Citizens feel locked out of jail decision

Lumby council is being accused of going beyond its authority when pushing for a prison.

Lumby council is being accused of going beyond its authority when pushing for a prison.

The group Lumby Concerned Citizens is upset council has ran advertising promoting a proposed correctional facility and Mayor Kevin Acton has sought regional support before residents have registered their vote on the controversial issue.

“We’re being railroaded into this without an opportunity for discussion,” said Paul Fisher, group spokesperson.

Council is considering a telephone poll to determine public opinion, saying that there isn’t sufficient time to hold a referendum because the provincial government wants to hear from interested communities by April.

But Fisher says a referendum is necessary for public transparency.

“The province has been looking for a site for a prison for years and what does it matter if we took an extra three or four weeks for a referendum?” he said.

Fisher questions the validity of a phone survey particularly because the village will create a registry of phone numbers so people can be called.

“Did the yes side fill up the register? Did the no side get organized?”

Fisher says that despite what council tells the media, many residents oppose a prison.

“We’re afraid it will change the village in a negative way,” he said.

“What happens if people are temporarily living in Lumby while a friend or relative is incarcerated? What kind of energy will that create in the community?”

The province wants a 360-cell facility in the Okanagan, but Fisher insists there’s no guarantee that will be how many inmates there are.

“Correctional facilities in the province are running 180 to 200 per cent over capacity so there could be 1,000 people there? This could be huge,” he said.

Acton has suggested that a prison will help boost Lumby’s economy and create jobs, but Fisher’s group disagrees.

“I get upset with the mayor portraying the village as flattened. Our unemployment rate is only one per cent above the provincial average. That does not mean we’re economically depressed,” said Fisher.

Fisher doesn’t believe there will be opportunities for locals to become guards.

“This isn’t like going down to a gas station to apply for a job,” he said. “You need training and then you will get at the back of the line for a job. If you are new to the union, you will have no seniority.”

As for support jobs like laundry, Fisher questions how many of those duties will be done by inmates, reducing the prospect of residents being hired.

Lumby Concerned Citizens will make a presentation to council Feb. 7.