Herbert Signs Legislation to Begin Prison Relocation

Gov. Gary Herbert signed legislation on Thursday to move the state prison from Draper to Salt Lake City.

Lawmakers voted Wednesday to begin the process of moving the prison to a site near Salt Lake City International Airport.
"There is no perfect site," said Herbert at his monthly KUED press conference. "It's in a remote location, yet conveniently located for transportation, employees and healthcare. If I was going to pick a site among the finalists, I am persuaded the one west of the airport is best."
The Salt Lake City site will cost more initially to build than at any of the other possible locations, but will be cheaper to operate in the long term.
Salt Lake City leaders say they are considering some actions to stop the prison relocation including a lawsuit or voter referendum.
"I understand the emotions involved in this. It's not just black and white," said Herbert. "I hope, in the spirit of cooperation, we can come together to come up with a win-win situation for everybody."
Another concern is the environmental impact of the new facility. The land at the proposed site is soft and may require foundation supports that could stretch 12 stories underground to make the construction of the facility feasible.
Herbert says the environmental concerns at the new site are no greater than if lawmakers were to rebuild the prison on the Draper site.
Speaking of the Draper site, Herbert says the process to decide what to do with that land will be slow and deliberative.
"That is some of the most valuable real estate along the Wasatch Front. I don't think we need to do anything in a hurry."
Some opponents of the prison move are critical of the process. House Minority Leader Rep. Brian King (D-Salt Lake City) wondered aloud during floor debate on Wednesday if politics was the driving force behind the move. Herbert disagrees.
"This process started back during Gov. Jon Huntsman's tenure. Four years ago the Legislature came up with the Prison Relocation Commission. I'm confident the process has been thorough, fair and inclusive. They searched through as many as 60 locations and did the work as fairly as they could."
Once Herbert signs the resolution, the state can start the process of buying the 4,000-acre site. The proposed location, near I-80 and 7200 West could end up costing around $550 million when all is said and done.