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Plug into energy help

A single Kelowna mom of two teens is feeling optimistic about the winter ahead after energy-efficient improvements were installed in her home by FortisBC.

Racquel Funnel was the first Kelowna resident to take part in the Energy Conservation Assistance Program, aimed at helping income-qualified electricity customers make energy improvements in their homes.

“I mean, really, what working parent doesn't want to save money on their bills?” said Funnel. “But, also, to learn where your money is going. I am learning all sorts of neat little tricks.”

ECAP evaluator Robbie Sehra showed Funnel how things like weather stripping, LED lightbulbs and low-flow shower heads can save money.

“You can feel the draft when you walk by, and any updates are good,” says Funnel. “All kinds of little things that are not that big of a fix, but make a bit of a difference.”

Funnel has rented a townhome on Richmond Street for a few months and is grateful the program may help bring down her utility bills.

“I am a single mom, we live on a single income. I work full time, go to school full time and parent full time – so every little bit matters.”

Funnel says her landlord was happy to allow her to to take part in the program.

Today's visit was the first of three by Fortis in which energy upgrades will be made to the home. Funnel is hopeful her unit may qualify for a furnace replacement, as the one there is from the 1970s.

Individuals considered for the program are those who rent or own homes with an annual income less than 30 per cent above the low-income cut-off set by Statistics Canada.

That works out to an annual income of under $31,700 for a single person, or under $58,800 for a four-person home.

Fortis estimates that works out to approximately 25,000 customers in its service area, or 17 per cent of the population. The utility company hopes more customers will start applying to be considered now.

“There are caps on the program, but we hope to get to as many as we can,” said spokesperson Nicole Bogdanovic.

“A lot of people don't realize how much the weather does impact their utility bills.”

FortisBC estimates the energy-efficient upgrades can save the average household $165 a year.

Each ECAP participant will receive, at no cost, a visit by an energy evaluator who will provide a home energy assessment and personalized energy-saving advice.

The evaluator will also install energy saving products like energy-efficient lighting, draft proofing and low-flow water fixtures. While there, the home will be assessed to determine if it suitable for insulation upgrades, a refrigerator upgrade or a new more energy-efficient furnace.

With the recent expansion, the ECAP program will now be available to eligible residents in Kelowna, the South Okanagan-Similkameen, Penticton, Summerland, Grand Forks, Nelson and the West Kootenays.

For more information or to apply for the program, check out details here.


Arrest in police SUV ram

UPDATE: 6:13 p.m.

Police have arrested a 31-year-old man after finding the vehicle suspected of ramming a police SUV at a residence on Stafford Road. 

The man who was arrested was inside the home. 

RCMP say the suspect faces a number of potential charges in connection with the collision and flight from police. 

A witness at the accident said the man in the vehicle would not get out of his car when the officer asked him to, and stalled it as he attempted to flee.

The witness said the officer then broke the man's window, in an attempt to pull him out, before the the car was started and backed into the police vehicle multiple times. 

UPDATE: 4:30 p.m.

Multiple witnesses now tell Castanet the suspect vehicle that rammed a police SUV in Kelowna was in fact a Nissan Sentra.

Around midday, RCMP provided confusing information about the vehicle's description, variously calling it a Nissan X, which doesn't exist, and RX-7 (a Mazda vehicle) and leaving doubt as to whether the vehicle was a car or SUV.

The only vehicles Nissan has manufactured in recent years with an X in the name are the X-Trail and Xterra, both SUVs, yet police described the suspect vehicle as a sports car.

A Sentra is an economy car.


An RCMP vehicle has been rammed in Kelowna, and police are seeking the public's help in finding those responsible.

According to Kelowna RCMP, police were following the suspicious flat black Nissan sports car when it intentionally rammed into the police SUV near Dilworth Drive and Enterprise Way about noon and then took off. 

Police are looking for the vehicle, which has a damaged driver's side window and missing or covered plates.

The vehicle was last seen near Fitzpatrick Road.

Anyone with information is asked to the call the RCMP immediately.

Where babies come from

The KGH Foundation has produced a new video that answers the age-old question: Where do babies come from?

Or at least the tail end of the process.

The video depicts couple Paul and Lisa Johnson on the day they have their first child, starting from the moment they walk through the doors of Kelowna General Hospital at 5:50 a.m.

The video shows the many steps in a delivery, one of 1,600 KGH performs in an average year.

Since the baby was in the breach position, Lisa undergoes a C-section delivery.

She goes through anesthesia, surgery and delivery, until finally, she meets her newborn son, Carter.

