Since the surprise announcement in August 2020, my Council colleagues and I have been working hard to:
- accelerate the province’s information sharing and engagement with all members our community, including those opposed;
- talk with a variety of stakeholders familiar with the provincial correctional system;
- pursue acquisition as quickly as possible of surplus farm-side lands that the province doesn’t need;
- ensure that the Ministry bears the full burden for their infrastructure needs.
I recognize some have legitimate questions about the value of incarceration, the proximity of the facility to Kemptville Campus (where my 3 kids happen to attend school) and what happens to prisoners during and after their stay. I have been asking these questions too.
However, the province has been clear that the construction of a new correctional facility has been planned for years and is proceeding in North Grenville as part of their investments in the correctional system in Eastern Ontario. Consequently, we have been focused on decisions about where the facility will be located on the site, the process for North Grenville to secure surplus farm-side lands for community-led agricultural initiatives, and investments in North Grenville’s infrastructure.
Council members value dialogue with all residents and concerned groups. The information about a potential rise in policing costs is a cause for concern, and that is why I have already written the Solicitor General to signal we have no intention of covering these costs. I will also be initiating a dialogue with other relevant Mayors to lobby for changes to the provincial policy.
North Grenville stands to lose if Council and I do not continue to bring a strong voice to these discussions. I have heard it said that we should be tougher. Since the beginning, we have been acting with urgency and persistence on a number of fronts that may not always be obvious.
Here are seven common areas of misunderstanding;
1. County Road 43
The $8.3 million funding for improvements to County Road 43 was secured years ago, before the announcement of the correctional facility. There is no quid pro quo. Provincial funding for its share of CR 43 was announced in July 2019 (just over $3 million). In May 2020, the federal government announced its share (just under $5 million).
Since then, the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville has been busy finalizing the design, planning for a full bridge rebuild, completing the necessary environmental reviews and starting the process of acquiring up to 25 parcels of land. Bridge work is expected to begin in fall 2022. A brand-new parallel bridge will be operational before the old bridge is demolished and rebuilt.
2. Community access to surplus farm-side lands
The province has long owned the approximately 182 acres on farm-side lands where they plan to build the facility. Approximately 80 acres of land are likely to be untouched by the facility’s footprint, potentially more. Some of these farm-side lands house old buildings like the equestrian facility that could be quite valuable to the community. There is also arable land for potential community or Kemptville Campus agricultural initiatives.
Since the fall of 2020, just weeks after the facility was announced, I began discussions with Minister Steve Clark and, subsequently, Minister Sylvia Jones to request that the surplus farm-side lands be transferred to North Grenville immediately. In June 2021, the Deputy Solicitor General wrote me to confirm their intention to do so. At the most recent community engagement on November 17th, the Ministry stated that they expected the transfer to happen in 2022.
3. The security level of the new prison
The correctional facility will be able to house inmates at different levels of security. This is the case for every provincial facility across the province. It will be built to maximum security standards – and that is a good thing – but the security level of prisons will vary. The facility will house male and female offenders.
4. Meeting the future demands for social services
As part of its engagement plan, the Ministry is working with local social services agencies. For many years now, the John Howard Society has supported individuals from Leeds and Grenville who have served time in a jail and are returning to the area, including North Grenville. John Howard is actively participating in ongoing consultations and planning for when the facility is here. The United Counties of Leeds and Grenville has also provided the Society with funds to support the housing needs of prisoners upon release.
There are many other service agencies in North Grenville who are likely to also adjust their service levels in anticipation of the facility. These include Victim Services, Leeds and Grenville Addictions and Mental Health, and several education and employment groups.
5. Funding for water and wastewater infrastructure
As was stated in June, the Province will cover all costs to design, build and operate the facility. Further, the correctional facility will pay a monthly bill like every other institution, business and resident on town water. If the facility ties into North Grenville’s newly expanded water treatment facility, they will do so at their cost. The dollar amount is being finalized now.
6. Development in Downtown Kemptville
Since the announcement of the facility, the Municipality has fielded two proposals (unsolicited) for major residential development within a 2.5 kilometre radius of the facility – these proposals are to build more than 100 town homes on privately owned vacant and, at a different site, to build over 150 rental units. Both developers are highly aware of news of the correctional facility.
7. Location of the Facility
In its latest presentation to the community, the Ministry confirmed that the correctional facility will be located to the back of the site as close to the 416 as possible. A minimum 200 metre land buffer the size of two football fields will be at the front of CR 44, and the Municipality will be able to shape the use of these lands. In its presentation on November 17th, the Ministry confirmed another parcel of land south of Kemptville Campus will be transferred to the Municipality for community driven agricultural use.
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