Provincial reps to tour sites for prison

  • May. 16, 2011 7:00 p.m.

Provincial bureaucrats who will help decide whether Summerland will become the future home of a proposed correctional facility in the Southern Interior will be touring the community tomorrow as part of a scouting trip through the region as Victoria prepares to make its final choice.

The provincial government plans to build a 360-cell correctional facility and several South Okanagan including Summerland have submitted bids as future locations for the proposed facility which will house individuals awaiting trial or serving sentences for crimes with sentences of two years less than a day.

If Summerland were to win the bidding process against its regional competitors including Penticton and the Osoyoos Indian Band, the facility would be located at the north entrance of the community off Highway 97.

The provincial government — which has long tried to place a facility in the southern part of the province because of overcrowding elsewhere — plans to announce its final choice no later than the end of next month.

Mayor Janice Perrino said the delegation representing Solicitor General Shirley Bond has made plans to meet with Summerland staff Tuesday afternoon. The meeting will most crucially include a tour of the property.

The arrival of the  delegation from Victoria signals that the selection process is approaching its final crucial phase.  This prospect has in turn generated a host of responses from political leaders within the various communities.

Some local elites are balking at the possibility that their respective community might soon be known as a prison town, while others have put on the political equivalent of a full-court press to make that prospect a practical reality.

Pressure from the public as well as prominent city councillor Garry Litke has recently forced Penticton to schedule a binding referendum on the question of whether that community would welcome such a facility.

Other regional leaders, meanwhile, are pushing hard for the facility. According to the Oliver Chronicle, a delegation that included Oliver Mayor Pat Hampson, local MLA John Slater and Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie recently visited Victoria to directly meet with Bond. While reported assessments of said meeting differ, it could have given the OIB bid the inside track.

“We left the meeting feeling that we place highest on the shortlist at this time,” Hampson told the Chronicle.

Summerland’s response appears to fall somewhere in between these two approaches.

While provincial staff have received a presentation from the district, key officials (such as Perrino) have not made their case directly in Victoria.

The district, like Penticton, has also promised to consult the community through a referendum, but until after it knows whether it has secured on the first two places on any provincial shortlist to save the costs associated with a referendum.

Perrino said the district has done an “excellent job in showcasing our community” in arguing that visiting Victoria would not have made a difference.

Summerland, she said, has put together an “excellent bid” and will now “let the process take place.”

Penticton, meanwhile, has announced it would cancel the referendum if Victoria were to have announced a winner before June 18, the date of the vote.