A bitterly cold wind wasn’t enough to keep a large and vocal crowd from converging on Lumby’s village office Monday.
Between 250 and 300 people gathered to express their opposition to Lumby possibly becoming the site of a new provincial correctional centre.
“We understand the need for a tax base but a prison is just a short-term option,” said resident Mark Piorecky.
“We should be looking at other (economic) options. Do we want to reinvent ourselves as a prison town?”
Harald Hatterscheidt is concerned a facility will increase crime and demands on social services.
“How will a prison be a benefit for people who came here because it’s a small community?” he said.
Paul Fisher, with Lumby Concerned Citizens, was pleased with the turnout.
“It far exceeds our estimations,” he said of the rally, which began before a council meeting. “If they (council) have any political savvy, they will listen to this.”
During a presentation to council, Fisher blasted the politicians.
“We expect you to represent all of your constituents. And we expect you to have taken a more impartial stance on this proposal,” he said.
“We are disappointed in the way council has handled this critical issue because we now have a community divided and becoming more divided.”
Fisher is concerned that a prison could place Lumby residents at risk.
“Can we expect that this proposed remand centre would house those accused of murder, sexual assault, gang activity, extortion, theft and the list goes on,” he said.
“The village will have no say over the prison population nor will it have control over the designation of the prison. Is it possible the prison could increase in size physically?”
The provincial government is proposing a 360-cell jail but Fisher says prisons typically run 180 per cent over capacity.
“At this rate, this will be like building a village within a village.”
Fisher also questioned how a prison would impact water and sewer infrastructure and property values.
“Are you willing to gamble with the future value of taxpayers’ property?” he asked council.
While there was a large crowd opposing a prison Monday, council was informed by staff that 144 letters in favour of a jail have been received.
“A few years ago, we almost lost our high school to closure and thousands of people attended the public meeting. The most vocal said they would do anything to save the school,” said Paula Harned, a Lumby resident, in a letter to council.
“Now, five years later, the only change there has been is a further reduction of jobs and students. Now, many of the people who were so vocal then are just as vocal now saying no to a correctional facility. They speak out of fear, lack of knowledge and mistrust.”