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When talk about moving the state prison turned serious, many Utah legislators assumed it would land in Tooele County, where the Army destroys old munitions and a company stores low-level nuclear waste.

And county leaders were open to the idea as long as the state built the prison complex far out in the desert.

But that's not going to happen.

The Prison Relocation Commission instead has its eye on two other Tooele County sites, known largely by what they are next to — a major distribution center for Wal-Mart stores and the Miller Motorsports Park.

County commissioners and area mayors are fuming, and an active community group has popped up to oppose the locations, arguing that building on either site would suck valuable water from a dry region and continue the county's reputation as the place the Wasatch Front sends the stuff it doesn't want to deal with.

The commission will hold its second public information meeting, this one Thursday at Grantsville High. An open house starts at 4 p.m., and a question-and-answer session begins at 7 p.m. Opponents are holding their own rally in Grantsville.

Darrell Nielsen, a major landholder who has retired to St. George, sold property to Wal-Mart to build the distribution center and is now offering property behind that behemoth warehouse for the prison. The site is on a slope dotted with cows that's not too far from a small gathering of homes. Of the five sites on the short list, this is the one closest to where people live, but consultant Bob Nardi doesn't see that as too much of an issue.

He said if this site is picked, the state would grade the land and try to tuck the prison complex behind the distribution center, though it still would be visible from some neighborhoods. The state also would build a road to divert traffic away from the neighborhoods.

"There will be no impact on the community or this neighborhood," Nardi said on a recent trip to the location.

He said that because he believes a modern correctional facility looks more like a university building than the prison in Draper.

This site is about an hour's drive time from the current lockup.

The property near the Miller Motorsports Park is about 10 minutes closer.

The potential prison site is owned by family members of Larry H. Miller, though they don't actually own the land under the raceway. The family has decided not to renew its lease on the track, and county leaders are trying to find a new owner.

They had long envisioned a collection of restaurants, shops, movie theaters and hotels on the flat rectangular parcel that the Millers are offering for the prison. It is near State Road 112 and the Deseret Peak Complex, where children swim and play baseball and soccer.

The state needs only 500 acres of the 900 available acres and has promised to set the prison back from the rec center and the racetrack.

"We don't need frontage access," Nardi said.

That would likely mean the prison would be on what is now known as the "raptor track," a bumpy dirt road where people race their pickup trucks.

Outside of Tooele County, three other sites are under consideration for the new prison. One is west of the Salt Lake City International Airport, and two are in northern Utah County (one at the southern tip of Eagle Mountain and the other in tiny Fairfield).

The Prison Relocation Commission is expected to make a recommendation by Aug. 1. The Legislature would vote on it in subsequent weeks.

Prison relocation public information meetings

» Thursday, May 28, 2015, 4-9 p.m.

Grantsville High School

155 E. Cherry St. Grantsville

» Tuesday, June 2, 2015, 4–9 p.m.

Frontier Middle School

1427 Mid Valley Road

Eagle Mountain