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Many Feel "Snubbed" by Prison Relocation Commission

A majority of those who spoke at Tuesday night’s public hearing about where to put Utah’s state prison pleaded with the Prison Relocation Commission to recommend rebuilding it in Draper. But members of the commission are unwavering in their plan to move it elsewhere.

Eagle Mountain Resident Colby Curtis summed up most of the comments last night complaining the PRC has failed to adequately include the public in the selection process.

“We have tried to reach out to you only to be snubbed and the new reality is that there’s not going to be much more nice or much more civil to go around,” Curtis said.

This is the first and only official public comment period but there have been a handful of open houses in recent weeks. Salt Lake City council members who are opposed to the relocation took a break from passing a city budget to attend the meeting. Democratic State Representative Sandra Hollins, spoke against the Salt Lake City location, which is in her district. And Former state prison inmate Kenneth O’Rourke spoke in favor moving the prison, describing the poor conditions there.

“The light didn’t work and I was sitting there in the dark eating with my hands by myself and we would scale the walls and shove blankets in the window because it was in the middle of the winter and the water in the toilet was freezing,” O’Rourke said.

After dozens of people spoke at the meeting which lasted from 6-9 pm, Republican Representative Brad Wilson, a co-chair on the commission said the Draper site is not a viable option and the commission will not consider it so. He says the commission is taking the process very seriously.

“I feel good about the process,” Wilson said. “I think it’s been the most public and open process the state has ever had in locating a building and probably ever will have.”

The list of possible locations for the new prison includes Salt Lake City, Eagle Mountain, Grantsville and Fairfield. The Commission is expected to recommend a location August 1st. Governor Gary Herbert has said he’ll call a special session of the legislature to vote on the recommendation. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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