Penticton council voted unanimously Monday evening to advance two sites within the city’s boundaries as potential locations for a provincial correctional centre as part of a regional submission to bring the facility to the South Okanagan.
Council chose to support both the Campbell Mountain site and the site located near the Cantex gravel pit while rejecting the city works yard as a third option.
The three locations had been presented at a public input meeting on March 8. According to city CAO Annette Antoniak, an exit poll of 188 attendees found that roughly 46 per cent of respondents were in favour of building the correctional centre in Penticton while 54 per cent were against.
The city also held an initial better-attended meeting on the subject in January, said Antoniak, where close to 500 people showed up.
“Based on the comments there appeared to be 60 per cent in support and 40 per cent against a correctional facility in the region,” Antoniak said.
With all the respondents considered together, she concluded, the order of site selection had Campbell Mountain first, Cantex second and the city yard last.
Noting that he has been a strong advocate of attempting to bring the facility here from the beginning, Coun. Mike Pearce related the advice of a man who had worked at Prince George Regional Correctional Centre for 30 years.
“He absolutely told me that there was nothing to worry about whatsoever,” said Pearce. “He indicated that the (inmates) that were there would not want to hang around the place (after they get out) because there is more security and they are known here.
“He specifically indicated that the community would be safer with the facility in it.”
Coun. Andrew Jakubeit said the economic benefits to the city and the community would outweigh any negatives.
Jakubeit pointed to the $200 million of construction funding to build the project — $5.1 million of which, he said, will be building permits and development cost charges paid to the city — as well the roughly 260 jobs created at a pay of $50,000 to $70,000 a year including benefits.
“I find it somewhat ironic that the people complaining about (the $300,000 costs of) our potential waterfront walkway were the same people that later are saying, ‘Don’t build a correctional facility because we are a tourist town,’” he said, noting that the city received letters of support endorsing the region’s proposal from both the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Advisory Council.
“I think $1.5 million worth of taxes a year could go a long ways to helping some of our tourism enhancement initiatives.”
Coun. John Vassilaki said that tourism actually makes up only a small portion of the region’s economy anyway.
“Obviously tourism is not doing it for Penticton any longer,” said Vassilaki. “We have to do something to increase the economic stability of this community and this is one way of doing it where somewhere between 200 to 350 jobs come to Penticton … and there will be all the spinoff jobs going into the community.”
Coun. Dan Albas said that no matter what location is chosen, there are questions that will need to be answered to address some of the legitimate concerns of those opposed to building the facility in the Okanagan.
The Penticton Indian Band is expected to make a decision on Wednesday if they plan on submitting potential sites to build a jail.