Kemptville residents express concern over location of new jail
Public consultation for Kemptville jail lasted almost 4 hours, drew hundreds of residents
An online public consultation on plans for a new jail in Kemptville on Thursday evening lasted almost four hours and drew more than 200 people who voiced their concerns over the location of the new facility, the possible stress on the municipality's finances and the way the news of the project was sprung on the community.
The provincial government quietly announced plans in late August to replace the Brockville jail with a new 235-bed correctional facility in Kemptville for both men and women at all security levels, although the majority will be minimum or medium-security inmates.
The new facility is scheduled to be completed in 2027, and is meant to take some pressure off the overcrowding experienced at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre.
Location, secrecy among concerns
Many in the community had already made it known they aren't in favour of the location, which is a short distance from Kemptville's town centre, and expressed those sentiments again on Thursday.
"From what I understand, there is over 75 per cent of our community that do not want this here — it is too close to schools, it's too close to the elderly, it's too close to the hospital," said Michele Bos. "And we don't want it here."
Others also spoke out about the fact that the community was not consulted, and the announcement for the new facility was made quietly without letting residents know what was happening.
"You've made a decision that suits your purposes, but you've largely ignored the wishes and the desires of the community," said Stephen Harris
Associate Deputy Minister for the Solicitor General Ali Veshkini said that government never lets its plans be known in regards to land because of commercial market sensitivities, although the jail will be built on government-owned land.
Property taxes won't be affected
Many in attendance had questions about the infrastructure needed to run the jail, such as water and sewer services, and wanted to know who would pay for those costs.
However, government officials assured Kemptville residents that the provincial government would pay for the municipal infrastructure required for the project.
"We're bringing this to the community, we don't want to have any fiscal impact with respect to roads or servicing or, utilities, to the local [community]," said Veshkini.
Some in favour
The province said the plan for the new project is a part of an overall shift in correctional services. Although the facility will be built with state of the art security, said officials, it will also be designed in a modern and more humane way, to give inmates access to more natural light and better outdoor spaces.
That shift excites Greg Brown, a former police officer who plans to volunteer at the jail.
"I'm proud that our community is going to have an opportunity to contribute to initiatives in furtherance of much-needed reforms in our criminal justice system," he said
Other concerns were brought up around masking the facility from surrounding properties and if the extra land on the property could continue to be used for agriculture.
Veshkini said the solicitor general's office is open to discussing all options and working with the community throughout the planning process, including meeting with the school board and hospital.