Board considering moving Utah prison wants to see financial data
Show us the numbers.
Members of the newly constituted Prison Relocation and Development Authority board decided Wednesday that they want to see the information that led their predecessors to conclude moving the Utah State Prison makes financial sense before seeking bids for the project.
"I still have not concluded that this is feasible," said Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams. He said after the meeting that he was "not comfortable moving forward until we have the information. At this point, I haven't seen the data that provided the foundation for moving the prison."
The board will hold a closed session at its next meeting on June 26 to hear presentations from the six parties most of whom had representatives in the audience at Wednesday's meeting who submitted information to the previous board. Board members also asked for a summary of previous findings that led the prior board to give the project a thumbs up.
Alan Bachman, an assistant attorney general who is serving as counsel for the board, said those submissions were "just enough" to know relocating the prison was worth exploring.
The previous board found that a modern prison could save the state millions in staffing, operational and maintenance costs, while jobs created through redeveloping the 690 acres the prison currently occupies in Draper would generate up to $20 billion over two decades. Those figures, the previous board said, offset the project's estimated cost of $550 million to $600 million.
"What I think we wantâ¦is some of the information behind these conclusions so we can be there ourselves and get there quickly," said Lane Summerhays, named chairman and spokesman for the group.
Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, said without that information, the public is likely to deem it premature to move forward with seeking bids.
But Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said the board will likely best be able to answer the feasibility question once it gets project bids. Revisiting information provided to the previous board may "slow the process down unnecessarily," he said.
The board is on a tight timetable, according to Wilson. He said some lawmakers expect the board to select a proposal by fall; they then plan to ask Gov. Gary Herbert to call a special session to consider recommendations.
Waiting until the 2014 legislative session "will be too long," Wilson said, given that interest rates and construction costs are already higher than those used by the prior board in feasibility calculations.
Wilson said there are "three big rocks" to get around as the board weighs proposals: how to provide programming that gives inmates the best shot at success when they are released; where to put a new prison; and how to make the best use of the current site.
Summerhays also said the board needs more information about how the prison currently operates and projections for its needs over the next 30 to 70 years in order to ensure the board chooses the right solution. Some members will tour the facility next week; the board also wants to hear a presentation from the Utah Department of Corrections.
The board also expects to list in the next few days a job posting for an executive director, a temporary post that will likely have a salary of $100,000. The ideal "superman or superwoman" candidate would have experience in the public and private sectors, be familiar with construction, corrections, trends in sentencing and the legislative process, board members said.