Call it, perhaps, one last gasp.
State Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, has introduced a bill that would require the Prison Relocation Commission to go against its own name and consider the current Point-of-the-Mountain prison site as the place for the new prison’s construction.
“I don’t necessarily think” that the move-the-prison ship has sailed, said Nelson.
The Legislature “was premature” a year ago when it passed a resolution saying the prison should be moved, he added.
A UtahPolicy poll taken last year showed that a plurality of Utahns want the prison rebuilt where it is.
“The people are not for this” relocation, said Nelson.
“All I’m asking is for further debate – and answer the basic question is moving (the prison) better than what we have now?
While the PRC has not decided upon a preferred prison relocation site, a public opinion poll by UtahPolicy shows a plurality of Utahns think Tooele County would be the best place.
And as opposition grows to possible sites in northern Utah County and Salt Lake County – two counties with many votes in the Utah House and Senate – less-populated Tooele County is looking better and better politically.
Tooele County has two House members located in the county, Nelson and Rep. Douglas Sagers, R-Tooele, and no resident senator.
Most of the county is represented by Senate Majority Assistant Whip Pete Knudson, R-Brigham City, but he’s clear across the Great Salt Lake in eastern Box Elder County.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley, has a small eastern part of Tooele County.
So, politically speaking, in the Legislature Tooele County is considerably outgunned.
The PRC is looking at a site just south of the Miller Motor Sports Park near Grantsville, leaving Nelson standing against most of the other House members in the state.
Local officials and many Grantsville residents are strongly against having the new prison built in their backyard – even though it could bring a number of new jobs and related economic benefits.
But there are great benefits in rebuilding the prison in Draper, said Nelson – especially to employees and volunteers who may have moved into northern Utah County and southern Salt Lake County to be near the facility.
The Legislature has already taken a stand to relocate the prison – thus the middle name of the commission – “relocation.”
Nelson had opened a resolution file that would have asked the Legislature to rescind its relocation decision. But he abandoned that idea.
Instead, Thursday he introduced HB262, which would change the legal requirements of the PRC to include looking at the current Draper site as a possible place to rebuild the current prison.
However, legislators on the PRC have already moved past that, with PRC co-chairs Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, and House Majority Assistant Whip Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, and the commission’s private consultant saying time and again there are huge financial gains for the state if the prison is moved and the 700-acre Draper site redeveloped for commercial use.
“Let’s leave the door open” to keeping the prison in Draper, counter Nelson. “We made the relocation decision in relatively isolation a year ago – is it still a good idea today?”