Wednesday, January 28th1.4°C

Possible fatal accident


Hwy. 33 has reopened in both directions after a reportedly fatal crash claimed one life Wednesday afternoon. 


One person has reportedly died after a fatal rollover on Highway 33 near the hairpin, late Wednesday afternoon.

Multiple unconfirmed sources indicate a woman lost her life after her vehicle tumbled down an embankment shortly after 4 p.m.

RCMP will not confirm the death, but say they are on the scene of a serious accident. The Joe Rich Fire Department says they are also on the scene working on a recovery.

Kelowna RCMP are now rerouting drivers around the accident on via Goudie and Cardinal Creek roads.

There are currently warnings on that section of road, according to DriveBC, of limited visibility due to fog.

We will have more details as soon as they become available.


Behind the scenes at the CCC

Behind the scenes of the Canadian Culinary Championships the pressure is on, and students in the culinary program at Okanagan College are up for any challenge presented to them as they assist the competing chefs.

More than 30 lucky students in the program volunteer their time over the two day event that takes place in Kelowna on February 6 and 7.

Okanagan college instructor Chef Bernard Casavant says the event is very intense going so far as to describe it as a marathon.

“It’s not about showing up, and being told to show up from six in the morning to till 10 at night, it is a matter that you meet the chefs and they meet you,” he says. “You never know when that is needed on a job opportunity or another competition opportunity.”

Second year student Sarah Maw volunteered at the championships last year and says it was an eye opening experience.

“We got to do a lot of plating with them (the competing chefs), which basically they would give us little tasks for the plate, and they would teach us how they want it. Every chef is different, so it was great to see a variety of chefs teaching you.”

Toted as one of the most intense events in the competition, ‘The Black Box’ is a time sensitive challenge and culinary student Jake Kirstin was brought on to assist the chefs in the event.

He says time pressure brings out people’s character.

“You see when it gets down to the crunch, who can handle it and who can’t. When it comes to the Gold Medal Plates, all of these chefs are very seasoned and they understand these constraints and that is why they got successful enough to start and finish in the competition.”

Castanet asked several other students who participated last year if they have any words of advice for the newbies who are looking to take on the challenge in 2015.

We were told students should be prepared both mentally and physically for long days, get in the mind set for a stressful environment, but most importantly remember the experience is priceless.

“Working with professional chefs and best chefs from all over the country will be worth it,” says student Nicole Taylor.

Instructors in the culinary program will have their students spend most of their year prepping for the opportunity to work at the Gold Medal Plates.

Danny Capadouca, a Pastry Arts Instructor, says students do get involved in Skills Canada which can go to a national level, but it’s not the same caliber as the Gold Medal Plates.

“Gold Medal Plates is going to a good cause, and it is really just seeing how the young chefs could aspire some of these (competing) chefs.”

For more information on the Gold Medal Plates click here.


Bobcat hit by vehicle

Another bobcat was spotted lurking near Highway 97 and Kelowna International Airport on Wednesday.

Conservation Officer Terry Myroniuk attended the area and found the animal badly wounded.

“I had to euthanize the bobcat, it was in rough shape and was leaning up against a house. It appears it was hit by a vehicle,” said Myroniuk.

This is one of many bobcat sightings in the Kelowna area during the last few weeks, which Myroniuk explained is due to heavy snowfall at higher elevations.

“Traditionally, when there are high amounts of snow, it pushes the bobcats down into the suburbs. The snow makes mobility hard for the cat, and they also experience problems hunting.”

Conservation has received calls regarding bobcats in the Mission neighbourhood of Kelowna, Naramata and the Vernon area.

On Jan. 25, Castanet received a news tip regarding a bobcat in West Kelowna that reportedly grabbed a pheasant, then took off down the road.

Late Tuesday, a Castanet viewer observed a coyote near the McDonald's in Rutland, at the corner of Highway 33 and Hollywood Road.

Myroniuk says no calls were made to conservation regarding the coyote. However, they did receive a call about a coyote on Monday, near the Mission Creek Greenway but did not attend.

Mike Badry, wildlife conflict manager, says wild animal sightings documented through the Wildlife Alert Reporting Program. The online mapping system geo-locates incidents on a map of the province that can be searched by species, conflict type, geographic area, etc.

The site is updated daily at: 

If you recently spotted wildlife in your neighbourhood and have photo or video footage of the animal, please email us at [email protected]


Delta Grand sold to Marriott chain

Kelowna's Delta Grand Okanagan Resort and Conference Centre will soon hang its banner under a new brand.

