A new provincial correctional facility is planned for the site of the former Kemptville College of Agricultural Technology (KCAT).
The 235-bed prison will be located on a 182-acre plot owned by the province where the former college dairy barn and A.M. Barr Arena were located.
Kemptville College was closed by the University of Guelph in 2016.
Why it matters: Local activists have decried the loss of an agriculture education facility in eastern Canada.
The announcement was made in Brockville on Aug. 27 by Premier Doug Ford, along with Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, and Steve Clark, MPP for Leeds-Grenville, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.
The facility will be called the Greater Ottawa Correctional Complex and is part of a $500 million Eastern Region Strategy to modernize correctional facilities in Eastern Ontario.
The plan includes new prisons in Kemptville and Brockville, expanding the St. Lawrence Valley Correctional and Treatment Centre and Quinte Detention Centre, and renovating the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre. This is in addition to the $500 million announced by the Solicitor General on June 16, to hire more than 500 new corrections staff and modernize outdated infrastructure within Ontario facilities over the next five years.
“By making these important investments in Eastern Ontario, we will upgrade our corrections infrastructure, better protect our correctional officers, and contribute to our economic recovery through these new construction projects,” said Ford in a statement.
The building and ongoing servicing of the prison is expected to generate many positive benefits for the Kemptville area with construction jobs and economic spin-offs for restaurants, suppliers and other service industries.
KCAT Alumni President Audrey Baker says “I haven’t had a lot of feedback from the alumni on the prison coming to the ARIO [Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario] property in Kemptville. It is a great opportunity for North Grenville municipality to have the number of jobs that will be created.”
However, not everyone is pleased. North Grenville Mayor, Nancy Peckford, who was only made aware of the decision days before the announcement, issued a statement denouncing the province’s lack of notice or community consultations in selecting the location for the new prison.
“My job, as your mayor, alongside my council colleagues, is to ensure North Grenville’s voice is heard,” said Peckford. “Large projects such as this must go through a long and thorough consultation process before they become a reality.” It is expected to take about three years to establish the facility.
The Municipality of North Grenville bought part of the college land in 2018 after the last KCAT graduates completed their studies and the doors closed in 2016. The municipal portion is currently used as an “educational hub” hosting two schools and a daycare.
A community petition demanding the prison project be cancelled is now circulating.
“I recognize that residents have questions and I’m confident that the upcoming public consultation process will not only address any concerns, but demonstrate how this investment will benefit the region for years to come,” said Clark. “The Ministry of the Solicitor General will provide details in the coming weeks regarding the extensive community consultation that will take place prior to any development happening on the site.”
“The Ministry of the Solicitor General will provide details in the coming weeks regarding the extensive community consultation that will take place prior to any development happening on the site.”