Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s staff held a press conference Thursday to address concerns about the rising cost of building the new state prison.
Paul Edwards, the governor’s chief of staff told reporters that relocating the prison from the Point of the Mountain in Draper to Salt Lake City may provide one of the greatest returns on investment the state has ever seen. The move frees up prime real estate in Draper, which is a bourgeoning tech hub. But none of this, he said, justifies overspending or lack of transparency in the process.
“Our administration is committed to landing this project on time and on budget,” Edwards said. “And if we discover the need to revisit aspects of this project that would affect either its timeliness or its cost, we’ll quickly communicate such adjustments with the Legislature and with the public.”
Three years ago, the Utah Prison Relocation Commission said the prison would cost $550 million. And that’s how much the legislature set aside. Today it’s closer to $700 million.
That doesn’t include rising building costs. The governor’s staff said it’s unclear how much construction will cost until the bids come back in.
In order to pare down the price tag, the state is already planning 400 fewer prison beds than the Department of Corrections projected it needed by 2022. That’s one year after the prison is scheduled to be completed.