From entering the hospital to holding her baby, the whole process takes about two and a half hours.

KGH is the only hospital in the Interior Health region that is classified as a 2b facility, meaning it can care for premature babies as young as 30 weeks.

The hospital will open the doors to a new perinatal unit in March, which will drastically increase the space available for new mothers and their babies. 

The new perinatal unit will be in the same building as the Interior Heart and Surgical Centre, which will allow for quicker emergency C-sections.

The KGH Foundation is hoping to raise $2.5 million for the project. 

Prime time for icewine

It's c-c-cold this week in the Okanagan, which is g-g-good for icewine.

Employees of wineries up and down the Valley bundled up and jumped into action as the mercury dipped below -8 C.

Icewine can only be made from grapes that are still frozen on the vine, which causes the water within to freeze, concentrating the juice and resulting in honey-sweet dessert wine.

Vineyard manager Rickard Branby, at Sperling Vineyards in East Kelowna, says pickers hit the vines early Wednesday and Thursday morning.

“We started Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. and today at 5:30 a.m.,” said Branby.

This year's harvest saw perfect temperatures last until sunrise, so pickers got the opportunity to pick in daylight instead of the dead of night.

“It was perfect weather. The ideal temperature, of course, but also clear blue skies – and to be able to do it daylight is a treat.”

Branby said it's crucial to pick the grapes while they can, as another cold snap can't always be counted on.

“When you look at the weather, it can be unpredictable. It will look like it is going to be cold for a long time and then it warms again. And then you may have to wait a long time before you can get the pick done,” said Branby. “So, it is nice to get it all done. Finally the harvest is done!”

A team of nine people picked about 2 1/2 metric tonnes of icewine and last-harvest grapes during the last two days.

“It is a small team, but you don't need a lot of people,” said Branby. “But, it is a lot of work. It is cold, and the preparation is a ton of work, too. Everything has to be netted in advance, or the birds will get it all.”

The earliest pick on record was in 2013, on Nov. 20 and 21.

This cold weather is expected to continue through the weekend and into next week.

Convicted pedophile out

One of the most notorious pedophiles in Kelowna's history, with a decades-long rap sheet of abusing young boys and girls, was released today to live in a halfway house under strict conditions.

But in which community he will reside is unknown.

Shaun Joshua Deacon, 50, is recognized as one of Canada's most notorious child molesters. Deacon used to call Kelowna home and was released into the community in 2005, but eventually left following a public outcry and moved to Vancouver.

In 2013, he was found to be in breach of his conditions and returned to jail.

Deacon was released today on a statutory release to move into a community-based residential facility.

The name of the community has not been released. Police do have the option to issue a "pervert alert" if they feel he is a risk to the public, but as it stands no jurisdiction has released any information regarding Deacon's new community.

Deacon has been released on strict conditions, including no contact with anyone under 16, no attendance in places where children under 16 are likely to be, no indirect or direct contact with any of his victims, to reside at the residential facility chosen for him and nowhere else, no access to the Internet in any form, no possession of images of children under 16, a condition to follow a specific treatment plan and program and to immediately report all intimate relationships.

In the release conditions set out by the Parole Board, Deacon's lengthy history of abuse and deception with legal authorities were factors. He has reportedly breached parole conditions more than 15 times. 

Authorities believe Deacon presents as a high risk for future sexual offences.

They note Deacon has a pattern of befriending parents, especially mothers, to gain access to their children.

Despite his lengthy criminal history and massive public outcry, Deacon has not been designated a dangerous offender, which would require a permanent jail sentence. 

Crash victim dies

An 83-year-old Kelowna woman has succumbed to her injuries after she was struck at the intersection of KLO Road and Richter Street on Tuesday.

On Nov. 24 at 11:19 a.m., RCMP Central Okanagan Traffic Services responded to a pedestrian versus motor vehicle incident.

The woman was struck by a vehicle driven by a 72-year-old Kelowna woman, who was attempting a left turn onto Richter and didn't see the victim in the marked crosswalk.

The gold Hyundai was turning left from the westbound lane of KLO into the southbound lane of Richter.

“The driver attempted the left turn and collided with the pedestrian, knocking her to the ground,” says Cpl. Joe Duncan. “The pedestrian received serious injuries and was transferred to Kelowna General Hospital. Sadly, the 83-year-old Kelowna woman has died from injuries she sustained from the collision.”

RCMP Central Okanagan Traffic Services and the RCMP Traffic Reconstructionist continue to assist the BC Coroner Service in the investigation.

Witnesses are asked to call Const. Marion at 250-980-5353.

