Lumby’s mayor furious over prison decision

Provincial government selects reserve land near Oliver for correctional facility

Mayor Kevin Acton says the village must consider other economic development opportunities now that a prison is now coming to Lumby.

Mayor Kevin Acton says the village must consider other economic development opportunities now that a prison is now coming to Lumby.

Lumby isn’t getting a prison and that has the community’s mayor fuming.

Premier Christy Clark announced Monday that a 360-cell correctional facility will be located on Osoyoos Indian Band land near Oliver.

“I’m choked. The whole North Okanagan will lose out on a huge economic opportunity,” said Kevin Acton, Lumby’s mayor.

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

While serviced land was available in Oliver, Acton believes a deep division among Lumby residents over a prison played a role in the government’s decision.

“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.

During a referendum in April, 56 per cent of those who voted in the village said yes to a prison while 44 per cent said no. In adjacent Area D of the North Okanagan Regional District, 34 per cent voted yes while 66 per cent voted no.

While some residents insisted a facility would bolster the economy, others were concerned about public safety and that Lumby may become known only as a prison town.

With a decision on a prison known, Acton insists council and the community will have to look at ways to attract new businesses.

“A goal of mine is to start working on the economy,” he said.

Opponents to a Lumby prison are pleased a decision has finally been made.

“It gives us an opportunity to move ahead,” said Huguette Allen, with Concerned Citizens of Lumby, adding that agriculture and green industry should be pursued to support the economy.

Allen is confident that divisions over the prison issue can be healed among Lumby residents.

“Give it six months and it will be forgotten. People are so tired of it, they want to forgive and forget,” she said.