Final Prison Price Tag Questioned After Swift Passage Of $100 Million Bond Bill

Mar 7, 2017

The Utah Legislature introduced and passed a bill this week that would allow the state to borrow an additional $100 million for the new state prison in Salt Lake City. But state representatives quickly received backlash as the bond did not receive any public hearing.

Within 24 hours of being publicly introduced, House Bill 460 had already passed both the House and the Senate. The bill authorizes the state to issue a $100 million bond to pay for infrastructure surrounding the new state prison. Initial news reports said the bond was proposed to meet the increasing price of the new prison, something the bill’s sponsor Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, refuted at a press conference.

“Let me be clear that this is not related to any cost overruns,” Froerer says. “This has entirely to do with infrastructure.”

Froerer and Senate sponsor Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, held the press conference Tuesday afternoon, after the bond bill had already passed both chambers.

They say the prison’s price tag has always been set at $550 million. But that price did not account for utilities and infrastructure outside the prison, such as roads and pipes—hence the new bond bill—says Marilee Richins with the Department of Administrative Services.

“That $550 million was the bricks and mortar, inside the fence cost,” she says.

The new prison will be built in the district of Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City. She says she still has questions about what the final cost of prison will be, and that’s why she wishes the bill had received a public hearing.

“I would rather there have been time for the public to know about this and to discuss it,” Hollins says.  

Rep. Gage Froerer says he released the bill late in the session because final budget numbers were not available until late in the session. But Rep. Sandra Hollins says she’ll keep watching the prison’s developments—and its cost.