A bill proposing a multi-faceted panel that would have power to start the relocation of the Utah State Prison was met with another roadblock Monday as the committee looking at the proposal decided to postpone a vote.
SB72, sponsored by Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, would create the Prison Land Management Authority, with the power to collect funds for a new prison facility and ultimately recommend a plan for relocation that would have to be approved by the governor and the Legislature. After lengthy discussion on the bill from members of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee, a vote on the bill was set to be rescheduled.
Jenkins’s latest incarnation of the bill tweaked the makeup of the panel, proposing an 11-member board that would include representatives from the Department of Corrections, the city of Draper, the Legislature, and two respective members from the construction and real-estate industries.
The bill also proposes forming two subcommittees focused respectively on construction of a new prison site and land development at the Draper site. The new prison is projected to cost between $550 million to $600 million. The proposed board would have authority to use sales and property tax revenue to fund the project.
The bill faced some scrutiny on the proposed boards’ makeup, with some committee members questioning why the real estate and construction industries got such heavy representation on all three of the proposed boards.
Jenkins said that the 700-acre site where the prison now sits is a unique piece of property, and that he wanted the expertise of industry leaders in handling a future relocation. He also said that the bill prohibits any members of the proposed boards from having any affiliation with contractors or real-estate companies involved in the relocation effort.
The committee also heard Monday from community leaders in Draper, who said that they backed moving the prison and developing that land, but that they wanted a stake in that development if the prison gets moved.
Some members of the public came to speak against the idea of moving the prison, saying that it would put a burden on the families who would have to travel to a far-flung location to visit inmates.
A proposal to relocate the prison has been an on-again, off-again issue for several years. A now-disbanded task force found in December that the costs of relocating the prison could — over many years — be offset by reduced labor costs and other savings, along with income generated from redeveloping the existing prison site.
Jenkins warned Monday that those conditions would only exist while construction costs and interest rates are low.
"This window of opportunity — it’s not going to last forever," Jenkins said.
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