Economics behind decision, not geography
AMHERST - It's highly unlikely the province is going to reconsider its plan to exclude Cumberland County from bidding on northern Nova Scotia's new jail.
Speaking to members of the media during a conference call from Sydney, Premier Darrell Dexter said the process being used to select the site of the jail is based on economics and best serving the facility's catchment area - not geography.
"The process is based on finding a central location for that facility," the premier said. "The decision was made on the basis of what the best value would be for the province."
Earlier this month, Justice Minister Ross Landry touched a nerve in Cumberland County when he announced his department is going to build one jail to serve the northern region of the province instead of building two to replace aging facilties in Amherst and Antigonish.
The county's five municipal leaders and Cumberland South MLA Murray Scott have asked the province to reconsider its exclusion of this area from the bidding process and have asked for an independent economic impact study.
With the province refusing to reconsider or even conduct the study, the municipal leaders and Scott are asking the regional development authority, CREDA, to conduct an economic impact study.
"Building one new jail will have a savings of about $5 million in capital costs and a savings of about $1.7 million in annual operations," Dexter said. "That and the fact it serves the correctional service more efficiently were the considerations more so than the geography. We don't base it on the location of the county line. We base it on which location would serve the province and the correctional service in the job it has to do."
When Landry announced the government plan, he said the decision of where to build would be based on the location of the busiest courts and proximity to the 104 highway. At the time, he said, Cumberland and Richmond counties are out of the mix.
"If the minister overseeing the process has said that then that is the case, I cannot add anymore or less to that discussion," Dexter said. "The siting of the facility will be based on what is in the best interests of the province as a whole on a business case basis."
While the premier said the decision would be based on the best business case, he said the information used by the province to decide to build one jail and where to locate it will remain confidential until after the province decides where to build the jail.
"Part of the issue is if you identify the geographic location of where you want the facility to go the result is the land value in that area will tend to go up," Dexter said. "We won't release that information until we've had an opportunity to site the facility."