A committee studying the relocation of the Utah State Prison has kicked off a months-long process to consider moving the facility out of a bustling tech corridor south of Salt Lake City.
The Utah State Prison occupies 700 acres in Draper where companies such as eBay Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have set up operations.
Supporters of relocation say the move will let the Draper site develop as a hub for software companies and other firms.
Wednesday's meeting of the prison relocation board marked the first gathering since lawmakers changed the board's membership and refined its mission.
The 11-member committee of elected officials and community members will recommend whether the state should move the prison, and if so, where the new site should be and how the current site should be developed.
The previous incarnation of the board conducted a similar but more general study of the issue last year.
That board took the temperature of development firms to see what kind of interest and approach there was in the project, and gathered updated data.
In December, the board recommended that the state pursue the project, which is estimated to cost as much as $600 million.
State Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, served on last year's board, and said during this year's legislative session that the overall cost of selling the land at the current location and constructing a more efficient prison that requires fewer guards will save the state money.
Together, the state could recoup about two-thirds of the relocation costs, he said.
Additionally, he said the state could see savings in the future since it will no longer need to pay maintenance at the current facility, which opened in 1951.
Before the prison moved to Draper about 60 years, ago, the state prison was located in what is now Sugar House Park. The state also operates the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison.
Leaders studying the issue have not zeroed in on a potential new site for the prison.