Plain City lawmaker: State prison relocation sites no problem

Feb 19 2013 - 8:56pm

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Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City
Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City

SALT LAKE CITY -- Sen. Scott Jenkins doesn't think the issue of potentially relocating the state prison will come down to the real estate mantra of location, location, location.

Jenkins, R-Plain City, is sponsoring legislation to create a Prison Land Management Authority as a precursor to possible relocation plans.

SB 72 would give the group the power to seek bids and select a proposal to forward to the governor and the Legislature. The bill was considered by a legislative committee late Tuesday afternoon.

"We've been asked, where are you going to put it? There are lots of viable sites. I don't view that as a big issue," Jenkins said Tuesday.

Prison relocation plans have been estimated to cost in the range of half a billion dollars, but Jenkins thinks the economics of relocation are working in the state's favor.

He estimates more than two-thirds of the relocation funds could be generated from the sale of the Draper property where the prison is currently located and the economic jolt that could create.

"When you look at other tools available through tax increments, we can save some of the maintenance. It pencils out quite nicely," said the Plain City lawmaker.

He said current interest rates are also working in the state's favor.

Pressed on a possible time frame for the relocation, Jenkins said it would be great if the group could come back with a recommendation by the 2014 legislative session, but he termed that probability a "little unrealistic."

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said she is not opposed to moving the process forward quickly, but said her preference would be that any proposal be subject to the legislative process, given the amount of money that could be involved.

Jenkins said the social ramifications of moving the prison are also being weighed as part of relocation plans. He said close to 1,600 volunteers as well as 2,000 employees are at the prison, all of whom would be affected by a move.

"We are very, very aware of that," Jenkins said of the social impact. "We worry about it a lot."

Jenkins has been part of a committee set up in 2011 to weigh the impact of moving the prison.

The measure he is sponsoring would set up a management authority of 10 members.

The bill also includes language that would allow 50 percent of every dollar of sales and use tax revenue generated by developments on the old prison site to be dedicated to the Prison Land Management Authority.

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