Prison relo panel verdict: Salt Lake City
After four years of legislative study, both the House and Senate last week voted to have land near Salt Lake City International Airport be the site of a new prison.

The resolution, HCR101, was approved 62-12 in the House and then 21-7 in the Senate during a special legislative session. It included an amendment clarifying that the state, not Salt Lake City, will be fully responsible for the facility, which would replace the existing Draper prison, with that property being available for redevelopment. The next day, the measure was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert.

The site near Interstate 80 and 7200 West had been unanimously recommended by the Prison Relocation Commission. Salt Lake City leaders have vowed to fight the commission’s decision. The commission had considered about 60 locations and three others were finalists: Grantsville in Tooele County and Eagle Mountain and Fairfield, both in Utah County.

Each chamber had alternative proposals die. Rep. Fred Cox, R-West Valley City, suggested building a new prison in phases at the Draper property, but House Majority Assistant Whip Brad R. Wilson, R-Kaysville and a commission co-chairman, said long-term operational costs would be less at the Salt Lake City site. In the Senate, Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, failed in an attempt to amend the resolution, saying a businessman in Carbon County was willing to donate 1,000 acres for the prison to the state.

Some of the discussion focused on the potential for economic development near the $550 million prison, should be it located in Salt Lake City. Wilson said the site is “the least likely to be surrounded by incompatible uses,” is six miles from the nearest residential location, “offers the state the most long-term potential for incremental economic development,” and “will unlock economic development in that area.”

Other lawmakers were not convinced.

“I find it quite interesting that the people who are saying it’s about economic development are not raising their hands, saying, ‘I want it in my community,’” said Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City.

“I don’t see other communities along the Wasatch Front clamoring for the prison to be in their location,” said House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, who nonetheless voted for the resolution. “Some of the comments that I’ve heard today ring a bit hollow to me in terms of the great economic development and opportunity this is.”

Senate Minority Assistant Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, expressed a similar view. “From the statewide perspective, having the prison built in the capital city, a couple of miles away from the state international airport, sends the wrong message to future investors and economic development in our state,” she said. “It’s a no-brainer. It doesn’t look nice and it doesn’t help our economic development.”

Others sided with the commission. Rep. LaVar Christenson, R-Draper, said the move to Salt Lake City would be “a win-win,” and described the move as “wise, it’s timely, it’s well-researched.”

“I think Salt Lake City and the West Side of Salt Lake will be pleasantly surprised by this,” added Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry.

Read more: The Enterprise - Legislature governor confirms SLC prison site 

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