International firm to lead Okanagan jail build

Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie speaks at the 2012 announcement of the Okanagan Correctional Centre siting on his band
Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie speaks at the 2012 announcement of the Okanagan Correctional Centre siting on his band's land.
— image credit: Western News file photo

Five companies with international reach have been selected to make the Okanagan Correctional Centre a reality, but local officials are confident businesses here will be enriched too.

The B.C. government announced Friday that a consortium dubbed Plenary Justice has been invited to enter into final negotiations to deliver the 378-cell jail north of Oliver on land owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band.

“I’m just glad to see there’s finally some movement happening, because on these big projects… things don’t move as quickly as you would hope,” said Chief Clarence Louie.

“It’s good to see that they have finally chosen somebody and hopefully we can work with them.”

He said jail-related economic opportunities for band members and businesses will be the subject of upcoming meetings with the project team.

Construction of the $200-million jail is expected to begin this spring and wrap up in 2016.

“I’m very happy that BC Corrections is keeping to the timeline they laid out. It seems like everything’s progressing as they said it would,” said Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes.

He noted there have been “very, very few negative comments I’ve heard about this facility going in, and I think it’s going to be huge for Oliver. It’s going to be huge for the whole area.”

Holly Plante, president of the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce, expects an immediate benefit to the local economy as planners begin their advance work.

One of first large groups of visitors is expected in Oliver for a Jan. 30 meeting at which officials from Plenary Justice and the B.C. government will meet with local businesses to discuss available opportunities.

Plante said 230 local businesses that are already on the project registry will be invited, plus any others that sign up by Jan. 28. She’s been told similar infrastructure projects elsewhere have seen up to 40 per cent of capital costs spent with local companies.

The B.C. government has said the jail will create up to 1,000 direct and indirect construction jobs, plus 240 full-time corrections positions once it opens.

Five firms make up Plenary Justice: Plenary Group (Canada) Ltd., PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc., Honeywell Limited (Canada), DGBK Architects and Jug Island Consulting Ltd.

Plenary Group, which will lead the build, has offices in four countries, according to its website, and has previously arranged financing for B.C. projects like the Interior Heart and Surgical Centre in Kelowna.

A spokesperson for Plenary Justice declined comment Tuesday while his group works out a final agreement with the B.C. government.

The request for proposals for the Okanagan Correctional Centre indicated the government is seeking a 30-year agreement to finance, build and maintain the facility.

A similar pact was struck for a $90-million, 185-cell expansion of a jail in Surrey. That 30-year agreement will cost taxpayers $231 million over the life of it, according to B.C. government budget documents.

Justice Ministry spokesperson Cindy Rose said in a statement that details of the Plenary Justice contract will be made public when negotiations are complete, likely this spring.

She noted Plenary Justice scored the highest of three groups that were judged on their respective proposals’ design, construction, environmental considerations, affordability and financing.

Two other consortiums that were short-listed for the jail project could each be awarded up to $250,000 to compensate them for expenses incurred preparing their bids, Rose said.

B.C. NDP justice critic Kathy Corrigan said the design and build of the jail rightly belongs in the private sector, but the long-term operating and financing does not, since it will include a profit margin for Plenary Justice and higher cost of borrowing than what’s available to the B.C. government.

“The other thing creating these long-term contracts does is it takes away from the flexibility of a community or government to change a project if they don’t like the way it’s going,” said Corrigan.

“If the requirements for prisons changes in the Okanagan area, then there’s nothing that can be done about that for 30 years. We’re locked in, and our kids our locked in for 30 years to pay for these projects.”



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