Doug Fullmer: Dissolve PRADA and move the state prison, piece at a time

By Doug Fullmer

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Feb. 2 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

A group is drafting proposals to relocate the Utah State Prison from Draper.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News Archives

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Relocating the Draper prison has been discussed for more than a decade. I support the concept but believe that its relocation is best done under the executive branch and not by committee, such as the current Prison Relocation and Development Authority (PRADA) board. I suggest that it would be best to act now, but in stages, rather than as a whole.

The current law requires that the board prepare and submit requests for proposals (RFP), with responders presenting conceptual plans, master plans and recommendations for changes in state law for the board to recommend to the Legislature. The board, it would seem, has deviated from its intent and authority. It has hired an out-of-state consultant to help prepare RFPs, but, somehow, the board has decided to create the future conceptual plans the RFPs are supposed to provide.

Information provided by the Department of Corrections to a previous PRADA board indicates that the remaining life span of the prison facilities range from expired to 40 plus years remaining. To replace long-term life-span facilities prematurely would demonstrate poor business judgment and would be a terrible waste of taxpayer dollars. The facilities with less than 10 years of life span should be immediately replaced, but at different location(s), yet to be determined. The remaining facilities should be relocated in stages as the end of their life span is approached.

Funding is, and will always be, a concern. Funding could come from property sales and revenue bonds, with a part of the bond payments being paid by dedicated property taxes. The actual cost of the relocation is difficult to project, but even with property sales and revenue bonds, it is inevitable that some funding would have to come from general funds.

The decision to relocate the prison is something only the Legislature and governor can make. The current law states, “A contract may not be awarded for a new prison development project, current prison land development project, or master development project unless the governor and Legislature indicate their approval ….” (63C-13-104.7(5)) The current board, from my perspective, offers no new information, slows the relocation/development process and unnecessarily costs the taxpayers dollars.

It has been said that the current prison location would be an excellent site for a technology park and would be economically beneficial for the state as a whole. The prison facilities are currently located on approximately 275 of the 690 acres owned by the state. If the current, non-prison facilities on the west side of the property were relocated, the remainder would be immediately available for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) to market this property as a technology park.

The 2014 Legislature should dissolve the current PRADA board and authorize the executive branch to relocate the Draper prison, starting with facilities with life spans of less than 10 years. New prison sites (not necessarily all in one place) should be acquired after consulting with local government entities, and design and construction of new facilities should immediately begin. GOED should be authorized to start marketing the available property, limiting availability solely to technology businesses.

I am only one constituent, but I have had extensive experience in these types of government issues. I speak from my experience. While the relocation of the prison is controversial, I believe, in the long run, relocating the prison is the right thing to do. Current and future prison needs must be considered, but this land is prime for a technology park development. It would be short-sighted to further delay the relocation of the Draper prison. Now is the time to act.

Doug Fullmer has worked 30+ years in real estate, including 12 years working for the state of Utah and eight years for DFCM, where he processed numerous real estate acquisitions, leases and managed revenue bond real estate issues.

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