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Pursuing his dreams

Robert Nepinak was not going to let anything stand in the way of becoming a heavy equipment operator – especially not his hearing challenges.

Nepinak is a deaf heavy equipment operator from St. Albert, Alta., training to become certified at Interior Heavy Equipment Operator School.

Nepinak initially contacted IHE in January to become a ticketed operator, but the training never occurred due to a funding and interpreter issue, forcing him to give up for the time being.

“I had experience with several different machines, such as rock truck, skid steer, dozer, packer and side boom, but when I applied for the jobs I would get lots of interviews, but they would always use the excuse you will need an HEO certificate and, sorry, I can’t hire you,” Nepinak said, adding he feels strongly it is because they are afraid of hiring a deaf operator.

“I would always ask them if they relied on their hearing when they drove a car, and they often said no. They were shocked to find that I do have my driver’s licence and I would tell them there are over 89 deaf semi drivers in Canada.”

Despite the challengers, Nepinak would not be deterred.

“My dream is to become a successful heavy equipment operator so the employers will want to keep me. I have excellent vision. My struggle is just convincing employers that I can do it.”

After the initial process failed, one of the student advisors from IHE continued emailing with Nepinak, convincing him to not give up on his dream. In January, Nepinak started the process again.

“At first, it was hard to find the funds because my First Nation band from Manitoba couldn’t support me with $20,000-plus and said they could only support me for $3,000 max.”

So Nepinak turned to Oteenow Employment and Training Society in Edmonton.

Once Nepinak completed background research and proved to Oteenow that he could do the job, they agreed to fund the course, but not the cost of the interpreters.

Upon speaking to Deaf and Hear Alberta, they suggested there was additional funding through the government for people with disabilities. This involved a lot of back and forth paperwork between the interpreters, government and the school, but the initial paperwork was denied.

Deciding to make one more attempt, and re-doing the whole paperwork process, Nepinak’s application was finally accepted, however it was not fully covered.

Oteenow stepped up and paid the difference to allow Nepinak to fulfill his dream.

One year and six months later from his original attempt, Rob was able to fulfill his dream of becoming a certified heavy equipment operator. He hopes his story will inspire others to follow their dreams.

Feds help fund 3 projects

The federal government opened its wallet to help assist three Kelowna projects.

The feds are contributing $323,586 for the projects.

Conservative MP Ron Cannan made the announcement Tuesday morning at Centennial Hall in Rutland.

The bulk of the funding ($273,586) will go to the Rutland Park Society for renovation and modernization work at Centennial Hall.

The other two projects will split the remaining $50,000.

  • $20,000 for the Friends of the South Slope Society - Restore recreational trails in Myra-Belleview and Okanagan Mountain provincial parks
  • $30,000 for Okanagan Trail Riders Assn. - Upgrade trails, bridges, and campsites in Kelowna.

Funding was made possible through the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program.




Fighting tiny mussels

Dead or alive, zebra mussels aren’t welcome in B.C.

The illegal zebra and/or quagga mussels also carry a fine of $100,000 if they are found aboard a vessel in this province, and there is a crack down to ensure these mussels stay out of B.C.

The mussels put our drinking water at risk with toxic algae and can ruin our beaches, making sand unbearable to walk on because of razor sharp shells. These invasive mussels would devastate the native salmon and ruin Okanagan Lake’s ecology.

This year the provincial government will spend about $1.3 million in its fight against invasive quagga and zebra mussels, however, this is still not enough. West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater, who serves as chair of the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB), says inspection stations are needed at all of the major roadways into British Columbia.

Currently B.C. is relying on phone calls from neighbouring jurisdictions who have inspection stations set up already to notify our few inspection stations that a vessel is approaching that might be carrying invasive mussels.

That’s when B.C.’s inspection stations spring into action and prepare for decontamination, says Corrine Jackson with the OBWB.

“We would rather have the inspection stations so we can stop them and then we are not relying on neighbours to phone us from Alberta or even Nevada.”

If these mussels got into Okanagan Lake it is estimated $43 million a year would be spent by local governments on maintenance.

In order for this not to happen, word needs to spread far and wide that those who use the water must clean, drain and dry their boats, fishing gear or any other recreation water vessels. It also helps that local Formula 1 Tunnel Boat Racing Team driver Mike McLellan has jumped on board the ‘Don’t Move a Mussel’ campaign to roll out the message.

“It is something we all have to be aware of and be concerned about,” he says. “This is a real issue. There is so much at stake. Okanagan Lake is so beautiful, and as far as we know it’s mussel free, but we have to stay on top of this.”

McLellan hopes to promote the message, Clean. Drain. Dry. through the U.S. F1 Tour this year.

