SPRINGHILL - The community had held its breath for months waiting for a glimmer of hope a new provincial jail and prospective job creation could find its way to Springhill.
That day finally came last week, when Cumberland South MLA and Minister of Economic Development Murray Scott unveiled a composite sketch of the $18-million jail, which will, indeed, be built here in Springhill.
"The new facility will be located on Black River Road between Herrett Road and Highway 2 in Springhill on a 30-plus acre site," Scott announced.
The announcement, Scott says, offers job protection to the existing 27 staff members at the aging jail currently in Amherst, which was built in 1890, while presenting new jobs opportunities for the future during construction and operation phases of the project.
When completed, the 42,000-square foot jail will be able to house 100 inmates compared to the present 29 inmate capacity at the present jail in Amherst.
Scott was quick to defuse criticism the announcement Springhill received the infrastructure project because of his personal ties with the community, saying as an Cumberland South's MLA he is only doing his job by working hard for his riding.
"I'd feel a lot worse if I was standing here today…explaining why we're losing a Cumberland County facility."
To exemplify his point, Scott pointed to the jobs lost after closing the Truro jail. Provincial inmates from Colchester County are now detained in the Burnside jail in Dartmouth.
"Economically, this announcement will be a huge boost for the economy and tax base of the town," Springhill mayor Allen Dill said.
In the face of opposition to relocating the jail to Springhill, Dill championed the community's advantages, including geothermal resources, affordable housing opportunities and the community's central location.
In the ongoing campaign to pique to province's interest in Springhill, the land the jail will now be located on was awarded to the province-in kind.
First to congratulate Springhill's successful bid was Amherst Mayor Robert Small, whose community will be losing the facility. The announcement, Small says, is not a negative for Amherst but a positive for all of Cumberland County.
""Am I disappointed? Yeah, for various reasons but from my perspective it's good for Cumberland Count and Springhill. Frankly speaking, Springhill needed it," Small said.
Proponents of keeping the jail in Amherst argued the 15 minutes it takes to travel to and from Springhill and Amherst, where the county's justice and administrative services are primarily located, was a primary deterrent for announcing the jail in Springhill. Some in the justice field say last week's announcement will have minimal impact on the performance of their duties.
"It'll be minimal at best" sheriff Kevin Kelly says.
As a provincial sheriff, Kelly is tasked to transport provincial inmates to and from jail facilities and courthouses.
Without a jail in Truro to house detainees, travel between the town of Amherst and the hub of Nova Scotia is part of the job. The new jail in Springhill will fit nicely into Kelly's weekly routine.
"We have to travel in either direction already. We travel each way to Truro on a daily basis if not twice weekly," Kelly said.
Construction of the jail is projected to take two years to complete.