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Leave facility where it is: MLA

Dave Sullivan
Northern News Services

Hay River (Feb 04/02) - MLA Jane Groenewegen says the answer to questions about the future of the town's young offender facility is to leave it where it is.

Groenewegen suggests "take away the cells and the bars" and make other changes that would make the existing facility open custody like the Department of Justice wants.

Her comments come after residents rejected a land-swap that would have seen the centre built in their neighbourhood on land now owned by the NWT Housing Corp. The deal would involved converting the current facility into a senior citizens centre.

"It's safe to say it won't be built in Caribou Crescent," she said.

Justice and Housing Corp. Minister Roger Allen met Jan. 25 with Caribou Crescent residents.

Although Allen wouldn't comment Feb. 1, his ministry said the search for a new site is now in the hands of Hay River town officials.

Groenewegen said the Justice Department wants the facility in a residential area.

Set between Harry Camsell middle school, the Woodland Manor multi-level care home for seniors and an apartment building owned by NWT Housing Corp; the Dene K'Onia Young Offenders Centre was built in 1964.

A razor-wire fence wraps around a yard beside the 5,400-square-foot building. It houses 16 young men and women, with 21 full-time staff members. A new open-custody facility would employ just 16.

"Nobody complains about it. In some ways it seems like the most peaceful way to resolve this, just leave the young offenders where it is," Groenewegen said.

She also questioned how seniors would use the building or pay $32,000 in yearly utility costs.

NWT Housing chief financial officer Jeff Anderson said the corporation stands to lose $300,000 if the land swap doesn't proceed as planned.

"I don't know if it will even come together. It's hard to say," Anderson said.