Dear Friends and Neighbors,

For week three I want to start by sharing something personal. For the past year, I have focused on improving my overall health. Serving in the legislature and managing a local business is stressful and it took a toll on my overall health. I was originally motivated by the Active and Healthy program started by Councilman Mike Mendenhall and Spanish Fork City, but I honestly didn’t know if I could do it. I set to work, however, and, in the end, improved my health and lost weight.

This Saturday, I participated with my wife Brandi in a Spartan Super Race. It was a terrific experience for us to share together, and felt like a reward for all the work that went into preparing for it.

The experience reminded me that we can do hard things. It requires patience and persistence, but if we invest the time and effort, we can see positive results. I hope to continue to apply that lesson in my life and as your representative.

Back to the legislature! I am including my survey one more week in case you still want to weigh in on issues facing our state. I am a better representative when I hear from you and understand your concerns.


I have attached my weekly video below. In the video I address our budget, funding recommendation for the Mountainland Applied Technology College, the formation of an exploratory committee to seek the Olympic Games, and a resolution to send the Martha Hughes Cannon statue to the United States Capitol. I have included the video link below.

Mike McKell Facebook Week 3 Video

Prison Budget

It was recently claimed that the cost of relocating the state prison from Draper to Salt Lake City was hidden from the public and there seemed to be confusion about the procedures for determining what the actual price tag would be. It’s important for the public to understand that the process was the same one used for any state building and there were no “hidden” costs, though there were various bids over time.

When the initial decision was made to move the prison, two significant findings drove that determination. Repairs to the current structure were estimated to cost at least $238 million, and something needed to be done. Additionally, relocation would position the Utah economy to realize billions of dollars of new economic benefit. It was clear from these findings that the advantages of moving the prison would far outweigh the costs and consequently, the decision was made to move forward.

Initial estimates from 2015 ranged from $546 to $683 million, depending on the ultimate size of the new prison but not including site-specific costs. That same year, the Legislature allocated $550 million, largely intended to pay for the land and buildings but not those as-yet undetermined site-specific costs. It was always anticipated that additional appropriations would be necessary once the site was selected and those costs could be determined.

Later that year the Legislature approved the Prison Relocation Commission’s recommendation to move the prison to Salt Lake City, and it was estimated that the site would require an additional $154 million.

In early 2016, an architect working with DFCM engaged the Department of Corrections to determine priorities and create a program to meet justice reinvestment goals and national standards, in addition to addressing potential future needs of a growing population. This common practice generally exceeds anticipated budgets but is an important part of the process. In this case, it resulted in an estimate of $860 million, which led to an exhaustive, line-by-line review that ended with a new $700 million estimate.

During the 2017 legislative session, another $100 million was authorized in bonding to meet the needs of the Salt Lake City location, bringing the total allocation to $650 million. Later that year, in an effort to continue reducing costs, project managers right-sized the space to meet the appropriation. Those changes resulted in the current estimate of $692 million, only $9 million more than the upper end of the original estimates, even when including site-specific costs that weren’t contained in those 2015 numbers.

We are still at the beginning of a very long and involved process, and the current estimate of $692 million is just that, an estimate. Over the last three years, as we have continued recovering from the Great Recession, the construction industry has realized an average 8.6 percent rate of inflation and risks of cost escalation remain. Numerous individuals and organizations will continue to review and challenge numbers throughout the process, including DFCM, BDK (the consultant for the state) the contractor team and the governor’s office, to ensure that taxpayer dollars are well spent.

Operation Rio Grande Update

On August 14, 2017, an extensive collaborative effort to combat lawlessness in the Rio Grande area and lend a helping hand to those in need was launched. On February 5, a six-month update was given on the progress of the program. Operation Rio Grande (ORG), as it has been called, has been shown to have substantially improved the area, both for those seeking services and those who live and work there. Lives have been changed as more resources have been made available for those wanting help and as authorities have appropriately dealt with the drug dealers and cartels who would take advantage of them.

“There’s help out there, and Operation Rio Grande really put me in the avenues to get that help,” said one beneficiary of ORG, Rich Duprez.

Since the launch of the operation:

  • Nearly 200 new addiction treatment beds, and counting, have been created
  • About 70 people have entered treatment through Salt Lake County’s new specialty drug court program.
    More than 3,400 safe space cards issued.
  • One hundred thirty-three behavioral health assessments have been completed.
  • Sixteen people have been placed into sober living and seven new beds have been created, with more on the way.
  • Of individuals referred to short-term housing, 44 have been housed, 121 have been diverted from emergency shelter and 189 are receiving housing case management.
  • Fourteen individuals have been employed through the Dignity of Work program, 100 have completed employment plans, 33 are work ready and 48 job listings have been posted by participating employers.
  • Over 800 individuals assessed during ORG have now been enrolled in Medicaid, which includes coverage for behavioral/mental health treatment.

Though we have made significant strides, it does not end here. The state is committed to securing funding, improving public safety, offering support to those struggling with mental illness and drug addiction to help them get back on the path of self-reliance, and preparing and connecting individuals with housing and job opportunities.

Winter Olympics

In 2002, Utah successfully hosted the Winter Olympics and has since maintained the facilities built for those games. This past week, the House and Senate passed SCR 9, Concurrent Resolution on Utah’s Olympic Exploratory Committee and its Efforts to Explore Hosting of a Future Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and the governor signed it February 6. In a press conference the next day, the committee expressed that Utah is “ready, willing, and able” to host the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games once again, in either 2026 or 2030.

Get Involved this Year!

Please consider getting involved this session by attending a town hall meeting. Breakfast will be provided for FREE thanks to the generous support of Scott Barlow and Revere Healthcare! Details are set forth below:

Bills and Bagels
February 24, 2018
7:30 AM – 9:00 AM
Location: Nebo School District Office Building
350 S Main, Spanish Fork, UT 84660

Thank you for the privilege of representing House District 66. I look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions during the legislative session, please feel free to contact me any time. I can be reached on my cell phone at (801) 210-1495. If for any reason you are unable to contact me during the legislative session, my intern Seth Gillespie can be reached at (385) 441-0587 or


Mike McKell
Utah House of Representatives
State House District 66

(801) 210-1495

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