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Fuhr: We're not leaving

Kelowna-Lake Country's Liberal MP stands behind his government's decision to alter its role in the fight against ISIS.

Stephen Fuhr said the decision to bring home the CF-18's in favour of training, assisting and equipping makes a lot of sense.

"A majority of Canadians think we should have a military approach as part of a balanced approach. The debate is how to best do that," said Fuhr, from his office in Ottawa.

"The plan, to train, assist, and equip the Kurdish Peshmerga, the Iraqis fighting in that area, is a big deal. It's a piece they seem to be lacking and it's a piece for stabilizing the area."

We're not going to be there forever says Fuhr. The people left behind are going to need to know how to protect themselves.

"Canada is uniquely equipped to handle this job because we just spent 10 years in Afghanistan. We learned a lot of things there."

The plan calls for a tripling of Canada's current contingent of about 69 special forces trainers in conjunction with an end to CF-18 sorties in the region.

"It's not like we are withdrawing the CF-18s and now they're stuck, they're short. That's not the case," said Fuhr.

And, he said, while the Conservatives have been bashing the plan, the White House has come out in favour of Canada's latest plan.

"That kind of takes the wind out of the sails of the naysayers."





A night for local athletics

Athletes, parents and fans of local athletics packed the Rotary Centre for the Arts Wednesday night for the 2016 Community Sports Hero Awards Reception.

Twenty awards were given out to people of all ages, who are involved in all types of sports.

All of the award recipients were nominated by someone in the community and then voted on by the City of Kelowna and Pacific Sport, a non-profit group that promotes sport in the region.

“The evening’s about recognizing those people,” said Brad Duquette, communications lead with Pacific Sport. “All ages, all levels. It’s very open.”

Kelowna’s mayor Colin Basran attended the event and handed out the awards. The first ten went to ‘Sport Hero’ volunteers, followed by nine ‘Athletic Excellence Award’ recipients.

The night was moderated by Pacific Sport executive director Shaunna Taylor and Downtown Kelowna’s Ryan Watters. The crowd was treated to a number of Watter’s sport-themed puns throughout the evening.

The ‘Sport Hero’ category recognized the volunteers that keep athletics as strong as they are in the Okanagan.

Many recipients were cheered on as they walked to the stage to accept their award, to a song they had chosen themselves.

Some song choices elicited laughter from the crowd. Ken Boe, who received an award for his part in growing rugby in the Okanagan, walked down to the song, ‘Mr. Bojangles,’ while Paul Thiessen, awarded for his extensive basketball coaching career, walked down to Van Halen’s basketball-appropriate ‘Jump.’

The Athletic Excellence Awards were given to nine active athletes who are participating at a variety of levels: nationally, provincially, collegiately, at world championships and in Iron Man competitions.

Several athletes weren’t at the event, as they were overseas playing the sports they had received the award for.

A final Sport Hosting Award was given to the BC Community Football Association for the organization’s work in raising the region’s reputation for hosting sporting events.

The event was capped off by recognizing the young athletes who will be participating in the BC Winter Games in Penticton at the end of the month.

Wednesday’s award recipients were as follows:

Athletic Excellence Award recipients:

Tekarra Banser – Biathlon

Hannah Bennison – Athletics

Olivia Gran – Figure Skating

Kailin Jones – Volleyball

Riley McLean – Para-swimming

Ryan Moffat – Alpine Skiing

Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe – Basketball

Heather Wurtele – Triathlon

 

Sport Hero Award recipients:

Dan Bernheisel – Basketball

Ken Boe – Rugby

George Curran – Rugby

Scott Jacobsen – Soccer

Ben Macauley – Football

Todd Russell – Baseball

Paul Thiessen – Volleyball

Johnny Vesterinen – Tennis

Mike Walsh – Athletics

Travis Wray – Lacrosse



YLW eyes provincial bucks

Kelowna International Airport wants to take advantage of provincial funding for airport improvements.

The province is making $8 million available through the B.C. Air Access Program, announced last year. The program will provide $24 million for infrastructure upgrades over the next three years.

Airport manager Sam Samaddar said the airport has applied to the program.

"We have this whole development program underway at the airport. We've looked at portions of it to see if the province is willing to support some of it," said Samaddar.

"Within the whole terminal expansion, we have things like the departure room upgrades, the entire outbound baggage system upgrades. There are portions of that that could be wrapped up into individual programs."

Through the program, the province shares costs with public airports on projects such as lighting and navigational systems, terminal building expansion or upgrades, and runway improvements.

"This program is really focused on the smaller municipal airports that don't have access to a lot of capital money or don't have the ability to generate it on their own," acknowledged Samaddar who defended the airport's decision.

"It's a program that's out there. Eventually the government will decide who gets access to that money."

The deadline for applications is April 6.



