It is a circus-worthy juggling act: How to solicit bids to move the Utah State Prison before hiring a consultant to oversee the process, ensure transparency while protecting bidders’ proprietary information, and squeeze in two public hearing before sending a recommendation off to the governor and Utah Legislature by the end of January.
On Monday, the Prison Relocation and Development Authority (PRADA) let one ball drop for now — where to fit in public hearings — as it made some decisions about how to gather bids that will determine whether moving the prison is feasible.
PRADA goes to Arizona
Members of the state’s Prison Relocation and Authority Development committee traveled to Arizona on Monday for a two-day tour of public and private prison facilities.
Committee members toured the La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, a private prison, on Monday. On Tuesday, they will visit the Central Arizona Correctional Facility, a private facility, and the Eyman Rynning Unit at the Arizona State Prison Complex, both in Florence. They also will visit the Perryville San Carlos Unit, a public facility, in Goodyear before returning to Utah.
The committee will unofficially release three requests for proposals on the state Division of Facilities Construction and Management website on Oct. 2. Those documents are expected to be made official a week later, after Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has a chance to look them over.
One document will seek bids to build a new prison facility at one or more locations in the state, including demolition of the existing prison. A second will request proposals to redevelop the nearly 700 acres the prison current occupies. A third request will seek a "master" proposal to both relocate the prison and develop its current site.
Bids are due by Dec. 2; PRADA wants to forward a recommendation to the governor and Utah Legislature by Jan. 31 — four days after the 2014 legislative session begins.
PRADA gave itself latitude to tweak the requests for proposals until two weeks before bids are due. It also will have discretion to decide when and how much information to make public before handing over a recommendation to lawmakers, at which point the winning bid or bids would become public.
The bill authorizing the committee to seek bids requires it to hold at least two public hearings — one in Draper and the other in any city or county identified as a leading contender for a new facility — but PRADA left that "to be arranged."
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said after the meeting he wants to go beyond what’s required by law in disclosing as much as possible about the bids before delivering a recommendation to lawmakers, acknowledging that "some notion" of what’s proposed would be necessary at any public hearings.
The draft "master development" document shared Monday includes nearly 40 "issues" for a bidder to address, from how it plans to incorporate cutting-edge technology to the financial impact of relocating the prison and redeveloping its current site and what role, if any, privatizing services might play. The bids also must address how a new facility will save money through programs that reduce recidivism and reintegrate inmates into the community.
"We’re not moving cattle here, we’re moving human beings," noted Garfield County Commissioner Leland Pollock, a committee member. "When they recidivate, that is a heavy cost."
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