We cannot imagine any site in Utah County that would be a viable location for the relocation of the Utah State Prison.
Neither of the proposed locations in Utah County fits the criteria the Prison Relocation Commission is using to qualify appropriate sites.
One possible site is located just east of Fairfield within Eagle Mountain’s city limits; the other is farther to the north between the Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain city borders, on unincorporated county land north of State Route 73.
There are four other sites under consideration in Salt Lake and Tooele counties
The commission is looking for 500 acres or more that must be close enough to a population center to provide a workforce and community services such as outreach and rehabilitation programs.
It must be suitable for the land and environment and have access to roads, water and power resources.
It must have reasonable development costs and it must have community acceptance.
Wherever the new prison goes it also must, by definition, be secure and safe for the community.
One other obvious criteria: It can’t be in its current location of Draper because — as proponents of the move argue — the current location is eating up valuable real estate as high-tech firms are moving in nearby.
Based on these factors, how could the commission possibly have identified Eagle Mountain or Saratoga Springs as viable options?
This is the fastest growing area in the state of Utah and one of the fastest growing in the country with high-tech firms and residential development exploding.
When Eagle Mountain Mayor Chris Pengra addressed the commission on Wednesday, he stated the obvious when he said this was waste of public money.
“Relocating the prison to this area would duplicate the exact same problems of the Draper prison inside of 30 years,” Pengra stated. “Let’s not make the same mistake twice.”
Eagle Mountain is expected to see a population of 100,000 by the year 2050. Those people will be working at the companies that have already identified the city as a great spot for the high-tech industry.
Plopping a state prison down in the middle of this booming city is the wrong idea and a sure way to kill the growth taking place.
“In short, my opinion is that relocating the prison to Eagle Mountain or Saratoga Springs would result in a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars,” Pengra stated.
We agree that the commission has a difficult job to do. It is looking for a site for the facility, but at the same time also is trying to improve prison programs, criminal justice policies and reduce prison population growth. It’s a massive undertaking that should not be complicated by selecting a poor location to begin with.
Owen Jackson from Saratoga Springs said there is no interest by city residents to have the prison move there.
“It doesn’t fit with the plan, with the current or proposed uses, nor does it make sense in one of the fastest-growing areas of the state,” Owen said.
Wherever the prison goes, it will end up paying no taxes to the city, making it a massive property tax loss.
We do, however, acknowledge that some benefits come with a prison. It means a fair number of jobs and supporting businesses nearby. Those jobs also tend to be stable and long-term.
Earlier this week, Gov. Gary Herbert said he was confident “that the commission will find a location that is acceptable to most people.”
Likewise, we are confident that once the commission carefully considers other locations, it will see that Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs do not make a good location for the state prison.