People are very concerned about the safety of their families, the quality of the schools, not to mention the loss of value on their homes. —Stephanie Slack
SALT LAKE CITY — The Legislature's Prison Relocation Commission may have been "premature" in announcing last week that four sites were on the shortlist to replace the aging Utah State Prison in Draper.
"We don't want to make communities concerned prematurely there may be a prison in their communities," the commission's co-chairman, Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, told the Deseret News on Thursday.
Wilson said plans to name the four sites this week have been scrapped. Instead, he said, the commission will take another four or five weeks to review the sites and may end up choosing others.
The sites were not identified at the commission's Oct. 22 meeting, but Wilson and commission co-chairman Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said the newspaper was correct in identifying one site as in Saratoga Springs and three in Salt Lake County.
Saratoga Springs officials told the newspaper they had no interest in the $450 million project.
"It doesn't fit," Owen Jackson, manager of public relations and economic development for the fast-growing residential community, said recently.
Stephanie Slack, a resident of the Utah County community, said in an email to the newspaper that more than 1,000 people had signed a petition opposing the prison on Facebook.
"People are very concerned about the safety of their families, the quality of the schools, not to mention the loss of value on their homes," Slack said. The "No Prison in Saratoga Springs" page urges residents to contact the commission.
And although no Tooele County sites were on the shortlist, Grantsville Mayor Brent Marshall has said his community doesn't want the prison either. Stevenson has said Tooele County may be too far from prison employees and volunteers.
Wilson said it is probably "premature" for a community to react to the possibility of a prison, but the concerns he's been hearing aren't prompting the delay in naming the commission's final choices.
Wilson said the commission members realized as they met with city officials about the sites that they needed more information about infrastructure needs and economic development potential, as well as more talks with property owners.
There are concerns that some sites could put the state in the same position it is in with the Draper prison within a few years, he said, with inmates incarcerated on valuable real estate sought by developers.
Wilson did not provide details about the sites or the specific concerns about each.
But he said the some of the more than two dozen locations submitted to the state that weren't on the list of four could end up on the shortlist after a more thorough review is completed.
"We felt we need more time to do due diligence," Wilson said. "If they all continue to stay on the shortlist, great."
The state has studied moving the prison for several years to free up the nearly 700-acre site at Point of the Mountain for development. The commission is expected to recommend a location to the 2015 Legislature.
The commission's next meeting is set for Dec. 15.
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