This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Most Utahns don't believe state leaders made the right call when they decided to build a new prison west of Salt Lake City International Airport, according to a new poll.
But state Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, who helped lead that effort, says the results are largely irrelevant.
"We've moved past that," he said Monday, noting that he hasn't read the results of the survey commissioned by UtahPolicy.com. "I guess the next move, if people are really that adamant about this, is to kick the bums out of office, make it an election issue."
Some prison opponents with the group Keep It in Draper will try to do just that, focusing largely on Gov. Gary Herbert, though there has been little groundswell more than a year before the 2016 election.
By the time those votes are cast, the state is likely to have settled on and purchased the specific parcel west of the airport, and hired a contractor to lead a project that will cost about $550 million, according to initial estimates.
The new survey included the cost of the project in its question and then gave four options.
The percentage of those who thought the prison should be rebuilt where it is in Draper and those who agree with the Legislature's decision to move it near the airport tied at 31 percent. After that, 15 percent said the prison is fine as it is and shouldn't be rebuilt at all, 13 percent said it should have been moved to a site other than Salt Lake City and the remaining 11 percent either didn't know or had an alternative answer.
So that means 59 percent of respondents didn't favor moving the prison to the state's capital. A plurality (46 percent) opposed moving the prison at all.
The poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, took place between Sept. 8 and Sept. 17 and involved 604 Utahns. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The poll found that Republicans were more likely to back the move to Salt Lake City than Democrats, though even that support is below 40 percent.
Stevenson said he hasn't felt the level of opposition registered in the polls when talking to the public, and he noted, "The Legislature certainly didn't feel that way."
On Aug. 19, the Legislature approved the move with supermajorities of 62-12 in the House and 21-7 in the Senate. Herbert signed the resolution the next day.
But throughout the past year, as the Prison Relocation Commission and the Legislature debated the decision, Stevenson and other lawmakers saw the rise of opposition groups, largely in the handful of cities under serious consideration and a deep-seated feeling that the move had more to do with benefiting contractors and developers than the public.
Salt Lake City leaders, including Mayor Ralph Becker, opposed the move and have said they would consider an environmental lawsuit to halt construction.
At this stage, the state has not signed agreements with any contractors to build the prison or to develop the current 680-acre prison site in Draper. It will likely take at least until late 2019 before inmates would be moved to a new lockup.