Utah House OKs plan for prison relocation panel

This Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 photo shows the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah. Utah lawmakers are advancing a plan to relocate the state prison in southwest Salt Lake County. The Utah State Prison occupies about 700 acres in Draper where tech companies such as eBay and Microsoft have opened offices. Gov. Gary Herbert has called on lawmakers to fund the relocation so the corridor can develop as a technology hub. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – The Utah House approved legislation Wednesday that could lead to the relocation of the state prison.

The facility now occupies about 700 acres in Draper in Salt Lake County, where tech companies such as eBay and Microsoft have opened offices.

For several years, lawmakers have been weighing the relocation, which could cost as much as $600 million. Gov. Gary Herbert supports the move so the current site can develop as a technology hub.

The legislation approved Wednesday with a 51-20 vote directs an existing prison redevelopment committee to review offers from companies seeking to build a new prison or develop the old site. Proposals could not include an option for a privately run prison.

The proposal now advances to the Senate for consideration.

The plan was revised several times as it ran into opposition from lawmakers concerned that it has moved too quickly and could waste taxpayer money.

The same committee studied the issue last year and released a report recommending the state pursue the relocation.

Rep. Brad R. Wilson, R-Kaysville, co-sponsored the current legislation that also would give the governor more discretion over the project. However, any plan the committee recommends must be approved by the Legislature and the governor.

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