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House Speaker Greg Hughes, the leading force behind the effort to move the prison out of Draper, has given up his seat on the Prison Relocation Commission, saying he no longer has the time.

Instead, he tapped Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, the House majority whip, to take his place.

"Due to the increasing demand on my schedule, I have decided it would be better to appoint someone to take my position," said Hughes, who was sworn in Monday as the House speaker. "I'm confident the PRC will continue their process and make a decision that will be in the best interest for the state of Utah."

So far the commission has focused on three potential locations for a new penitentiary, though it is still looking for other prospects. The three areas now under consideration are in Salt Lake City, Tooele County and Eagle Mountain in Utah County. Residents and elected officials in each of those areas have railed against a proposed prison and some have criticized Hughes' involvement on the commission.

Hughes represents Draper, which currently hosts the prison, while no other member of the commission represents an area that would be impacted by the move.

Hughes has said his participation was not a conflict because the Legislature has already voted to move the prison, though it has yet to provide the funding.

Members of the group No Prison in Saratoga Springs or Eagle Mountain has been particularly frustrated that there was no Utah County representation on the commission. That has now changed with Gibson's involvement.

"I have a big learning curve," said Gibson. "I'm not as up to date on the issues, obviously, as everyone else."

Gibson said he sees "real value economically for the state" to relocate the prison.

Donna Burnham, a member of the Eagle Mountain City Council, posted on Facebook that she believes Gibson will be an ally in trying to find a place other than in Utah County. Donna Burnham, a member of the Eagle Mountain City Council, posted on Facebook: "I think this will be positive. Gibson does not support a prison in Utah County."

Hughes has been critical of the three potential prison sites, which were selected with the help of hired consultants, and has said he hopes a more remote location that would draw less public outcry could be identified.

The commission will have its next meeting on Feb. 6 and it is possible that the list of sites could be expanded at that time.