Groundbreaking for new correctional centre near Oliver set to take place sometime in May

By on April 30, 2014

With boots already on the ground and more workers in the queue, the Okanagan Correctional Centre is set for major construction this August.

The B.C. government recently signed a $193-million agreement with Plenary Justice, the private partner that will build and provide management services for the facility over the next 30 years.

Workers have been preparing the construction zone (36 acres) in Senkulmen Business Park for the past few weeks by removing earth, erecting fencing and ensuring environmental protections for local wildlife.

A groundbreaking ceremony is expected in May, with final completion anticipated in the fall of 2016.

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes said the Town is thrilled that the construction timeline continues on its path.

“We welcome the economic benefits associated with both the construction and operation of the facility. Business creates business and this whole project will have broad community rewards.”

Hovanes pointed to the Town’s relocation guide that was recently published. It profiles the community by outlining various amenities and services.

“We hope that many of the construction workers and then the permanent employees will call Oliver and area home,” the mayor said.

Hovanes will join other local officials on a special committee that will keep track of the correctional centre as it progresses.

Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson said the committee will consist of Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie, Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells, Penticton Mayor Garry Litke, MLA Dan Ashton and Area C director Allan Patton.

Larson said the committee will meet every three months to receive updates from ministry staff and the builder on the project and its timelines.

“This correctional facility will ensure many good paying, stable jobs for the entire South Okanagan during and after construction,” the MLA said.

Chief Louie has said from day one that jobs are his primary concern, so he is anticipating employment for local band members.

However, he doesn’t know how many jobs they will get.

The province has worked in partnership with the band to expand and realign roads and services for Senkulmen Business Park in order to accommodate the correctional centre.

This work stems from a contract signed with the band last February, which lays out the details of the land lease and utilities for a 60-year period.

The Ministy of Justice claims the facility will create approximately 1,000 jobs during construction.

Following the project’s completion, over 240 new, full-time correctional positions will open up. The high-security prison will accommodate 378 jail cells.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General Suzanne Anton said reaching the final agreement with Plenary Justice is a catalyst for positive economic spinoffs and the creation of many jobs for the South Okanagan.

She said the new prison will ease capacity pressures in BC and build safer, stronger communities.

Plenary Group senior executive Michael Marasco said they are excited to begin local hiring and construction.

“We are committed to delivering the Okanagan Correctional Centre on time and on budget.”

The partnership to build the correctional centre on the Osoyoos Indian Band reserve is the first such partnership between BC Corrections and a First Nation.

The provincial government announced in early 2012 that, after a rigorous selection process, that the site near Oliver that is owned by the OIB, was the preferred choice.

Numerous other communities had applied to get the contract to build the jail, but others, such as the City of Penticton, had voted against bringing a prison to their community.

The 240 full-time jobs are expected to create an annual payrol in the tens of millions of dollars and most of the people who will be hired once construction is completed are expected to live in the South Okanagan.

This is the first new provincial jail built anywhere in British Columbia in the past decade.

The majority of prisoners who will be housed in the facility will be facing jail sentences of less than 90 days, said government officials during public presentations made in Oliver and Osoyoos last fall.

While the majority of those hired will be correctional officers and supervisors, there will also be jobs for people working in the kitchen and performing maintenance duties as well, said the government officials.

Even though the facility won’t open until late 2016, the government created a job website last year for correctional officers and other personnel who will be needed to work at the facility when it is operational.

LYONEL DOHERTY

Special to the Times

 

 

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