Sunday, March 29th9.1°C

Townhouse fire displaces 3

The Kelowna Fire Department was called to multiple reports of flames coming from a townhouse in Rutland early Sunday morning.

When they arrived – shortly after 12 a.m. – flames were visible from the front of a unit in the 100 block of Kneller Road, according to platoon captain Eric Simpson.

The fire had made its way up into the attic of the 10-unit, two-storey complex, but it was quickly knocked down with only one unit affected.

Three people, including a child and their dog, have been put up by emergency services.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time and fire investigators are on scene today in the hopes of determining a cause.

OC half marathon

The 13th annual Okanagan College half marathon is being held in Kelowna on Sunday. 

The not-for-profit event raises money for students at Okanagan College. Last year the race raised $3,000 in bursaries for students.

This year the race has about 400 people signed up. Those wanting to participate can sign up before the race begins at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. 

The cost is $60 for the 10 kilometre run and $80 for the half marathon. 

"It's a great community event, it gets people on campus and running, so it's great," said Christine Ulmer, manager of public affairs and race director. 

There will be some road closures for the race.

Participants will start at Okanagan College (KLO Campus) at 8 a.m. and will be running north along Ethel Street to Birch Avenue as they make their way downtown along the lakefront to Knox Mountain before returning to Okanagan College.

Runners are expected to complete the race by 12 p.m. at the latest. 

Intermittent one-lane closures will be in effect for eastbound traffic between 7:55 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. on Raymer Avenue from Campus Way to Richter Street, and to southbound traffic on Ethel Street from Raymer to Birch Avenues.

Possible minor disruptions in transit may occur along Ethel Street and Raymer Avenue.

Traffic control personnel will be visible and motorists will need to watch for athletes along the route.

Man arrested for online vent

RCMP are reminding residents to be careful about what you put online, as it's permanent and it can land you in cuffs.

Its warning comes after a Kelowna man was arrested for uttering threats on his Facebook page.

According to Cpl. Joe Duncan, the man was frustrated with the government and felt they owed him money.

“The guy was angry with a government agency but he never wrote specific threats about that agency,” explains Duncan. “He made general threats on Facebook.”

As a result of his comments online, the RCMP were alerted and investigated the man.

“It is important that internet and computer users be mindful that what you post online is there forever, and that people reading these posts may interpret them differently than the intended message,” says Duncan.

“Unfortunately, some people chose to use the internet as a medium to vent their frustrations. It is valuable to know that if you vent frustration on certain social media sites and threats are involved, it can constitute a criminal offence.”

He says the Kelowna RCMP agree that the internet can be a wonderful tool to access endless information, or to keep in contact with friends and family around the world – but it can also be used as a tool to cause harm and to commit criminal acts.

“RCMP take threats very seriously,” adds Duncan. “The Kelowna RCMP will investigate the matter thoroughly and lay the appropriate criminal charge.”

Francophone treats for all

From maple taffy to maple tarts, maple cotton candy, crepes and poutine – traditional francophone food was the star, while guests took in the entertainment.

This is the 36th annual Kelowna Maple Fest. It was originally a small gathering by a few families but has now become the large downtown event many families enjoy annually.

You have until 4 p.m. today (Saturday) to get down to the Rotary Centre in Kelowna for some French treats, performances and entertainment.

The entire festival runs until Sunday, you can get all the details on the event by clicking here.  

Pedal power lights museum

If you want to learn how much energy it takes to power certain things, pop into the Kelowna Museum.

The museum recently took possession of FortisBC's PowerSense educational bike.

The bike helps riders understand how much energy it takes to power things like lights, fans and hairdryers.

For example, it takes about one-tenth the effort to light up the LED bulbs than to light the incandescent bulbs.

The bike is featured during the last week of the Off The Grid exhibit, which runs until April 2 at the Okanagan Heritage Museum. 

Power down for Earth Hour

Join British Columbia in celebrating the ninth year of Earth Hour Saturday night by turning off lights and electronics for one hour.

Earth hour is from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Participating British Columbians can celebrate the hour by having a candlelight dinner, talking to neighbours, stargazing, camping, playing board games - the possibilities are endless.

During last year's Earth Hour, the province saved 65 megawatt hours of electricity and reduced the provincial electricity load by one per cent - the equivalent of turning off about 1.4 million lights.

"I urge all British Columbians to join me in celebrating Earth Hour," said Environment Minister Mary Polak. "By turning off lights and electronics to reduce the amount of wasted energy, we can set a positive example for current and future generations." 

The cities with the highest reduction in energy use were Whistler and Esquimalt with  six per cent. Last year, 69 B.C. communities, countless businesses and thousands of citizens took part in this 60-minute event.

