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New jail brings economic benefit for Oliver

Yvonne Comeau said her alterations business in Oliver was struggling until the construction of the new Okanagan Correctional Centre.

Comeau said she was granted a lucrative contract to provide alterations services to the jail’s 300 employees.

“I was going to close up a couple of days a week and get a part-time job to supplement my income and then I came back and got the phone call and that changed everything,” she said on Friday.

The $200 million correctional centre opened in October on Osoyoos Indian Band land.

Inmates started arriving in mid-January and the jail now houses 75 inmates.

Most are being sent from the courts but 16 Okanagan offenders have been transferred from the Fraser Regional Correctional facility.

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B.C. Corrections said it will house 400 inmates by the end of the year.

It’s the largest provincial jail in B.C. and the mayor said it’s becoming one of the town’s key economic drivers.

“People are noticing that they have correction’s officers in their neighbourhood, we have local people that have been hired by corrections, and because they started up in October and now they are fully functional, we really are just starting to see the economic impact,” Ron Hovanes said.

Real estate agent Matt Lewis said home sales spiked 34 per cent in Oliver last year, partially attributable to corrections families moving to town.

“We are seeing a change in the style of homes, there is a large demand right now for family homes, which Oliver has traditionally been a retirement area.”

School enrollment in Oliver alone is up by 95 students.

The local school district also hired an instructor to teach the prisoners.

“We will be providing the educational services for inmates to upgrade highschool programs to get credits for highschool courses if they haven’t already leading to adult Dogwood,” said Bev Young, Superintendent Okanagan Similkameen School District No.53

For many small business owners like Comeaus, this new economic driver is sowing the seeds of success.

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