Marriott International Inc. has signed a deal to buy the Delta hotel brand from B.C. Investment Management Corp. for $168 million.

Under the agreement, the U.S. hotel chain will take over the management and franchise operations for the 38 Delta hotels and resorts, including 10,000 rooms across Canada from the provincial investment manager.

The 390-room Delta Grand is an iconic landmark on Kelowna's lakefront.

It was recently ranked by among Canada's top waterfront hotels.

Local hotel management wasn't immediately available to comment on the purchase agreement.

Marriott, which has more than 4,100 hotels around the world, says acquisition of the Delta chain will bring its operations to more than 120 hotels and 27,000 rooms in Canada.

Affiliates of B.C. Investment Management own 13 of the Delta hotels and will sign new 30-year management agreements with Marriott.

Meanwhile, third parties own the other 25 Delta hotels, including 15 that are managed by Delta and 10 are that franchised.

Marriott says it plans to integrate the Delta hotels into its systems, loyalty program and website.

It expects to close the deal in the second quarter after getting approvals from Canadian competition authorities and certain other consents.

B.C. Investment Management manages investments for public sector pension funds as well as publicly administered trust funds and government operating funds.

The Canadian Press

Scholarships for outstanding youth

Outstanding youth in the Central Okanagan have a new avenue in which to help offset post-secondary education costs.

Finalists in the Young Male and Young Female Volunteer of the Year awards will now qualify for a scholarship award through the Thomas Alan Budd Foundation.

Each of the recipients will receive a $1,000 scholarship, with the four finalists each receiving $500 toward their post-secondary goals.

“This is an exciting opportunity to be able to recognize and support these incredible youth for the volunteer time they have contributed to various causes in our city,” said Amber Gilbert, civic awards organizer.

“We are fortunate to have the support of the Thomas Alan Budd Foundation to sponsor the scholarship component of this award.”

The 40th annual Civic and Community Awards recognize outstanding individuals, groups and organizations whose contributions and achievements benefited the city in 2014.

Nomination categories include:

  • Young Male and Young Female Volunteer of the Year
  • Bob Giordano Memorial Award – Volunteer Coach or Sport Administrator of the Year
  • Bryan Couling Memorial – Athletic Team of the Year
  • Male and Female Athlete of the Year
  • Champion for the Environment (individual and business)
  • Corporate Community of the Year (small/medium and large)
  • Honour in the Arts
  • Teen Honour in the Arts
  • Fred Macklin Memorial – Man of the Year
  • Sarah Donalda Treadgold Memorial – Woman of the Year
  • Central Okanagan Foundation, Volunteer Organization of the Year

Nominations close Feb. 13.

Click here to link to the online nomination page.

Hard copy forms are available at City Hall and the Parkinson Recreation Centre. Completed forms can be dropped off at Parkinson or submitted online. Individuals with questions regarding the nomination process are asked to contact Amber Gilbert at 250-469-8967.

The awards will be handed out April 30 at Kelowna Community Theatre.

Parkinson pool reopens

UPDATE 9 A.M. JAN. 28:

The main pool at the Parkinson Rec Centre has reopened. The pool was shut down at noon Sunday while maintenance crews worked to fix an issue with the filtration system.

Some swim lessons and aquatic fitness classes are still cancelled for today until the pool temperature regulates. City staff will contact those customers affected. Refunds for the cancelled classes will be credited back to customers’ accounts.

UPDATE 3:30 P.M. JAN 26:

The Parkinson Rec Centre's main pool remains closed to the public while maintenance crews work to correct a mechanical issue with the filtration system.

All swim lessons and aquatic classes have been cancelled Monday.

The closure is due to water clarity.

“Pool water clarity does not pose any health concerns for those who used the pool, but it does pose lifeguarding concerns. We’ve had to close the pool for swimmer safety," says Active Living Director, Jim Gabriel.

Maintenance staff are working on the issue and will resolve it as soon as possible. A reopening time will not be established until the full mechanical inspection is complete.

The children’s pool, whirlpool and steam room remain open.

The main pool at Parkinson Recreation Centre has been shut down for repair work as of noon Sunday.

According to the City of Kelowna, a malfunctioning water filter has resulted in slightly murky water, which poses lifeguarding concerns. They says the cloudy water does not pose any health concerns for those who used the pool.

“Lifeguarding standards require a certain amount of water clarity which is not being met at this time,” says Tyler Stringer, Aquatics Coordinator at Parkinson Recreation Centre. “As a precaution, we’ve closed the main pool to the public until the problem is fixed.”