Earth Hour has grown to become the world's biggest mass participation event in history according to the World Wildlife Fund.

"The success of this global movement is proof that when people come together with a common goal, results can be seen worldwide," Polak said.

This year, British Columbians will join their counterparts in six continents, 120 countries and 24 time zones in turning off their lights and powering down.

The City of Vancouver has been named the 2015 National Earth Hour Capital by the World Wildlife Fund.

The city is recognized for being a leader in sustainability and innovation within energy efficiency. Vancouver was also awarded this distinction in 2013.

As in previous years, the B.C. government will turn off lights in all provincial government buildings wherever it is safe and reasonable to do so.

Most noticeably, the Jubilee lighting at the parliament buildings in Victoria will be extinguished as a highly visible demonstration of support for Earth Hour.

The World Wildlife Fund originated Earth Hour in Sydney, Australia in 2007. It is a worldwide grassroots movement uniting people to raise awareness around a broad range of environmental issues.

Earth Hour began as a lights-off event and has grown over the past nine years to include more than 7,000 cities and towns worldwide.

McKinley fuel mitigation

The City of Kelowna is hoping to complete wildfire fuel mitigation in the McKinley area.

A request will come before council Monday asking that wildfire fuels on city owned lands be removed through a controlled burn.

The burn would be supervised by the Kelowna Fire Department.

The city's Wildfire Fuel Management Program has been active for more than 10 years in an effort to reduce the wildfire hazard on both municipal and provincial property with city limits.

Last year, four high priority areas situated in wildland-urban interface areas were identified for further attention.

These included McKinley Landing, Gallaghers' Canyon, Quail Ridge and Clifton Highlands.

The city will fund the project in part through the province's Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative. The province recently invested a further $5 million into that program.

The city's fuel mitigation program has been funded by the city and both senior levels of government.

Firefighters need 2 trucks

The Kelowna Fire Department is in need of two new fire engines.

Fire Chief Jeff Carlisle will be before city council Monday asking for an additional $860,000 from the Fire Equipment Replacement Reserve to replace the engines.

Council had already approved the purchase of one new engine during preliminary budget discussions at a cost of $600,000.

Carlisle is asking that $130,000 be added to that budget along with an additional $730,000 to replace a second engine as a result of a failed mechanical assessment.

The requests come as part of the fire department's 2015-2035 Fire Equipment Capital Reserve Plan - a report requested by council during budget deliberations.

The plan calls for the replacement of six vehicles between 2016 and 2020 at a cost of nearly $2.3 million.

The addition of two additional trucks, and fire engine and bush truck are proposed for the 2017 budget year if council approves construction of the new Station #5 in Glenmore.

The cost for those trucks would come from taxation.

Total replacement cost for fire, ladder and bush trucks over the next 20 years is estimated at just under $15 million.

In his report Carlisle states the annual fire equipment capital reserve contribution has historically not kept pace with the life cycle requirements of the fleet and as such, the reserve is underfunded.

Currently, the city contributes $400,000 annually to the reserve.

Carlisle is asking that increase by $100,000 each year until 2019 at which time $800,000 a year would be contributed.

Further compounding replacement cots is the weakening loonie compared to the American dollar.

Carlisle says for every cent the Canadian dollar falls the cost of a fire engine increases by about $3,500.

"Since June 2014 and the development of the KFD 2015 Capital Requests, the cost of an engine has increased by approximately 25 per cent," says Carlisle.

"The majority of Canadian manufacturers obtain the major components for fire engines from American suppliers and, as such, is vulnerable to market fluctuations."

RDCO budget falls $1.7M

Taxpayers within the Regional District of Central Okanagan are getting a bit of a break.

The RDCO pegged its 2015 operating budget, which includes Municipal Finance Authority financing totals, at just over $59.4 million.

That's $1.7 million below the 2014 budget of $61.1 million. 

The decrease is due in large part to cost savings provided through a new 911 service contract and a reduction in costs through participation in the MultiMaterials BC recycling program.

The regional district does not collect taxes directly. It requisitions funds from each local government on behalf of residents and the province, which collects property taxes for electoral area residents. 
The regional district provides more than 80 different services across the entire Central Okanagan. 

The actual tax rate varies from neighbourhood to neighbourhood and municipality to municipality, depending on the local services provided by the district.
The member municipalities of Kelowna, Lake Country, Peachland and West Kelowna receive services such as economic development, regional parks, dog control, 911 and regional rescue. 

