The wait for disclosing the site in the region being considered for a potential prison will over on March 8.
Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton said the solicitor general’s office will be on hand at a public meeting on that date to provide answers as to which properties in the region they feel will be best suited for a 360-cell correctional facility. The ministry will be scouting potential locations before the meeting to evaluate the properties.
“We want to present the ministry with several good choices of properties, then let them make the decision which they feel will be the more applicable ones. The ministry is aware of some of the areas, not properties, that we have been considering,” said Ashton. “It is my understanding also that there may be private lands involved in this. There are individuals that may have private land that may be applicable. Staff has been approached by agents for private properties on this issue and I can’t say what they are.”
Meetings are set for March 8 at 6 p.m. at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, March 7 at 6:30 p.m. at Summerland’s Centre Stage Theatre and March 9 at 7 p.m. at the Penticton Indian Band’s Community Hall.
Ashton said locations have not been public knowledge to date because the municipalities, RDOS and Penticton Indian Band wanted to get feedback from the public and not have a not-in-my-backyard reaction
While location has been one of the concerns brought forward at the public meetings held within the municipalities, it also came up at a Penticton Indian Band community meeting on Monday. Chief Jonathan Kruger said the four-hour meeting with band members ended with a motion passed that they would like more information from the solicitor general.
“We all have the same concerns, even in our community it seems very similar to the general public in the South Okanagan,” said Kruger. “I’m so proud of my community for talking about a really serious issue, and I believe it was handled with so much respect last night. It was good to hear valid comments from young people, older people, on all aspects.”
Kruger said information they had about the prison went out to the community via a newsletter a few weeks ago and created a lot of conversations amongst band members leading up to the community meeting. He said there was a mixed reaction of people speaking for and against the idea of a prison at the meeting, but mostly those who wanted more information.
“One of the things that we all noticed is that there needs to be more information, and the community didn’t like the timeline, they thought it was rushed,” said Kruger. “There were comments and concerns about it being on band land, but again they feel they need more information. Those kinds of comments and concerns were talked about with the limited information they felt they had about what kind of impacts that would be on location.”
So far, the PIB chief and council has not taken a stance on whether they are for or against the prison.
“We are following what the people say. This is a big issue and we felt we needed to get the input from the community to move forward or not. We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we let this pass by. Eventually, when we get more information from the solicitor general, we may talk about location with the community. First we have to get these questions answered.”
According to Kruger, another topic touched on at the PIB community meeting was what kind of jobs the prison would produce for Penticton Indian Band members.