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New location for Utah prison still up in the air

Published June 19, 2014 3:24 pm

Search • Commission hopes to have new site found by 2015 legislative session.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If all goes according to plan, the Utah Prison Relocation Commission will have a proposed plot of land for a new prison to present to legislators at the next session in January.

In a presentation Thursday to the commission, consultants provided a time line in the search for new property to move the Utah State Prison from its current 700-acre property in Draper.

Consultants could start seeking out sites by next week, with recommendations ready for the relocation commission by fall. The commission will then have most of December to mull over the options, before delivering their proposed new location during the 2015 legislative session.

"This is an aggressive timetable we have here," said Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton.

Finding a place for the new prison will be no easy task — the prison needs to be big, high-tech, and convenient for staff members and volunteers to access, according to consultants.

Rollin Cook, executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections, told the commission Thursday that most of the current prison workers and volunteers live in Utah and Salt Lake counties, so finding a property that is not in an inaccessible, rural area is important.

He also said that if the prison is relocated to a more rural area, it would be more costly to transport prisoners for medical services. He told the commission that to bring prisoners from the Gunnison facility to a Salt Lake County hospital costs about $25,000 for a medical helicopter and $3,000 by ambulance.

Cook also emphasized that it is important to find land where the surrounding community will be welcoming.

"It's about running a good facility and being good neighbors," he said.

The move itself will run a price tag of about $1 billion, the consulting group MGT of America, Inc., told legislators in May. But, they said, the state will pay nearly as much — $783 million — to keep the Draper prison up and running for the next 20 years.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller