Letters to the Editor

Grande Cache Institution

It has come to my attention that Lumby is being considered as a potential site for a provincial correctional institution.

As mayor of a small Alberta community which is home to its own correctional facility, I am pleased to provide some history, insights and information which may be of benefit to you and to the residents of your community and area as you consider the pros and cons of this decision.

Grande Cache is a town of just over 4,000 people located in the foothills of the Alberta Rockies, 180 kilometres south of Grande Prairie and 140 kilometres north of Hinton.

Our community was built in the early 1970s primarily to serve a thriving coal industry and for many years that was the major employer. Forestry emerged in the early 1980s but the town economy frequently suffered due to downturns in both of these industries.

Something was desperately needed to provide economic diversification and stability and due to the vision and advocacy of the MLA at the time, along with strong support and lobbying from mayor and council, a decision was made in 1983 to construct a new provincial correctional institution in Grande Cache.

In fairness, this decision was not greeted with optimism by some community residents who voiced concerns about threats to public safety, increased crime rates, de-valuing of our housing market and the perceived social impact of having a 'jail' in our backyard. That 'jail' has now been part of the economy and the very fabric of our town for over 25 years, and none of those early concerns has ever become reality.

The Grande Cache Institution has in fact become one of our largest and most stable employers with over 250 staff currently working in the corrections profession. While it is now a federal facility, having been purchased from the province in the mid-1990s, its benefit to our town and its residents cannot be overstated.

Acquiring this facility has been one of the best things that has happened for the town of Grande Cache, with many specific, positive benefits:

- secure, sustainable, well-paying employment opportunities for many local residents.

- attraction of new residents and families to our community.

- many on-the-job training and advancement opportunities.

- strong volunteerism, commitment to, and involvement in community organizations by staff.

- partnership agreements with the municipality resulting in mutually beneficial and community programs and projects, i.e. inmate work crews on temporary work release programs have worked at local campgrounds, the golf course, parks and our trail network, and are involved in beautification, clean-up or construction projects.

- inmate snow-removal crews have cleared sidewalks for seniors and shut-ins.

- inmates enrolled in the institution's welding and carpentry programs have built numerous, beautiful enhancements to town parks, the seniors' lodge, and other facilities.

- members of the local community participate in the Citizen Advisory Council, providing input to programming and partnership initiatives and demonstrating their belief in the value of the correctional facility and its role in our community.

In short, our citizens strongly support the institution, see its many benefits to our community and have no concerns whatsoever regarding public safety issues.

Our town's future is substantially more secure, given this strong pillar of our economy, and we anticipate a continued, mutually beneficial working relationship into the future.

Louise Krewusik, Mayor, Grande Cache, Alberta

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