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A panel designated to recommend where to build a new Utah State Prison is going to miss its Aug. 1 deadline, extending a politically contentious process by at least one month, maybe two.
The culprit? Reams of technical reports on everything from road access to wilderness characteristics on the four potential sites.
"There is just too much information for the commission to digest," said Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, who is the co-chairman of the Prison Relocation Commission. "We want to make a thorough and thoughtful decision, not a quick decision."
The commission will gather next Thursday to receive a "data dump" from consultants, which will essentially give them an overview on the technical aspects of building a prison on each of the locations, along with an estimate for how much it will cost.
The Legislature wanted to receive the commission's final recommendation by Aug. 1, but built in a process to delay if necessary. Wilson said the commission will vote to extend the deadline at least 30 days and possibly longer.
The sites under consideration include land west of the Salt Lake City International Airport, at the south end of Eagle Mountain, near the tiny town of Fairfield and behind the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Grantsville.
None of the cities want the prison, which is now located in Draper. Organized opposition groups, often including mayors and city council members, are fighting to keep it out of their area.
The commission, including Wilson, argue the decision will come down to the technical details, essentially where it will be easier and more affordable to build a $550 million, 4,000-bed prison.
Consultant Bob Nardi, who is leading the review, said his team has not uncovered any fatal flaws for any of the remaining sites as of Wednesday. But then again, he has much more work to do. He is looking at topography, energy costs, wetlands reports, traffic surveys and more.
Nardi will give the commission, comprised of state lawmakers, an overview, but it will take a few weeks to finalize the documents, expected to run into the thousands of pages.
The commission will get its overview in a public meeting at the state Capitol that begins at 9 a.m. Thursday and Wilson knows it will likely lead to plenty of speculation of where the prison may ultimately end up, particularly because consultants for the first time will put price tags on each location.
"It is going to be a little uncomfortable for the commission members to see it for the first time when the public sees it," Wilson said. "We've been very open and transparent and will continue to be."
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