Fortunately, the Utah State Legislature voted to allow a full vote on where the Utah State Prison will be located. Prior to that, the Prison Relocation Commission (PRC) would have made the final decision.
Now the PRC can recommend a location but must have the approval of the Legislature, and the recommendation must be signed off by the governor. Now is the time for Utah citizens to contact their representatives and put a stop to moving the Utah State Prison from Draper.
Sites that have been suggested are Saratoga Springs, Eagle Mountain, West Jordan, north of the Salt Lake Airport, Tooele and Grantsville. The cost of moving comes to millions of dollars that the state does not have and which would necessitate long-term bonding.
Feedback from leaders and citizens has been vociferous against relocation to the above-mentioned sites. Listed here are the reasons the prison should remain in Draper:
1. The prison sits on 700-plus acres. Two hundred-plus acres could be used to build a new prison, if the space is utilized efficiently. It doesn’t need the extra 500 acres. By comparison, Salt Lake’s Liberty Park sits on 80 acres. Visualize an area two and a half times that of the park. If needed, more than one story could be utilized.
2. Construction can be planned while the prison operates. Granite and Murray School Districts built around existing buildings with few negative effects during construction.
3. The balance of the 400-plus acres could be sold to Draper City Development. The sale would go a long way toward the construction costs. The Utah State Prison would not have to purchase any land. The sale of excess land cuts new construction costs, and Draper City gets new growth and an added tax base, which would partially satisfy the developers.
4. All the infrastructure is close by — water, sewer, electrical power and communications. These services would be costly to build from scratch, especially west of the airport and in Tooele and Grantsville.
5. The state of Utah has not approved any funds for construction. Long-term bonding would be needed. But if the state did not have to purchase any land and could sell excess land, the cost would be greatly reduced.
6. All support services — volunteers, staff, security, counselors, etc., would not change and would stay in place, reducing recidivism. Commute time would remain the same for those support personnel and they would not have to uproot their families in a move.
I have read the report of the PRC and the one from Management of America, Inc. Their project requirements state: “The Prison should have minimal environmental impact, avoid land conflicts and hazards, avoid difficult or costly sites, and there should be no conflict with the state economic development projects, consideration of the path of population growth.”
In conclusion, the Draper site meets all the project’s requirements outlined in the reports.
This is a compromise that benefits everyone. We get a new, updated prison; developers are partially satisfied; Draper gets increased growth and an increased tax base. The state of Utah reduces construction costs, and travel and support for prison personnel remain the same.
Ralph J. Carlson is the former president of the Utah Broadcasters Association and the president of Carlson Communications, Intl.