Tool retailer on 'target'

Another retail outlet has been confirmed for the former Target space in Orchard Plaza Shopping Centre.

Randy Lowe chief operating officer of McIntosh Properties Ltd, the operators of the mall, said Canadian owned retailer Lee Valley Tools has entered into a lease.

A sign on the side of the building indicates the tool company will open at the location in the spring of next year.

Lowe says Lee Valley Tools will operate a 17,000 square foot store at the far end of the building bordering on Springfield Road.

Lee Valley Tools currently has 14 locations across Canada. A Kelowna store would be the fourth in B.C. and the first outside the Lower Mainland and Victoria.

A month ago, Steve Nash Fitness announced it would be constructing a 27,000 square foot fitness facility and UFC Gym in the space as well.

The former Target store was 90,000 square feet, leaving about 46,000 square feet between the two businesses empty.

Lowe said he expects one store to occupy that centre spot, however he doesn't expect an announcement to be made until sometime in early 2016.

It's been a busy few months for Lowe who has had to fill both the Target and Future Shop stores.

Back in July, Canadian outdoor giant MEC signed a lease to take over the former Future Shop location.

Syrian family to reunite

A Syrian family in Kelowna will be reunited with their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, thanks to a local organization.

Mohammad and Sara Alshahoud moved with five of their children to Kelowna from Jordan last May, after fleeing war-torn Syria in 2012.

They left three of their children behind in the Middle East, their eldest son in Jordan, a daughter and her husband in Syria, and another daughter, Ebitsam Al Sweileh, with family in Lebanon.

Now, the Central Okanagan Refugee Committee is sponsoring Ebitsam and her relatives to come to Canada and join the family in Kelowna.

“The Syrians in Lebanon are under increased persecution from the Hezbollah, so their situation kind of deteriorated,” said Jodine Ducs, treasurer of CORC.

Ebitsam and her husband, Osama, have four children under the age of seven, including one-year-old Mohammad, who was born in Lebanon as a refugee.

“I have never met my two youngest grandchildren,” said Mohammad Alshahoud in Kelowna. “I am so happy that they will be able to be safe in Canada.”

The federal government plans to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of March. 

This will include a mix of privately sponsored and government-assisted refugees. The six-person Al Sweileh family will be included in that 25,000 promise.

“(There is) a little slight disappointment, I say very slight, on CORC’s behalf, because we had hoped it would be 25,000 government-sponsored refugees, plus the private sponsorships,” said Ducs. “But, ultimately, however they get here, that’s the main thing.”

Ducs says she hopes the Al Sweileh family will make it to Kelowna in the next three months.

“It’s hard to tell, because they could be expedited,” she said. “But we’ve learned that it’s hard to give a timeline.”

CORC estimates it will need $25,000-$30,000 to support the family for the first year in Kelowna. A number of fundraisers are planned, including a speaking event with Canadian author Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes and The Illegal, Dec. 17 at Mission Creek Alliance Church.

“We’re hoping that the Lawrence Hill event will bring in $10,000 to $15,000,” Ducs said.

After the family is in Kelowna for a year, CORC expects them to be able to provide for themselves.

Tickets to the Lawrence Hill event can be found here

Tree to burn bright

The tree of hope will come to life on Thursday.

The 25,000-bulb Christmas icon is a holiday season tradition in Kelowna. It is more than 120 feet tall and has been brightening night skies for 17 seasons now. 

With new, energy-efficient bulbs, it also uses 90 per cent less electricity than when it was first plugged in.

The LED bulbs will save about 70,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year. That’s enough to power about five average homes, and the investment will pay back in energy savings in just two years, according to FortisBC Power Smart.
From late November until January, the Tree of Hope reminds residents the holiday season is a time of giving and compassion.

In partnership with the tenants of Landmark Centre and TD Canada Trust, donated funds are given each year to local charitable organizations.

The tree will be illuminated starting at 5 p.m., in front of the Landmark buildings.

Ice rink almost ready

The Stuart Park outdoor ice rink is expected to open next week.

Weather permitting, skaters can hit the ice by 10 a.m. Dec. 1, with the rink then open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily until late February.

“The icemaking process is underway,” says Steve Fagan, arenas and stadiums supervisor. “Crews have already been working from 4 p.m. until approximately midnight and will continue to do so over the next few days.”

Skaters can check the city's rink webcam to view ice conditions or see if the rink is closed for maintenance. 

Skate rentals will again be available on site from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. throughout the season.

A new fire pit beside the rink is undergoing final adjustments.

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