Date: August 11, 2015
Sen. Jerry Stevenson, 801.678.3147, email@example.com
Rep. Brad Wilson, 801.425.1028, firstname.lastname@example.org
Prison Relocation Commission Recommends I-80/7200 West Site as Location for New Utah State Correctional Facility
Recommendation Goes to Governor and Legislature for Review and Approval
SALT LAKE CITY – The state Legislature’s Prison Relocation Commission (PRC) voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to recommend the I-80/7200 West site in northwest Salt Lake City as the location of the new Utah State Correctional Facility.
The PRC’s recommendation now goes to the Legislature and Governor Herbert. The governor may call a Special Session later this month for the Legislature to approve the site.
“The recommended site offers the greatest overall value for Utah residents and taxpayers; the best accessibility for employees, volunteers, and visitors; the lowest long-term operational costs; and the greatest opportunity for nearby compatible economic development,” said PRC Co-Chair Sen. Jerry Stevenson. “The site-selection process we have conducted over the past 18 months was unprecedented in state history and extremely thorough. PRC members are confident this is the right decision.”
PRC Co-Chair Rep. Brad Wilson added, “We are committed to working with Salt Lake City officials and other local officials to ensure that planning, site preparation, and construction processes, as well as long-term operations, are undertaken with their input and that their concerns are addressed as completely as possible. We are convinced that our site selection will produce a win-win situation for all.”
The commission also emphasized that the new correctional facility could be a catalyst significant economic development in Salt Lake City’s northwest quadrant. The state will purchase about 500 acres of the overall 4,000-acre site to be used for the new correctional facility. The purchase price is expected not to exceed $30 million; the state Division of Facilities and Construction Management is responsible for finalizing the purchase contract.
Complexities and benefits of the I-80/7200 West site
Of the four sites under consideration, the I-80/7200 West location will be the most expensive and complex to develop, but it also comes with the greatest long-term potential benefits. Upfront costs are largely due to the need to stabilize soft soils and extend utilities to the remote site. One of several proven soil-stabilization methods used on similar large projects in the Salt Lake area will be used and the facility will be built to the highest safety and security standards. In the 2015 General Session, the Legislature set aside $550 million to pay for the new correctional facility.
Despite relatively higher site preparation costs, PRC members were impressed by several significant benefits of the location, including:
- Substantial long-term operational savings compared to the other sites and the current location in Draper.
The I-80/7200 West site is projected to save the state at least $253 million in transportation costs over the life of the facility compared to other sites. The site will even cost $65 million less than the Draper facility to operate over its lifespan. This is largely because of the 1,700-1,800 monthly inmate transports the Department of Corrections must make to medical facilities, courts, and other services mainly located in northern Salt Lake County. Being much closer to important suppliers may also allow the state to use its large purchasing power to negotiate lower costs. Additionally, shorter distances traveled will result in reduced vehicle emissions.
- Unique mix of remoteness and proximity to key services.
The I-80/7200 West is in a very large, undeveloped area that is more than six miles from the nearest residents. At the same time, it is only 10 miles from downtown Salt Lake City courts and 15 miles from the University of Utah Medical Center. This advantage is unmatched by any other site, including the current Draper location.
- High potential for nearby development of compatible light-industrial and commercial uses.
Compared to the other sites, economic development potential near the Salt Lake City site is high. Construction of the correctional facility will likely serve as a catalyst to build compatible light-industrial and commercial buildings. Salt Lake City officials and landowners in the city’s northwest quadrant have long desired its development, but have been stymied for decades, largely because of the high cost of extending utilities to the remote area. These utilities will be extended to service the new correctional facility, and the state has the opportunity to share utility costs with other landowners interested in developing the area. The site is also much less likely to be surrounded by or adjacent to future incompatible development, as is the case at the current location.
- Two opportunities to expand the state’s economy.
Combined with the planned redevelopment of the current correctional facility location in Draper, the potential for compatible development near the I-80/7200 West site provides an economic bonus that will benefit Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, and the entire state of Utah.
Jeff Edwards, President and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCU), told the PRC that “The fourth site you are considering (I-80/7200 West) is very near an existing industrial development by the international airport. As such, it may have less impact on future development [than more-rural sites] since the prison will be joining an already developed area in the city’s industrial quadrant … Development in this area has been happening for more than 50 years and is part of the city’s master plan for industrial development.”
