Meetings shed light on proposed prison

Public open houses with the Ministry of Corrections Services next week in Penticton, Summerland and the Penticton Indian Reserve will unveil potential prison sites.

Public open houses with the Ministry of Corrections Services next week in Penticton, Summerland and the Penticton Indian Reserve will unveil potential prison sites.

While none of the potential sites for the 360-cell correctional facility have been officially announced by communities in the South Okanagan, Summerland Mayor Janice Perrino confirmed they have submitted the site of the failed golf course development known as Summerland Hills for the province to look at.

“Yes, it’s just a possible location,” said Perrino. “What we have done is sent five sites in total to the province to say are these possible? Whether they even will be considered, because the land might be too rough or whatever, is what we are waiting to hear back on. All five pieces will be unveiled at the open house on Monday night.”

The Summerland mayor also said at least one piece of property is from a private landowner. Officials with the ministry are expected to be in Summerland on Monday, although Perrino said she was unsure if they would be physically going to those potential locations to evaluate them.

The Monday meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Centre Stage Theatre, where the public will be allowed to ask questions of the government officials, and the municipality will be handing out a survey asking the public how they feel about the potential sites that the government has deemed acceptable for consideration of a prison.

A ministry spokesperson said it’s an important prerequisite that the jail is a project the public welcomes in its community. A recent poll conducted by the municipality showed 56 per cent support for a proposed provincial prison in Summerland.

Applications from communities that show interest in a correctional facility are being accepted by the province until April 1.

“Council’s next step will be to have a meeting about it and they may choose to submit a proposal. If they do that it will be with the City of Penticton and the Penticton Indian Band, who also may submit any land pieces that are found acceptable at that time,” said Perrino.

“Then we will wait and see if the province is interested in any of those pieces of land, considering that Lumby and Spallumcheen are still in the running. If the government does show they are interested, then at that point we will go to the citizens with a plebiscite possibly in the spring or early summer.”

The meeting in Penticton will be held on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. The ministry then will meet with the Penticton Indian Band community members on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the community hall.

“We are glad to have this opportunity and invite people out as the ministry staff will be available to answer questions. They will be able to answer a lot of those questions that people have had,” said Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton.

“It will be a good meeting and we are looking for public input, so we are encouraging everyone to come with their questions and concerns.”