: Thursday, June 14 2012 9:32 p.m. MDT

"There's a tremendous tax revenue opportunity there," he said, as well as the possibility of attracting large employers from outside Utah. "I believe the state can develop that with almost no additional cost if they do it the correct way."

He declined to describe the proposal he was trying to sell to Gov. Gary Herbert and other state and local leaders two years ago, but said it's still viable.

"That may seem a little strange when you're talking about such a large facility. But then you've got to step back and look at what the costs are going to be if we don’t move it," Mansell said.

Prison officials have long complained of not having enough money to repair the aging facility and add beds to keep up with the steady growth of inmates.

"I think it's past time to look at doing something with Draper. I cringe every time I think of investing more state resources in a location that is inevitably going to move," Sibbett said. "It's not a matter of is the prison going to move — it will. It's when."

Sibbett said the state's original prison was moved to Draper from Sugar House because of residential encroachment and overcrowding, the same arguments being made today for relocation.

He said while Tooele County has been viewed as the likeliest location for a new prison, there are other places that also would fit the bill. So far, the prison relocation committee has taken a field trip to just one site, Rush Valley in Tooele County.

Sibbett also declined to provide details of the proposal he and his partners hope to advance, other than it does not call for privatizing the state prison. "There's a place for privatization in many government services," he said. "I'm not sure a maximum security prison would be one of them."

He acknowledged they will have plenty of competition from other groups also hoping to develop the property. "It's prime real estate," Sibbett said. "We just want an opportunity to lay out what we think is a great solution."

Mansell said he has made no money from his involvement with Riggs and Sibbett, but would stand to profit if their proposal is the one selected by the state.

"No doubt some people see it as a way to get developers rich at taxpayers' expense. I see it just the opposite, actually," Mansell said. "I see it as the opportunity for this state to have a huge benefit and a bonanza over the next 20 years."

The Sandy real estate broker and former president of the National Association of Realtors did not sound optimistic about the relocation project ever getting under way.

"I'll probably be dead and gone by the time they do something," he said. "I think it hinges on whether we can get enough leadership to say, 'This is good, let's go.' Or if we're too timid."

Draper Mayor Darrell Smith was more upbeat.

"It's probably premature to say, 'You bet. I know that that's going to happen.' But I have a positive feeling going forward," Smith said. "I think there is a higher and better use."

For the city, a prison move will open up the possibility of collecting taxes on what's now state-owned land. 

"As a whole, it would create a great opportunity not just for Draper City, but for Salt Lake County and the state," Smith said, adding that private developers would also benefit. "It's kind of like a gold mine." 

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com Twitter: dnewspolitics

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