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Lawmakers rush through bill to allow $100M more for new prison

Tom Smart, Deseret News, File

Lawmakers rush through bill to allow $100M more for new prison

By Katie McKellar | Posted - Mar. 7, 2017 at 6:46 a.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — The cost to build the new Utah State Prison has apparently shot up by $100 million to $575 million.

That's according to a bill expedited through the House without a public hearing Monday.

The House voted 58-10 to pass HB460 and forward it to the Senate, with its sponsor, Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, telling lawmakers the additional money is needed to build utilities and roads at the remote site west of Salt Lake City International Airport.

Sometimes, Froerer said "we have to go back and rethink the projects."

In December, concerns that the prison project may exceed its original budget of $475 million were first raised because of increasing costs in Utah's hot construction market.

Jim Russell, assistant director of the state Division of Facilities Construction Management, who is overseeing the project, said in January that cost escalation was a concern because Utah's construction costs have seen a 12 percent increase in recent years.

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The bill would authorize bonding for another $100 million — equaling $575 million — and also allow the bond payment period to extend to 10 years.

Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, objected to the bill, arguing that lawmakers were told they'd be given "the best bang for our buck" when the original prison bill was passed during a special session in 2015.

"And now we're being told it's costing additional money," Hollins said, adding that Salt Lake City never wanted the prison in the first place. "I wonder where will it end. How much more are we expected to put into this project?"

Bills typically are introduced and discussed in a public committee meeting before being debated on the floor, but HB460 was introduced Monday, then sent directly from the House Rules Committee to the House floor.

It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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Katie McKellar

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