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SALT LAKE CITY — The controversy over where to relocate the Utah State Prison isn't likely to be settled during the 2015 Legislature.
"Where that site will specifically be, I don't think we will know that in the near future," said House Speaker-elect Greg Hughes, R-Draper, a member of the Legislature's Prison Relocation Commission who has long pushed the move.
The commission agreed to continue accepting proposed sites to replace the aging prison at Point of the Mountain in Draper through the end of January. So far, at least one promising location, near the border of Utah and Tooele counties, has surfaced.
There had been six potential sites under consideration, but private landowners in Saratoga Springs and West Jordan withdrew their offers, and costly wetlands issues were identified at a site close to Salt Lake City International Airport.
The remaining sites on the commission's shortlist are in Salt Lake City near I-80 and 7200 West; Tooele County adjacent to the Miller Motorsports Park; and Eagle Mountain.
Residents living near all six sites have repeatedly protested being home to a new prison, expressing concerns about proximity to existing homes and schools, as well as future economic development.
"I know there's been some real emotions out there," Hughes said.
Where that site will specifically be, I don't think we will know that in the near future.
–Greg Hughes, House Speaker-elect
He said he doesn't want to "just shift problems or challenges to another county or another city. I'm not interested in that. We have to solve those problems long term."
A new prison is expected to cost taxpayers $500 million or more to build, but supporters of relocating the Draper facility say allowing the now prime real estate to be developed will bring more than $1 billion in economic benefits.
Hughes said there will be "movement" this session on how to pay for the project.
He said it would be easier for lawmakers "if we understood what site is best. The timing is a little bit harder."
Hughes said he wants the commission to have more sites to consider.
"We want to go through a thorough process," he said. "When I look at the Wasatch Front, I think there's good opportunity for some unique sites that would fit the bill."