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Valentine hints prison to move

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OREM — The Utah State Prison could be on the move after all, Utah Senate President John Valentine said Tuesday.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and other state leaders have explored a relocation of the prison in recent years but found the project too expensive.

Valentine told a large group of Kiwanians that he couldn't say much but that there are a number of possibilities for moving the prison and that "I have a number of tricks up my sleeve."

"We may yet see the prison moved from the Point of the Mountain," Valentine said.

Valentine made the comments during a question and answer session after serving as the keynote speaker for a joint fundraising lunch of the Provo and Orem chapters of the Kiwanis Club. The lunch was hosted and paid for by the Outback Steakhouse and raised money to donate books to children through the First Books program.

Valentine provided a report card on the 2008 legislative session. Afterward, he fielded a question about the prison.

Valentine coyly said he knew a lot more than he could say. He was scheduled to meet later in the day with Tom Patterson, director of the Utah Department of Corrections.

A corrections spokeswoman, however, said there are presently no new plans in the works to move the prison.

"None of us around here know exactly what President Valentine is referring to," Angie Welling said Tuesday afternoon. "But the position we have taken and the position we'll continue to take is that department will always look at better ways to serve the state."

Department of Corrections officials have said rising inmate populations will eventually bring about the need for an expansion at Point of the Mountain or the building of a third prison. The department is in the midst of a site study for a possible third prison, Welling said. Building in Tooele County's Rush Valley or at a site near the Salt Lake Valley landfill are among the options being explored.

Welling said any changes at the prison will only be made if they are economically feasible.

A 2005 feasibility study said it would cost more to move the Utah State Prison from Draper than the state would gain from the sale and development of the 670 acres where the prison currently sits.

The $14,000 study, done by Wikstrom Economic and Planning Consultants Inc., said it would cost the state $461 million to relocate the prison.

The money it would cost to move the prison would not be recovered if the state were to sell the land and develop residential housing, which, according to the study, would be the most profitable use for the land.

The study found that the state would be able to recoup $51 million to $93 million of that cost.

E-mail: twalch@desnews.com

Contributing: Aaron Falk