By Christopher Gooding
SPRINGHILL - Darrell Dexter's NDP government opened a Pandora's Box when it's Minister of Justice announced a new jail to replace correctional facilities in Amherst and Antigonish will not be built in this area, Springhill Mayor Allen Dill says.
Reacting to Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry's comments that Springhill and Amherst are "out of the mix," and then later state "we're hoping to have communities come forward that have interest and options available for us," the Springhill mayor is calling out the government and wants to know what criteria the province is looking for that would exclude Cumberland County and it's municipal units.
"I'm not giving up on the jail. We still have the best business plan and I defy anyone to say we don't," Dill said. "We do have a modern water treatment plant; we do have a modern sewage treatment plant. We have the opportunity to share resources with the federal institution. We have a hospital, we are located 5 km from the Trans Canada Highway and we have geothermal."
Landry confirmed last Monday the government will build one 100-cell jail instead of replacing separate jails in Amherst and Antigonish, dismissing Springhill and Amherst as prospective locations despite an announcement in April by the then-Conservative government that a provincial jail would be built in the former mining town. At that time Springhill handed over 33.06 acres of land, valued at $1,000 per acre, to the province for the jail but Minister Landry announced Monday he has instructed the Dept. of Public Works and Transportation to hold on to the property.
Without the province giving it's criteria for the new jail and the fact it is holding on to land here, Dill says the minister is sending out mixed messages. The minister had stated his call for submissions from municipalities to house the jail is to prevent land speculation.
"There's no speculation. He's got our land," Dill said. "And he's not giving out the criteria because he can't defend it. He knows we can beat them."
Citizens are upset, Dill says, and has been approached by some stating the town should take legal action. Their point, he says, is understandable.
"If this was with a private industry and we did the same thing to them we would be sued and we would loose," Dill said. "When Darrell Dexter promised to keep the previous government's promises he made more than a promise; he made a commitment. The citizens should be up in arms."
Dill says he will not let the matter drop and is calling for support from businesses and citizens to join him in protesting the minister's decision.
By Christopher Gooding