Lumby loses bid for correctional facility

Lumby's hopes for landing new correctional facility are dashed as province chooses to build on Osoyoos Indian Band land near Oliver...

Residents on both sides of the prison debate are  looking to heal rifts and plan for Lumby’s future.

The village’s bid for a 360-cell correctional facility has been dashed, with the province choosing to construct a jail on Osoyoos Indian Band land near Oliver. The goal now is to reunite Lumby residents after a divisive year that saw often heated debate.

“Give it six months and it will be forgotten,” said  Huguette Allen, with Concerned Citizens of Lumby, which opposed a prison.

“People are so tired of it, they want to forgive and forget.”

Mayor Kevin Acton, who lobbied for a facility, is pleased the government finally selected a location.

“People will now move on and patch and mend relationships,” he said.

But Acton believes the conflict played a role in the prison not coming to Lumby.

“You have to look at the resistance. The First Nation did an incredible job pitching it and there was absolutely no resistance there,” he said.

Acton and the previous council promoted a prison as a way of stimulating the economy.

“I’m choked. The whole North Okanagan will lose out on a huge economic opportunity,” he said of the facility going to Oliver.

“It’s frustrating because I know how badly Lumby needs the jobs.”

Acton continues to stand by his actions.

“It always makes sense to shop as hard as you can for deals and we gave residents an opportunity to talk about it,” he said.

The next step is to refocus on the economy.

“We have to create jobs and a tax base and that means industrial land,” said Acton.

Allen says a focus on green industry and agriculture could be beneficial for the village long-term.

“Lumby must decide what kind of community it wants to be and who it wants to attract,” she said.

MLA Eric Foster suggests the future could include generating energy from wood waste.

“We’ve been talking to the players here already about the opportunity,” he said.

Coun. Nick Hodge says there are already positive economic signs, including a seniors care facility.

“That will provide 60 jobs and there will be more traffic between Lumby and Vernon,” he said.

For prison opponent, Randy Rauck, the debate revealed residents on both sides of the subject are proud of Lumby.

“It was a big wake-up call for people to pull together on their passions,” he said, adding that the controversy increased the village’s profile.

“Lumby is on the map. People are interested in coming out to the community.”

However, not everyone is as optimistic.

“I hope we can keep our community alive,” said Tracie Gobelle, who was with a pro-prison group.

“We don’t have any other options. There is nothing else that has been presented. Our young people will be moving away to find work.”

Gobelle questions if other possible employment opportunities will run into opposition.

“We can’t let things slip through our fingers because a handful of people don’t like what it may mean for Lumby,” she said.