  • CLEAN off all plants, animals and mud from your boat and related equipment (e.g. boots, waders, fishing gear). If a power washing station is available, use it.
  • DRAIN (on dry land) any item that can hold water (e.g. buckets, wells, bilge and ballast).
  • DRY all items completely before launching the watercraft into another body of water.

The driver also wants the public to know that inspections at borders in Canada and the U.S. are easy and don’t take a long time.

“We’ve found the inspectors to be professional and very knowledgeable.”

To find out more about these invasive species check out

Going topless not a crime

A Kelowna woman has some questions for the RCMP after being told to cover up at the beach or face a fine, despite there being no law on the books to back this threat up.

Susan Rowbottom was tanning topless at a Kelowna beach, south of the William R. Bennett Bridge, last week with a friend.

An RCMP officer approached the pair and told them they needed to put their tops on.

“He said it was a ‘city ordinance,’ was his words,” said Rowbottom. “He said he could issue a ticket and obviously if we didn’t comply we could get in trouble for not obeying.”

The women complied, not wanting to cause trouble. Rowbottom said she is a student and a single mom, so she doesn’t want to break any laws.

She left the beach, curious as to what laws they had been breaking. It turns out, none.

She first called the RCMP office, and a woman there told her it was definitely against the law to go topless in public.

“She said ‘It’s not Germany, obviously there’s laws against it,’” Rowbottom said. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find them, and instructed her to call the bylaw office.

Rowbottom did just that, and said Stephen Fleming, the city clerk, told her the RCMP was wrong, and it is fully legal all across Canada.

When Rowbottom called the RCMP back and told them this, she was first put on hold, and then eventually told that it was, in fact, perfectly legal.

“The problem I have is why are the police enforcing a law that doesn’t exist?” Rowbottom said. 

Joe Duncan, media relations officer for the Kelowna RCMP, confirmed there is no law on the books for simply being topless.

“City of Kelowna doesn’t have any sort of bylaw, so arrests for public nudity are rare,” Duncan said. “They usually occur where there’s subjects doing something sexual in circumstance.”

Duncan said in most cases, police may ask women to put their shirts back on if there are families around, but it is more of a courtesy than a legal issue.

Rowbottom said she doesn’t see topless women as being a threat to children.

“I want my kids to grow up and not sexualize a woman’s body so much and actually focus on who they are,” she said. “If you stand in front of a man topless for so long, eventually your boobs aren’t that important.”

This doesn't appear to just be an issue in Kelowna. Three women in Ontario are filing a formal complaint with the Waterloo Regional Police after an officer told them they needed to put their shirts on, while they were riding their bikes topless on Friday. 

One of the women, Alysha Brilla, said when they began filming the interaction, the officer backed down, and said he was only checking if they had proper bells and lights on the bikes.

- With files from the Canadian Press

Rental boat sinks

A boat had to be towed to shore Sunday evening after it began sinking on Okanagan Lake across from the Sails.

Emergency crews responded however, when they arrived on scene another boat was already towing the sinking vessel.

According to fire officials the boat was a rental from Downtown Marina and had a single occupant on board at the time of the incident. Marina staff allegedly helped the man to safety and then tended to the boat.

There was no report of injuries.

At the time of the incident it was rainy and windy however, it is unclear why the boat sank about 5 p.m.

Calls to management at Downtown Marina were not returned.

Car smashes into DQ

Serious injuries were narrowly avoided today after a car crossed two lanes of oncoming traffic and smashed into a building on Gordon Drive.

The accident occurred at approximately 11:00 a.m. Tuesday morning. A woman in a black Hyundai was driving northbound along Gordon Drive approaching Harvey Avenue, when she suddenly crossed the small median, missed two oncoming vehicles and crashed into the brick building where the Dairy Queen is located.

“She sped past behind us and hit the wall,” said Kameil Rozumniak, the driver of one of the oncoming vehicles. “Nobody got hit, which I’m very surprised. You could see the fear in her face once she jumped that curb, so I don’t know if she was sleeping or distracted, I don’t know.”

Colin Dove was standing on a balcony overlooking the road when the accident occurred. He said the black Hyundai sped up when it jumped the curb.

“Most people when they either doze off or aren’t paying attention doing something, they panic, and she probably accidentally put on the gas instead of the brake,” Dove said.

The woman was being treated in an ambulance at the scene, but Rozumniak said she was conscious after the accident.

“She said she was ok, she was out walking,” said Rozumniak.

Steve Holmes of the Kelowna RCMP said they were still investigating the cause of the accident. 

Sand buildup closes launch

The City of Kelowna has received the go ahead to dredge part of Okanagan Lake in front of the Cook Road Boat Launch.

The city applied to the provincial government for the proper permits to dredge the area in front of the boat launch in order to remove large volumes of sand.

Work will begin at 7 a.m. Monday, Aug. 10 and is expected to be complete by Aug. 16.

