Residents deserve better
The mayor's pitch for a prison has confused everyone by pushing an unpopular agenda and dividing our close knit community. Acton's prison is not a minimum security prison (a federal institution where long-term inmates serve the last part of their sentence). Acton's prison is a provincial jail with plenty of security, high fencing with barbed wire and/or other security measures and prison guards. The facility is slated to have 360 cells double-bunked, meaning 720 people coming and going at all times, more if overcrowded.
Mayor Acton's original proposal, in May 2010 called for a prison with 200 inmates, now it's 720 inmates in a facility like Kamloops.
Since Mayor Acton ramped up his prison campaign, Lumby's property assessments have fallen and we can expect to lose more equity in our homes and businesses if Acton's prison becomes a reality.
If hysterical noise from the 'no' side refers to people who are afraid that prisons cause an increase in crime, then those fears are well founded as stated by the RCMP in Vernon in a recent Morning Star article:
"My only concern is I would ensure officials are aware that increased resources need to go with that. The province or whoever has to ensure those resources would be in place."
It's no wonder we think Lumby's finances are dismal. Mayor Acton's been lamenting some long-lost sawmills but it's almost two decades since Lumby relied solely on the logging industry. Lumby's financial forecast is on the Internet, budgets are tight but there is no plan for bankruptcy and the five-year forecast estimated a surplus.
The village pays one elected representative for every 300 Lumby residents (as well as a mayor). They hold council meetings twice a month. The last one took an hour to get through the agenda. Lumby was incorporated many years ago so the village is responsible for village debts, not the residents.
I agree that a prison will definitely attract new customers to the local saloons, restaurants and hotels but no other business has been identified as a spin-off industry for Lumby. Crime will increase and Lumby residents will pay for that crime.
The mayor said there's a stigma attached to a prison town which affects tourism – too bad for Lumby's vibrant tourism industry, and just when the fish hatchery and salmon return present a real potential for eco-tourist development. You can be sure a prison effects other businesses as well.
I hope everyone will look at www.Lumby.ca to see the real Lumby – the creative and pleasant community, with lovely new housing developments, chamber of commerce, salmon trails, schools and our very own theatre. Many young families live here while new and exciting things are happening. The second annual Wild Salmon Music Festival is coming up. There's a renewed commitment to get the fish ladder around Wilsey Dam. A new Economic Development Committee is taking Submissions of Interest right now and there is an opportunity to purchase the Wilsey Dam Power plant – power for all our needs and excess revenue by selling back to the grid.
Acton's prison has been presented as a windfall – something to grab onto, a financial benefit to residents but no facts have been made public. Guard jobs won't be offered to the Lumby population unless residents take training and obtain security clearance. Service providers won't come from the general public.
Reducing taxes by a few dollars will not compensate for lower property values. Even with increased police presence crime will rise as the community grows and young families leave town. Prisons bring community problems so before any referendum takes place the mayor better be clear on how much it will cost the people of Lumby.
What's the financial cost? The physical cost and emotional cost? It's real – not everyone is comfortable with a large police presence. In a democracy we have a duty to participate in important public debate so let's stop with the hysterical allegations and put the facts on the table.
Without a prison the citizens of Lumby and rural areas will direct development from diversified economic business plans, Lumby may even incorporate the rural areas to offset infrastructure costs.
As a prison town Lumby will have one focus, a prison.