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Busiest machine in town

You won’t see it anywhere else but on the streets of Kelowna. It will be busy year round, but works the hardest in the winter when nothing else can.

The two Porta-Patch machines owned by the City of Kelowna are the only two in the entire Okanagan. Often the machines and crew are contracted out to areas such as Lake Country or even the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to patch potholes in roads, but this year there is too much work to be done in our city.

Ken Mintram, an equipment operator with the city, says his crew has been very busy this winter patching holes on roads due to the inconsistent freeze-thaw pattern this season.

“We’ve had so many snowfalls, it would melt and asphalt doesn’t like water.”

While the machines and the crew are able to work in extreme heat or cold conditions, they must avoid water. The area they work on must be dry and clean for the best outcome.

“We will fill if it’s wet but chances are we will be back the next day if it freezes because it will just pop out, so clean and dry are perfect conditions,” he said.

The machine costs approximately $30 an hour to operate, but according to the Roadways Operations Supervisor Stephen Bryans, it is very efficient.

Asphalt is not only reused once it’s dug up on scene but the asphalt not used in the summer is also accumulated into a large pile to be used in the winter to repair potholes. According to Mintram, asphalt plants close in the winter making it impossible for other companies without a Porta-Patcher to do the job. 

“We either do potholes all day or we do a lot of work for utilities, like Fortis gas because we are they only ones who can do this in the winter time,” explained Mintram.

The crew is called out to areas of the greatest need, and in this city that means everywhere.

“The whole city has got potholes,” laughed Mintram.

Service requests are sent to the city by the public and then delegated to the crew. Mintram said the city will often have its own issues with roads that need to be dealt with first, such as Benvoulin, where the crew spent most of Wednesday working.



Man beaten in Rotary Marsh

A 55-year-old Kelowna man is facing potential assault charges after an unusual altercation involving two men, a woman, two dogs and a pig.

According to RCMP, a 25-year-old Kelowna man was walking his pet dog and pig at Rotary Marsh the afternoon of Feb. 7 when he got into a verbal argument with a 26-year-old Kelowna woman who was also walking her dog.

Police say the man and woman were not known to each other and they are not sure what triggered the argument. The man was allegedly extremely rude and verbally aggressive to the woman – grabbing onto her arm at one point during their interaction. 

The woman then went back to her car, where a family member was waiting. Police say she was visibly upset, so the man got out of the car and went back to confront the younger man.

The two got into a physical altercation.

“Several witnesses on the scene reported seeing a victim being physically assaulted by an unknown male suspect,” said Const. Jesse O'Donaghey. “The suspect allegedly striking the victim in the face multiple times. The commotion attracted a lot of attention.”

O'Donaghey says the woman and several witnesses attempted to pull the 55-year-old man off the younger man, and in the process the younger male may have been bitten by the woman's dog.

An anonymous witness told Castanet the young man was severely beaten, and was bitten by the malamute dog.

"The victim suffered what police consider to be serious facial injuries, as well as multiple apparent dog bites as a result of this altercation," said O'Donaghey. 

The suspects then fled in their vehicle.

Police and paramedics were called to the scene and were able to get a licence plate number from a witness.

They tracked the vehicle and arrested the 55-year-old man on Feb. 9.

He is now facing potential charges of assault causing bodily harm. He was released pending his next court date on May 9.



Kelowna No. 1 in growth

No metropolitan area in Canada is growing at a rate higher than Kelowna.

Figures released Wednesday by Statistics Canada show Kelowna's population grew by 3.1 per cent during the 12-month period ending June 30, 2015.

The Kelowna metropolitan area runs from Peachland to Lake Country.

According to StatsCan, estimated figures peg our population at 197,274, up from 191,190 the previous year. In 2011, the population was a little more than 183,500.

These numbers come on the heels of a BMO report released Tuesday that said Kelowna is the second worst place to find a job of the 33 census metropolitan areas in Canada.

The StatsCan report also shows Kelowna leads the way in interprovincial migration, with one per cent growth.

Kelowna is the "oldest" city in the province, with a greater percentage of senior citizens, but nationally is fourth greyest. In Trois-Rivieres, Que., 21.6 per cent of the population is 65 or older, while Kelowna's percentage is 20.6.

Kelowna is near the bottom for share of young people. Just 13.7 per cent of the population is 14 or younger, placing the city fourth from the bottom. Victoria claimed the title, with 12.6 per cent.

Overall, population growth is strongest in Western Canada. The top seven population growth rates were found in the West.

Estimates also show the Ottawa-Gatineau region surpassed one million in population, while Metro Vancouver reached 2.5 million.



Miss the sign, not the light

It was just about a year ago when construction along Ellis Street forced changes to the intersection at Water Street and Doyle Avenue.

Prior to that change, drivers along Water were unencumbered, while motorists on Doyle were faced with a stop sign.