Mobilization of equipment, environmental mitigation and site operations will require a complete boat launch closure to expedite the removal of sand.

“Removing this significant accumulation of sand from the area is complex and requires measures to protect the environment and surrounding infrastructure,” said parks and building project manager, Terry Barton.

“The sand will be screened and relocated later in the fall to nourish the south shoreline of Rotary Beach, close to Manteo Resort.”

Boaters are asked to keep their distance from the dredging location at the Cook Road Boat Launch, respect the contractor working in the area and use the City’s alternative boat launches.

Large amounts of sand have been moving quickly from Mission Creek affecting the boat launch operations and for safety reasons, removal must be completed in a timely manner. Provincial approvals have been granted to begin dredging when it has the least impact to spawning habitat as outlined in the BC Water Act.

Alternative boat launches include:

  • Water Street – 1354 Water Street
  • Queensway – 238 Queensway
  • Sutherland – 700 Ellis Street
  • Cedar Creek  Park – 5200 Lakeshore Road (non-motorized watercraft)

“We understand this is an inconvenience but appreciate the cooperation of residents, businesses and visitors while this time sensitive work is underway,” said Barton.

Shania sells out Prospera

They were gone in a matter of minutes - literally.

Tickets for what is being billed as Shania Twain's final concert Oct. 27 at Prospera Place sold out in less than five minutes.

But, if you missed out, you may not be out of luck yet.

According to Prospera Place events and marketing manager Sean Bianchini, additional tickets could be made available.

A second show is also a possibility. That show would likely have to be held the following night since the Kelowna Rockets have a game scheduled for Oct. 30.

Bianchini said an announcement would be made closer to the concert date.

"Updates will be released via the Facebook and Twitter pages of Prospera Place and Select Your Tickets," said Bianchini.

The sellout comes on the heels of the Aerosmith sellout earlier this month.

For your chance to win tickets to see Shania live at Prospera Place, click here

Celebrating the Screen

July 27 will now be recognized as Screen in BC Day, as the provincial government celebrates the wide range of screen-based entertainment that is created in B.C.

As part of Screen in BC Day,MLA Steve Thomson and MLA Norm Letnick were taken on a regional tour by the Okanagan Film Commission. The dignitaries stopped in at Bardel Animation, Yeti Farm Creative and The Film Factory Creative House.

Regional Film Offices receive operational funding from the province through Creative BC's Regional Film Funding Program, which helps support the growth of the film and television industry throughout B.C.

MLA Steve Thomson said for the current fiscal year, Creative BC will contribute $213,000 toward the regional film offices, which includes $30,000 to the Okanagan Film Commission.

“It’s great here for Kelowna, for the Central Okanagan, and also for the province as there are 20,000 jobs in British Columbia, over $2 billion in economic activity in the past year, significantly up from the previous year. So this is something we see as tremendous opportunity for growth."

Thomson went on to add there is a wide range of talent in the Okanagan and screen-based entertainment provides high-paying jobs in all sectors of the industry.

The Province also delivered on a promise to open a B.C. Film and Television Office in Los Angeles, Calif., to further enhance the B.C. industry's market presence in the region. This new office is said to create industry-wide marketing activities and facilitate new north-south opportunities for B.C.-based producers.

This includes the appointment of Dr. Steven Funk as the Special Envoy, Film and Digital Arts to California. Funk, will work on behalf of the  province in California with the film, television, animation and visual  effects industries.

B.C.’s motion-picture industry supports approximately 20,000 direct and indirect quality jobs that make up a talented, highly experienced and knowledge-driven workforce.

Car share grows again

The OGO Car Share Co-op has expanded its fleet, adding a seventh vehicle.

The ride-sharing co-op has more than tripled in size in two years since opening its doors in August 2013 with two cars and 35 members.

The latest vehicle has been added to the Landmark Centre neighbourhood in Kelowna.

The organization now has more than 170 members and is poised for further growth. The fleet expansion supports OGO’s mandate to provide more people with convenient and affordable access to carsharing and a practical alternative to owning a vehicle or second family car.

“We are excited to expand carsharing to a new neighbourhood,” remarked Christian Brandt, OGO’s executive director. “This provides the business community at Landmark with an additional mobility option for their employees for work-related purposes, such as going to out-of-office meetings."
Brandt noted OGO members have been asking for more vehicles in different neighbourhoods, and funding from the Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust and BCCA’s Momentum Fund helped make that a reality. He said the Landmark area is an ideal neighbourhood for carsharing due to its high density, diversity of businesses, proximity to residential areas and access to public transit.

A grant of $10,000 from the trust helped enable the expansion. 

The remainder of the vehicle is financed through a loan that was made available through the BCCA Momentum Fund, a loan guarantee established by and for the co-operative sector with funding contributions coming from co-operatives across B.C. 

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