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My view: Shouldn't taxpayers have the final say in the prison relocation decision?

Published: Thursday, July 11 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

The Utah State Prison and surrounding area in Salt Lake County  Friday, March 8, 2013.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) The Utah State Prison and surrounding area in Salt Lake County Friday, March 8, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

The Legislature has funded and the governor has staffed a committee to review proposals to move the Utah state prison out of the Salt Lake Valley (2013 SB0072 Prison Relocation and Development Amendments). Both parties should immediately bring this process to a halt as a waste of taxpayer dollars. The community as a whole has already raised concerns sufficient to show this proposal to be without merit and only in the interest of moneyed developers.

Here are some of the major concerns expressed within our communities:

The expenditure of $600 million in tax revenue to replace a facility that could continue to serve the state for a significant time with improvements costing 5-10 percent of that amount. This expenditure has no apparent benefit that would justify the cost.

The Utah State Prison, Tuesday, July 9, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) The Utah State Prison, Tuesday, July 9, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Loss of reasonable availability to families wishing to visit incarcerated relatives and friends.

Distancing the prison from required medical (hospitals and doctors) and legal (courts and lawyers) services with the accompanying cost increases.

Loss of reasonable availability for thousands of community and religious service volunteers that provide transitional support for inmates. Such loss may well result in an increase in recidivism.

Distancing inmates from educational opportunities within the valley that are made available to aid in their rehabilitation.

Additional difficulty in staffing a prison where employment would require a daily round trip commute of over a hundred miles for employees based upon the proposal to use Rush Valley as the new location.

The Utah State Prison, Tuesday, July 9, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) The Utah State Prison, Tuesday, July 9, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

A significant increase in air pollution due to the transportation requirements for all members of the community serving the needs of the prison.

The justification for the move as touted by proponents is that a major technology center could be built that would net the state an additional $300 million in tax revenue over a period of many years. These same individuals have seemingly closed their eyes to the reality that there are thousands of acres of available land that could be developed for a technology center both north and south of the existing prison. Anyone driving north along the Mountain View Corridor or south on Redwood Road from Camp Williams to Lehi and Eagle Mountain would be impressed with the amount of land available for future development. These areas seem to have satisfied the needs of technology providers such as Adobe and the National Security Agency and could do so for other developers without taxpayer involvement.

The Utah State Prison and surrounding area in Salt Lake County  Friday, March 8, 2013.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) The Utah State Prison and surrounding area in Salt Lake County Friday, March 8, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

If the governor and the Legislature feel an overwhelming need to increase our taxes for a spending binge, they might look again at the dismal state of our education system and find a way to provide additional funding for our universities, which have imposed student tuition increases that far exceed the general cost of living increases. This has created a situation where our children must fund their education with student debt that burdens them for years after graduation.

The governor and the leaders in our Legislature should move forward immediately in the stewardship awarded them by the community and bring an end to this seriously flawed proposal. Please respond to the needs and best interests of the public and not to the interest of the moneyed developers.

Gary Thornock is a retired accountant and former delegate to state and county conventions.

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