Since last February, all-way stop signs have greeted motorists. However, many still blaze through on Water as if the sign isn't there.

The City of Kelowna is hoping to get driver's attention with a flashing red light, installed above the all-way stop signs. The lights went up last week.

"Given that it is a very busy pedestrian area, this traffic control was necessary," said transportation and mobility manager Moudud Hasan.

"It's mainly to improve the traffic control and draw more attention due to the change."

Some drivers are still either ignoring the sign or not seeing it.

Hasan said once all the construction around the Ellis Street/Doyle Avenue intersection is complete, the Water/Doyle intersection will be redesigned.

"Council already approved design of a roundabout at that location. Staff are currently designing it," he said.

A construction budget has not been approved. That likely wouldn't happen until next year.



Attic fire wakes homeowner

A quick-thinking homeowner prevented an attic fire from spreading early this morning in Kelowna.

At approximately 5 a.m., the Kelowna Fire Department responded to the 911 call for a fire in the attic of a home on Cascade Place on Dilworth Mountain.

“The fire started when a light placed in the attic came in contact with some insulation,” explains platoon captain Steve Wallick. “The homeowner partially doused the flames with water before the fire department arrived.”

KFD responded with 15 personnel in three engines, one rescue truck and a command vehicle.

Paramedics and RCMP were also on scene.

Wallick says there were no injuries from the fire and only minor damage, as the occupants were not displaced from their home.

“The Kelowna Fire Department would like to remind the public to check their smoke alarms on a regular basis,” adds Wallick.

“Working smoke alarms save lives.”



A job is waiting for you

The Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission has launched a new way to help employers and employees find one another.

And it is just in the nick of time, given Kelowna was just named one of the worst cities in the county to find work –a finding that was not surprising to local officials. 

Okanaganjobmatch.com is an online job-matching platform created to address workforce needs in the area.

It was created by the EDC is response to its 2014 report Growing in the Okanagan - 2020 Labour Market Outlook commissioned by the COEDC, which heard from employer after employer that finding the right employees is difficult.

The regional adaption of Magnet, a skills-based, employment matching platform, will serve as a key tool for employers and job seekers throughout the Central Okanagan.

Magnet is a network powered by job-matching technology that was developed by Ryerson University, in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Government of Ontario.

According to the EDC, Magnet is different to traditional job boards through its intuitive technology that provides both job seekers and employers with a one-stop, supply-and-demand job hub to connect the right candidate to the right job opportunity – quickly, accurately and efficiently. 

“Companies throughout the region, across a multitude of sectors, tell us one of their biggest barriers to success is the sourcing of a talented workforce. The introduction of Magnet to the B.C. market aims to be the region’s tool for matching employers and qualified job seekers by eliminating a major barrier faced locally. Job seekers across Canada are unaware of local employer’s current job posting methods, thus reducing the talent pool for available opportunities significantly,” says director Corie Griffiths.

Central Okanagan job seekers and local college and university students seeking full- or part-time employment can learn more and register free by visiting okanaganjobmatch.com.

Employers are encouraged to visit the site to post their current hiring needs and connecting with the right employee is free for the first six months.



Delay in downtown hotel

Start of construction for a new downtown Kelowna hotel is being delayed six to eight months.

The decision was announced Tuesday by Westcorp, the company building the proposed 26-storey hotel on the former Willow Inn site.

The delay comes after Westcorp said some elements of the design have not yet been finalized and won't be ready in time for a March construction start.

"With the delay in the finalization of our construction drawings, the lead-in time associated with the demolition of the Water Street buildings, and typical risks associated with going into the ground, we have decided that the window for construction of our foundation during low water table levels has now become too tight to begin construction in March," said stakeholder management VP Gail Temple.

"As a result, we will wait until after the summer when the water table recedes to begin construction."

With a two-year build, Temple said it is now expected the hotel will open in late 2018 or early 2019.

"Despite the delay, Temple said site preparation will begin in the coming months.

That includes seeking a demolition permit to remove the existing Water Street buildings.

"We expect to have them removed prior to May and, after demolition is complete, the east side of the site will be leveled so that it can be used for temporary pay parking throughout the busy summer months."

Metro Church will be vacating the building March 1. They will transition into a temporary location for about 18 months with a clear plan to move into a long-term, permanent location sometime in 2017.

Temple said Westcorp is assisting with that transition.

"While the delay of our construction start date is unfortunate, it is our hope that it may allow us to better coordinate our construction with the city’s reconstruction of Kerry Park.

"We remain excited and committed to this fantastic project for our downtown and waterfront and look forward to getting underway."

The city gave final approval to the downtown hotel project in June of 2014.

As part of the development, Westcorp will pay the city more than $1.9 million for a portion of Mill Street to accommodate construction.

Mayor Colin Basran recently said he believes the development of the hotel will be the tipping point for our downtown. He believes it can become the heart of the community.



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