Utah Lawmakers Select New State Prison Site

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers on Aug. 19 officially selected a new location for the Utah State Prison. The state’s House and Senate confirmed that the new facility will be built on a site near Interstate 80 just west of the Salt Lake City International Airport by 62-12 and 21-7 votes respectively. Gov. Gary Herbert has also signed off on the plan, which will unfold over the next several years as the state proceeds with purchasing the site and completing the design process.

The airport-adjacent site was also the one unanimous selected by the Prison Relocation Commission (PRC) earlier this month. PRC members — including Utah state legislators Sen. Jerry W. Stevenson, R-Layton, co-chair; Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, co-chair; Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City; Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City; Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton; Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Salt Lake; Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray; Executive Director of the Utah Department of Corrections, Rollin Cook; and Executive Director of the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Ron Gordon — determined that, while the industrially zoned site would require the greatest upfront investment, it would be more cost-effective in the long-term as it offers more affordable utilities and is nearer to hospitals and justice facilities.

“When we started getting long-term operating costs back, that was something that tipped the scales considerably,” Sen. Stevenson, who co-chaired the PRC, told Fox News 13 following the PRC’s selection.

The three other sites previously considered included:
• Lake Mountains West in Utah County — located at the southernmost part of Eagle Mountain City
• Cedar Valley South in Utah County — located southwest of Eagle Mountain City at the southern end of the town of Fairfield along SR 73
• SR 138 Industrial Site in Tooele County — located near the Wal-Mart Distribution Center on the west side of SR 138 in Grantsville

This announcement follows a series of informational meetings held over May and early June in Salt Lake City, Grantsville and the Eagle Mountain/Fairfield area, all of which were considered as potential sites. The meetings also marked the first time the PRC allowed public comment on the controversial move.

The contentious relocation plan inspired some heated debate in recent months, particularly in Utah County. The Salt Lake City Tribune reported in June that more than 700 Utah County residents attended the final informational meeting. They were concerned that the planned 500-acre prison complex would stunt residential and commercial development. In addition to economic development concerns, opponents noted that a substantial amount of road would have to be constructed to reach the site where inclement weather could also pose a challenge. Concerns about the Tooele County site centered on possible water availability issues.

Primary concerns regarding the winning Salt Lake County site included problems tied to building on wetlands and a lack of proper bedrock. However, it was one site that did not pose residential re-zoning concerns.

Proponents of the move, regardless of the selected site, have consistently noted that the existing facility in Draper is falling apart, preventing the state from instituting reforms, improvements and new technologies. Crumbling 1950s- and 1970s-era buildings populate the 700-acre complex, and lawmakers and PRC members would instead prefer to see the state build a modern, campus-like correctional complex.

Officials hope to repurpose the existing Draper site as a business park, as a number of tech companies are already located nearby. The state’s Prison Relocation and Development Authority completed a master plan and study, which found that, when fully developed, the yearly economic impact of the reimagined Draper campus would total roughly $1.8 billion.