There are not many people who don’t have an opinion on whether they want a prison built in their community.
That is why city council decided to hold its special public meeting to discuss the idea of trying to bring a proposed correctional facility to the Penticton area at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre instead of smaller venues such as City Hall’s council chambers or perhaps at suggested-warden Coun. Mike Pearce’s house.
The town-hall style meeting, which will be open to all members of the public, will take place on Monday, Jan. 31 at 6 p.m.
Last year, Solicitor General Rich Coleman announced the provincial government is seeking a site in the Okanagan to build a new 360-cell correctional centre for use starting in 2015. And earlier this year, council voted to begin a public consultation process to see whether Penticton residents have an appetite for pursuing the centre.
Proponents, such as Pearce, assert the centre would provide both short- and long-term economic benefits to Penticton; whereas, opponents say they don’t want a prison in their community.
The Jan. 31 meeting will provide an opportunity for residents to learn more about the proposed correctional centre and to share their feedback with council and city staff, according to city CAO Annette Antoniak,
“We will have a facilitator there and we will have a PowerPoint presentation on the information that we got from the ministry on the correctional centre, including the questions and answers that are most frequently asked,” said Antoniak. “It will also be a forum to allow the community to voice their opinion.”
“I think holding this meeting is important because clearly the community should be given the opportunity to come forward and provide their opinion as to whether they would want a correctional centre in their community.”
Antoniak said that from an economic point of view, the proposed prison is something that the community should at the very least have the opportunity to consider.
“The jobs that we would see brought into the community would be incredible,” she said. “Just in the early stage of construction alone, it is estimated that that would be around $200 million. It is also something that would create long-term jobs.”
Antoniak said city staff are looking at sites both within and beyond Penticton’s boundaries
“I think the benefit would be to the entire region. So at this time, we are looking at several different locations that could accommodate the 20 acres (required by the province),” she said. “At this point, the public meeting will not be site specific. What we are looking at is to get the community engaged in the process first.”
A fact sheet will be drafted by the city in the near future, she added.
“I really want to encourage people to come out,” said Antoniak, noting that residents can also participate online via newly established Facebook and Twitter accounts if they are not able to make it to the meeting.
“We are very interested in everybody’s voice being heard.”