Committee delays vote on prison relocation bill again

Published: Monday, Feb. 25 2013 7:12 p.m. MST

A committee created by the 2011 Legislature recommended last month to relocate the state prison to "allow private development of the land on which the state prison is presently located."

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — The makeup of a board that would oversee possible relocation of the Utah State Prison and redevelopment of the land where it now sits remains a sticking point for state lawmakers.

"As we've gotten into this, everybody feels like they need representation on the board," said Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, sponsor of SB72.

The bill now calls for an 11-member Land Management Authority Board with two subcommittees — one with seven members to oversee relocating and building a new prison, and the other with nine members to manage development of the current 690-acre prison property.

Draper, which has the 62-year-old prison in its boundaries, would have to two members on the board. But City Councilman Troy Walker wants a third, saying the city should have "significant" say in the decision making.

Members of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee raised concerns about possible conflicts of interest on the board and the public perception that the relocation project is on a fast track. The committee did not vote on the bill Monday.

The cost for moving and building a new prison is estimated at $550 million to $600 million. Jenkins said at least two-thirds of the cost would be covered in the savings from a modernized prison and the sale of the current property.

Building a new facility would save an estimated $20 million annually in operating costs, while the land would bring at least $140 million, he said.

Proponents of the project see the current prison site being developed as a technology center. The relocation committee estimated it would bring $25 billion in economic development to the state along with 30,000 to 40,000 jobs.

Opponents say it would allow land developers to get rich and leave taxpayers holding the bag when the economic returns don't materialize.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

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