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The favored site for a new Utah State Prison may well be known Tuesday. The Prison Relocation Commission's leaders have called a meeting that day, believing they have the information needed to pick one of the four sites under consideration. Their recommendation will then go to the Legislature and Gov. Gary Herbert for a final decision.
"This has been an unprecedented and intricate process that has become very emotional for residents of the four communities," said Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, a co-chairman of the commission. "We owe it to them and to the rest of the state to arrive at a decision as quickly as possible without compromising the integrity of a very complex site-review process."
The four sites are in Salt Lake City, Eagle Mountain, Fairfield and Grantsville.
The commission's seven voting members are state lawmakers. They are weighing proximity to the metro area, construction expenses and long-term costs such as transportation and water.
None of the mayors or city council members in the cities under consideration wants the prison, and active community groups opposing the relocation have formed through Facebook. These opponents argue the state has not thoroughly examined leaving the prison in Draper.
The commission is bound by state law to pick only from the four sites under consideration, and while most have said they are keeping their options open, it's clear that the capital-city site, west of the Salt Lake City International Airport, is getting plenty of attention.
"We know it is in the top list," said Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker. "All I can tell you is the council and I have been exploring all of our options to keep it out of Salt Lake."
He said that included a legal review.
Becker calls the site, owned largely by Rio Tinto, "terrible" and says there are environmental reasons and cost concerns that should force the commission to look elsewhere.
The Salt Lake City site is expected to be the most expensive to build on. The soil near the Great Salt Lake lacks solid bedrock, making construction more difficult. But it is also believed to be the cheapest to operate, in part because it is closer to courts, hospitals, vendors and volunteers.
The cheapest site to build on is believed to be the one at the southern tip of Eagle Mountain in northern Utah County.
The commission has relied on outside consultants to compare the sites and the original goal was to make a recommendation by Aug. 1. The panel extended that deadline to Oct. 1 to give its consultants time to finish reports on geotechnical, environmental and utility reviews. Those studies will be wrapped up in the next few days.
Regardless of the site selected, the plan is to spend roughly $550 million to build a 4,000-bed prison in roughly three years.
At that point, the prison in Draper would be shuttered and turned into a high-tech business park. That development process has not yet begun.
Herbert has said he will call a special legislative session in the next few months to vote on the commission's recommendation.