Bids are expected to be opened this month for general site preparation for the new state prison in Gunnison, and primary construction contracts will be awarded in late summer.

An on-site, pre-bid conference for contractors was held at the site, and preliminary surface work and underground utilities are expected to cost about $2 million, said Kenneth Shulsen, administrative service director, Utah Department of Corrections.The Legislature approved about half of an estimated $35 million for the prison, but the amount will be more than adequate. Shulsen said the funds probably won't be spent before another legislative session, when more financing is expected.

The first phase of construction will accommodate upwards of 700 inmates, and the second will add facilities for another 500. The prison is expected to ultimately house 2,000 prisoners.

The initial phase of the operation will employ about 300 people and will be expanded to about employ about 1,000 when the facility houses the projected maximum number of prisoners. That will be several years in the future, however.

Classes are being held by Snow College for potential employees.

The Legislature initially approved $16.9 million for the new prison. The second phase will require about $15 million. About $2 million was approved by the Legislature in 1987 for site selection.

Sanpete County has purchased 44 acres for the prison at a cost of $88,044. This won't require an increase in taxes because $55,000 was budgeted by the County Commission through budget adjustments.

Sevier and Juab counties are expected to benefit economically from the prison, and Sevier County commissioners have pledged to help on purchase of the land. An amount has not been set, however.

Sevier County is expected to get more than 30 percent of the economic benefits and Juab County 10 percent. Sanpete County will be the greatest beneficiary.

About 75 percent of the employees needed in the first phase of operation will be hired locally, if available. Prison officials say salaries will range from about $18,000 to $25,000. Officials said the annual prison budget will be about $8 million.