Prison plan in holding pattern

The Solicitor General’s Ministry is keeping mum on when they’re going to be ready to announce the location of the new correctional centre for the Okanagan.

The Solicitor General’s Ministry is keeping mum on when they’re going to be ready to announce the location of the new correctional centre for the Okanagan.

Some seven weeks after the date Solicitor General Shirley Bond expected to have the results from the site evaluation team in front of her, the official word from her ministry staff is that they are still in the process of evaluating the four remaining sites.

“I am hopeful to have a recommendation provided to me before the middle of June,” said Bond, in an interview with the Western News in early May.

In the meantime, Penticton removed itself from the running after an opinion poll — in which less than one-quarter of eligible voters took part — came out against locating the new correctional facility inside the city’s borders.

According to Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff, that means the city is out of the running, leaving only four communities that have said they want the prison.

“My understanding is that what’s left is the Penticton Indian Band, the Osoyoos Indian Band, the District of Summerland and I think Lumby was still in the running,” said Barisoff, who added he doesn’t have any information about when the decision will be made.

“I just put a call in to the solicitor general myself yesterday, to find out for myself,” said Barisoff. “I know that a few weeks back, they were still analyzing all the proposals and doing whatever, but I don’t know exactly where they’re at.”

According to a spokesman from the Solicitor General’s Ministry, “this is a historic, long-term investment for both the province and the final chosen community and we need to give all of our options careful consideration to ensure we get it right.”

Barisoff agrees with that evaluation; he said the process to get another major correctional institution somewhere outside the Lower Mainland has been in the works for many years. He’s not surprised the ministry wants to “make sure that all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted” before they settle on the final location, taking into account many factors, like proximity to courthouses, airports and other facilities.

“It is a $200 million-plus project,” said Barisoff. “It’s a huge project, you don’t often see many projects like that other than a major road. Even then, something like the highway between Summerland and Peachland was only $50 million. This is four times the amount.”