These services account for a relatively small share (5-6 per cent) of the total tax bill for property owners in those municipalities.
The district is also the local government for residents in the two electoral areas, providing them with services such as planning, four paid-on-call fire departments and six water systems that connect almost 900 properties.
The Westbank First Nation also receives several services from the regional district, such as parks, rescue, economic development and the Okanagan Basin Water Board. Cost sharing for the services is based on the assessed value of properties.
The financial plan provides $4.4-million in various capital projects this year.
The tax impacts on the average home are:

Member 15 Assessment 14 Assessment Tax per house Inc/dec
Kelowna $489,000 $474,000 $160.17 $3.83
Peachland $495,000 $474,000 $192.11 $5.54
Lake Country $490,000 $474,000 $185.71 $3.70
West Kelowna $487,000 $474,000 $176.04 $3.57
C.O. West $457,000 $474,000 $466.71 ($117.90)
C.O. East $482,000 $474,000 $432.65 ($101.43)

The increases in the regional district portion of taxes for the average property owner in Kelowna, Lake Country, Peachland and West Kelowna is based on the decision of each municipality to fully fund and participate in the electoral area planning function. As a result, there is a substantial reduction in costs for this service for the average property owner in each of the electoral areas as the municipalities are picking up more of the costs. 

With full funding participation, municipal board members will have full voting rights on all land-use planning applications in the electoral areas.
In the two electoral areas, rather than taxation or rate increases, capital upgrades and equipment purchases will be funded by $1.1-million from the federal gas tax. 

Just over $499,000 will be spent on facilities and equipment for the four paid-on-call fire departments (Ellison, Joe Rich, North Westside, Wilsons Landing) and almost $385,000 worth of improvements are planned for four water systems (Falcon Ridge, Killiney Beach, Westshore Estates, Trepanier).
The total 2015 RDCO operating budget is $59.4 million.

  • 46.46 per cent is operating expenses
  • 46.34 per cent is debt ($27.5 million including Municipal Finance Authority payments on behalf of partner municipalities and Okanagan Regional Library)
  • 7.2 per cent is transfers to capital and reserves

The regional board also adopted a five-year financial plan for the Central Okanagan Regional Hospital District. Each year, ratepayers within the hospital district contribute 40 per cent of the funds for approved capital and equipment services. 
The Regional Hospital District is contributing more than $7.8 million this year toward the new Interior Heart and Surgical Centre (Total CORHD contribution $70.69 million) and $9.6 million this year ($14 million total) to complete the fouth-floor perinatal unit.

In addition, the Hospital District will contribute $3.9 million for other capital projects during 2015 and $1.5 million over the next two years toward the purchase of new equipment to update and increase the testing capacity of the laboratory at Kelowna General Hospital. 

The owner of an average home assessed at $489,000 will contribute $173.89 toward capital improvements and new health equipment, an increase of $3.01 from last year. 

Safe haven for farm animals

Shovels are in the ground, and work will commence next week on the B.C. SPCA’s new large-animal seizure facility in Kelowna.

The barn will house farm animals rescued from abusive or neglectful situations and is expected to be fully up and running by October.

The 2,500-square-foot facility will be located next to the existing Kelowna shelter and will include six indoor-outdoor stalls, a tack room and hay storage.

A crowd of about 50 people turned out for the ground-breaking event, Friday, including MLAs Norm Letnick and Steve Thompson, B.C. SPCA CEO Craig Daniel, Mayor Colin Basran and local councillors, as well as SPCA donors, staff and volunteers.

There is already a large-animal seizure facility in Surrey, but Daniel says the barn is much needed to provide temporary shelter in the Interior.

“Many people think of companion animals when they think of the B.C. SPCA’s work, but farm animals represent a significant focus of our organization’s rescue and advocacy work.”

In 2014, the non-profit took 117 horses and 143 cattle into custody through cruelty investigations and spent in excess of $200,000 for boarding, hauling and other costs associated with their care.

"Having a facility where we can care for these animals ourselves will make a tremendous difference in terms of cost efficiencies and in the direct care we can provide,” he said.

The project is being funded through support from the provincial government, a grant from the Central Okanagan Foundation and SPCA donors. The provincial funding is part of $5 million provided to the SPCA to renovate aging infrastructure in 10 communities, with $250,000 going to Kelowna.

“Animal welfare is a team effort, and we look forward to continuing to work with the B.C. SPCA so all animals in B.C. are treated with the due care and respect they deserve,” said Letnick, B.C.'s agriculture minister.

In addition to horses and cattle, the SPCA rescues a wide range of large animals that can't be housed in traditional shelters, including sheep, goats, pigs, llamas, alpacas and emus.


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