Online engagement session for proposed Kemptville jail to be held Nov. 26

A map of the 182 acre parcel of land where a proposed correctional facility in Kemptville would be built if approved.

Citizens in North Grenville are being invited to a virtual public meeting to discuss the future of the Kemptville jail.

The three-hour meeting will take place Thursday, Nov. 26 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

North Grenville resident Colleen Lynas, who opposes the jail, said the more information citizens can get about the project, the better.

"The information that has come out has been really very slow and often contradictory," Lynas told CTV News on Tuesday.

"There is a lot of confusion in the community about what is happening and a lot of frustration that it was made top down without any consideration of the residents."

The proposed new correctional facility was quietly announced Aug. 27, on land the provincial government owns across from Kemptville Campus.

"The 'Welcome to Kemptville' sign is literally adjacent to the land where they are going to be building. It's about a two-minute drive into Old Town Kemptville, which our municipality has been doing a great job of trying to revitalize along with our small business owners," said Lynas. "It'll change the character of the town there's no doubt."

Kirk Albert is also opposed to the new jail and thinks it's not the right fit for the community.

"One of the biggest and most prominent issues (with the proposal) was the fact that there was really no consultation. There was really no advanced notice of it coming to our area," he said. "It just doesn't fit with the vision of what many residents of North Grenville see for the future of our area."

Both Albert and Lynas are part of the jail opposition group and held a protest in downtown Kemptville on Nov. 7.

"We don't have the infrastructure, we don't have social services for them, and we don't have any form of public transportation for families that would want to come to visit here or for prisoners to get around town once they are released," added Lynas.

"This town would actually not provide the resources that prisoners who are released, or their families who are visiting, would need."

The new facility is expected to have more than 200 beds and bring new, well paying jobs to the area.

North Grenville mayor Nancy Peckford says she's heard from both sides about the issue.

"I've heard significant concerns on the part of some, but I've also heard significant enthusiasm, so it's a real mix," Peckford said.

She noted that council was also surprised with the August announcement and is looking forward to the engagement session.

"It's being hosted by the Ministry of the Solicitor General and what that engagement session will do is it will give everyone the benefit of the same information," Peckford said.

"There are lots of questions, no doubt, and they need to be answered, so we really look forward to what will be a three-hour session with the ministry. It can accommodate hundreds of participants and residents are invited to submit their questions in advance," she added.

"I would encourage everybody to sign up for this session and just listen," Lynas said. "They have provided people an opportunity to bring questions forward ahead of time and I think the more information people get the better."

Albert agreed, saying the town has a large demographic of seniors who aren't on social media and might not be aware of the proposal.

"The fact that this announcement got made at a time when people are pre-occupied with all of the different stressors that are coming along with COVID, we want to make sure everyone knows about it, everyone gets the facts," Albert said.

Albert has sent more than 30 questions in for the engagement session, and hopes some of them will be answered.

"The message is, even if you are unsure if you support or don't support this decision, get yourself educated. Make yourself very much aware of what's being proposed in your community," said Albert.

"Once the decision is made with shovels in the ground, it's here forever."

Those interested in the online engagement session can register for the event here.