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Prison plan backed

Dear Editor:

I attended the forum on the corrections facility that Penticton held Jan. 31 to get a feel for people’s feelings towards the idea.

Several hundred people attended the forum. Sixty per cent of the 30 speakers were in favour. Most indicated the need of stable jobs in the area and the need of a significant clean economic engine.

Several speakers also indicated that they had lived in cities where correctional facilities were located; some said that they really did not notice that facility was located in their town. Location was a concern.

Those against, mentioned the image of the community when such a strong effort is made to promote the area for tourism. But overall the need for a place that generated the potential for jobs was critical to create opportunities for young people.

In my opinion, the south end of the Okanagan needs another steady economic anchor that is not seasonal and is not subject to economic downturns.

To meet the Solicitor General’s requirements for sighting the facility, especially to come close to the minister’s travel time of approximately 70 minutes for escorting prisoners to Kelowna and Vernon, it has to be located either in Penticton or Summerland.

Summerland may have the best site. We have several that might be suitable, and at the same time are not especially visible.

It could easily be just a quiet economic engine.

Servicing will not be an issue when accumulated grants in lieu of property taxes are considered.

The fact sheet supplied to the attendees indicated that there would be about 240 correctional staff, with additional contracted staff of nurses, doctors, dentists, food service personnel, trades people and counsellors. There would be 400 to 500 direct construction jobs and as many as 600 indirect jobs during construction. The annual ongoing payroll would be approximately $17 million.

The facility would have a value of approximately $200 million, and generate between $500,000 to $1.5 million in grants in lieu of property taxes from the provincial government. This is equivalent to property taxes from 500 to 1,500 homes valued at $400,000 each.

For various reasons, the Kelowna site proposed several years ago is not all suitable. Therefore a facility with an impact such as this merits a serious proposal from the South Okanagan.

I feel it is so critical that the communities of the South Okanagan should stand together behind the best site.

Peter Waterman