Edwards went on to say that redeveloping the site of the current correctional facility in Draper has similar potential to the creation of the University of Utah Research Park, starting 40 years ago. “If the Draper site is done properly, we could have an even greater benefit given its proximity to the explosive growth of tech companies already happening in southern Salt Lake County and northern Utah County … The state has an unprecedented opportunity to create an economic engine of enormous magnitude that will benefit Utahns for decades to come. I hope that the effort will be made to do something great.”
New facility supports criminal justice reform
The new Utah State Correctional Facility is a critical component in implementing the comprehensive set of criminal justice reforms approved in the Legislature’s 2015 General Session. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative is designed to reduce the number of people being sentenced to prison and to help keep those who do go to prison from committing new crimes or violating their parole when they are released. Over time, slowing the growth in the state’s prison population will reduce the need to make expensive additions to the state’s two correctional facilities.
“Nearly all inmates will eventually be released, but we historically have not done a good job of preparing them for reintegrating into society and leading lives that keep them from being incarcerated,” said Rollin Cook, executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections. “About two-thirds of prison admissions are former inmates and others who have violated their parole or probation. We’ve got to reduce that statistic with better treatment and programming and the new correctional facility will provide much-needed space for that kind of programming.”
At the current facility, space is so tight that some programming takes place in hallways. The new correctional facility will include substantially more room for substance-abuse and sexual-abuse treatment programs, mental health counseling, and job training.
Commitment to working with Salt Lake City
“As the state capital, Salt Lake City is unique because it hosts so many state facilities, which are exempt from paying property taxes,” said Rep. Wilson. “We realize the new correctional facility will add to that situation. We are committed to working closely with city officials to understand their needs and concerns regarding the new correctional facility and related issues, and to make the ongoing process as smooth as possible.”
Facts and figures
- About 360 acres are needed for the new complex, although adjacent land will be purchased for potential future expansion.
- The facility will be designed to house about 4,000 inmates, the same number as at the current facility.
- The elevation in the area of the new facility is about 4,215-4,225 feet above sea level, which is higher than the historic flood level.
- 51 percent of the Wasatch Front’s population and nearly two-thirds of current volunteers live within 25 miles of the new site, indicating the Salt Lake City site will be the least disruptive of any finalist site to individuals visiting the facility.
- The Legislature has set aside $550 million in cash and bonding authority to construct the new facility.
- Construction of the new facility is projected to take about three years.
In the 2014 General Session, 95 of 104 legislators voted to move the state prison from Draper and to construct a modern, efficient correctional facility elsewhere. At the same time, the Legislature also created the PRC to identify and recommend a location for a new Utah State Correctional Facility. Since then, the PRC has sifted through more than 50 sites voluntarily submitted by property owners to arrive at four finalist sites.
Over the past 18 months, PRC members, legislative staff, and site-selection consultants have held numerous meetings with landowners, elected and appointed city officials, social service providers, environmental groups, economic development agencies, various government agencies, and others, to acquire information on these four sites. The PRC also hosted three five-hour-long public open houses and question-and-answer sessions, and a public hearing, to better understand community concerns.
The PRC’s consultants were charged to provide the commission with an in-depth technical analysis of each finalist site, as well as how site challenges could be mitigated if needed. These include, among other things:
- Site acreage, configuration, and topography;
- Geotechnical conditions (soil type, proximity to fault lines, and potential for soil liquefaction);
- Environmental issues (flood hazard potential, presence of wetlands, potential special status species habitats, waste contamination, known cultural resources, presence of insect pests, air quality impacts from transportation of inmates, supplies, staff, and volunteers);
- Land use considerations (zoning and potential for conflict with current and future uses on surrounding properties);
- Utility services (availability of water, wastewater, electricity, natural gas, and telecommunications services);
- Access considerations (availability and condition of access roads, potential access improvements needed, proximity to employees, volunteers, inmate families, health care facilities, and courts);
- Property acquisition potential (site ownership, appraised land value, landowners’ motivation for selling, potential for below-market acquisition, and ease of acquisition)
- Capital costs (site preparation costs, mitigation costs for wetlands and/or cultural resources, and infrastructure costs for building roads and utilities);
- Community concerns (public opinion, potential sales and income tax revenue, ease of obtaining permits, ease of overall implementation of project, nearby economic development potential, and access for various user groups); and
- 50-year operational costs (long-term cost of utilities, long-term transportation costs for employees, volunteers, vendors, visitors, and for the Department of Corrections transporting inmates to and from medical facilities and courts).
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