SALT LAKE CITY — A new study offers some insight into how five locations chosen earlier this year as the top contenders a relocation of the state prison.
The report from Utah's Prison Relocation Commission explains the ranking system used by the commission but doesn't change the five locations currently under consideration.
Those sites are a Utah County location southwest of Eagle Mountain, a spot in South Lake County near Salt Lake City International Airport, a location near the Miller Sports Park in Tooele County, another Utah County location south of Eagle Mountain and the Grantsville Industrial Park near Walmart in Tooele County.
The Prison Relocation Commission has looked at more than 40 sites since last summer in order to replace the aging 700-acre Utah State Prison in the Salt Lake City suburb of Draper.
Although each location was assigned a numerical rank to make it easy for the commission to select the most promising sites, the top five locations will now have a clean slate, said consultant Bob Nardi, whose firm helped prepare the report.
"Those five sites are all starting at the same point and at this point there's no one better than the other. They're all going through the same evaluation process," Nardi said.
The numbers, however, explain how the five were selected.
The rankings were assigned based on proximity to staff and services, land characteristics, the availability of infrastructure and other factors.
In the report, a site known as "Cedar Valley South" — the location near Fairfield and southwest of Eagle Mountain — rose to the top of the list.
That spot is accessible State Highway 73 and received a high ranking in part because of its large land area and easy travel to Salt Lake City and Draper.
The isolation of the Cedar Valley South site means that the land is expected to be less expensive than other locations, but it also means extending infrastructure will likely cost more.
In contrast, the report says the cost of acquiring land at near the Salt Lake City Airport is expected to be higher than at other locations. But the spot's proximity to I-80 makes it appealing.
The industrial park in Tooele County boasts a large, flat tract of land that would minimize the cost of preparing the site and is close to major highways.
Earlier in the screening process, the commission considered how community leaders and the public at each location would react to a prison being built nearby. But that factor was eliminated in the most recent site evaluation.
The report says the community-acceptance component was removed "because it is expected that all potential host communities will rate equally low" with a score of zero.
The other Utah County location and the spot near Miller Sports Park were ranked in an earlier report.
The airport site was ranked earlier but has since been expanded.
Associated Press writer Michelle L. Price in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.
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