Bidding Open on Study to Move State Prison

Bidding Open on Study to Move State Prison

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- State officials on Monday will begin accepting bids for a feasibility study to move the Utah State Prison from Draper to another location.

Gov. Jon Huntsman, who talked about the relocation of the prison in his 2004 campaign, wants the study complete by December, so lawmakers could address the issue in the 2006 Legislative session.

Three or four possible sites will be considered, along with the purchase price of land, construction and inmate relocation costs, and access to utilities and roads.

The study must also project how a move would increase or decrease daily prison operational costs, and evaluate the impact of a move on staffing, medical care and other services.

Other study considerations include the value of the land in Draper, projected use for that land if the prison is moved, and the impact of the prison on the zoning and master plans of Salt Lake County and the cities of Bluffdale and Draper, according to a copyright story in the Deseret Morning News Sunday.

The state has allocated $140,000 for the study, with the winner to be announced in June.

Steve Erickson, director of the Citizens Education Project called the bid release "sudden" and said the public should have the opportunity to comment on the scope of the study.

"To our knowledge (the Division of Facilities Construction and Management) did not even do the minimum due diligence by placing the offering in the public notices section of the newspapers," he said.

Jason Chaffetz, Huntsman's chief of staff said public comment from "all sorts of stakeholders, both inside and outside of government," will be considered in the study.

Huntsman would like to see the 54-year-old prison moved if it makes economic sense, although the state would not force a new prison on a community that doesn't want it, Chaffetz said.

Population growth in southern Salt Lake County no longer makes the area "necessarily an ideal spot for a prison," Chaffetz said.

Many communities around the state would like such a facility because it would be "a great economic development tool" and bring jobs to the surrounding community, Chaffetz said.

The feasibility study could show it makes no economic sense to move the facility, which was originally built to house just 400 inmates.

Today, Utah's prison population is roughly 6,000 with the majority of those inmates housed at the Draper site. A second prison is located in Gunnison and some inmates are housed in county jails.

Some estimates place the cost of moving the facility at up to $300 million. Proponents of moving the prison say the costs could be made up by development of the Draper land.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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