Maintenance on the problem will start Sunday afternoon, but pool users are urged to call ahead to see if the pool has reopened in time for Monday morning lane swims.

The number to call is 250-469-8800.

The hot pool and children’s pool remain open.

RDCO sets goals for the year

The Regional District of Central Okanagan sets out its priorities for the year in its just-published annual review.

The district’s programming and service game plan for 2015 includes:

  • Construction of a new Mission Creek intake for the Falcon Ridge water system and a new outfall from the Westside regional wastewater treatment plant.
  • Review several programs including the RDCO fire service, victims services, CrimeStoppers and crime prevention programs and report findings for board consideration.
  • Conduct reviews of and updates to the zoning bylaw, Rural Westside Official Community Plan and environmental inventories and mapping.
  • Engage public and stakeholders to help create management plans for Woodhaven Nature Conservancy and Black Mountain/ Sntsk‘il’ntən regional parks.

The 43-page publication "explains what the regional district is all about. We are the local government for residents in the Central Okanagan East and West electoral areas and a service provider to the municipalities of Kelowna, Lake Country, Peachland and West Kelowna for programs such as dog control, recycling, false alarm reduction and 911," says Bruce Smith, RDCO communications officer.

The 2014 annual review also highlights many of the programs and services provided in the Central Okanagan during the last year.

Of note, a total of 140 building permits were issued, with a total value of $18,351,930.

Of the regional volunteer fire departments, Ellison’s was by far the busiest, with 110 callouts. That was followed by Joe Rich at 75, North Westside with 66, and Wilson’s Landing, 25.

Dog complaints kept bylaw enforcement staff hopping, with a total of 2,366 complaints responded to.

The total number of dogs licensed in the area is 19,815, and 823 tickets were handed out for violation of the district’s dog bylaw; 669 canines were impounded, 256 of those unlicensed. Eighty-six dogs were sent to the SPCA for adoption, and four were euthanized.

In other bylaw news, residents weren’t shy about complaining about their neighbours.

Fourteen untidy or unsightly property complaints were fielded, and 663 about weeds. Of those, 389 property owners were ordered to clean up their weedy grounds. Sixty-one times, a contractor had to come out and do the job, and then the owner was billed for the work.

On the positive side, 210 business licences were issued.

The regional district’s population now sits at 179,839, according to the latest census. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Central Okanagan East 3,795 
  • Central Okanagan West 9,015 
  • City of Kelowna 119,229
  • District of West Kelowna 30,892
  • District of Lake Country 11,708
  • District of Peachland 5,200

The region contains 74,950 households and 11,727 business licence holders.
The RDCO spans 3,142.26 square kilometres and employs 124 staff.

SOPA Square deal gets go-ahead

A $29.5-million bid to purchase the stalled Kelowna SOPA Square development has received the final go-ahead.

The oft-delayed project in Kelowna’s Pandosy district fell into receivership, and the bid by Vancouver’s Aquilini Group was accepted Dec. 5, triggering a six-week waiting period during which other prospective developers had the opportunity to outbid the owners of the Vancouver Canucks.

Marshall McAnerney, with commercial real estate firm Colliers International, said Tuesday afternoon receiver Ernst & Young has issued a certificate to the Aquilini Group and the courts, terminating the sales process.

The receiver is working with Aquilini to close the transaction in accordance with the so-called “stalking horse” agreement, with a target closing date of mid-February, said McAnerney.

The SOPA Square project, approved by Kelowna City Council in 2008, has been beset with financial problems nearly from the outset.

The project stalled after the original developer ran out of money.

A second developer from Alberta took over the project, but it too was unable to fund the project to completion.

It went into receivership late last year.

Only two floors of the 11-storey project have been completed.

The Aquilinis also have a large stake in the 24, a proposed Bernard Avenue development that has yet to get off the ground.

The stalled project so far consists of two commercial buildings of approximately 40,000 square feet of ground floor retail space and 23,490 square feet of first floor office space. It is zoned and planned for for an 11-storey residential tower and six-storey townhome complex and includes a below-ground parkade and partially constructed surface parking lot

Lake Country tax hike at 2.76%

Lake Country council will begin debating a budget tonight that calls for a tax increase of 2.76 per cent.

That would work out to an additional $45 on an average single-family home assessed at approximately $492,000.

In his draft budget proposal, CAO Alberto De Feo says the district's operating budget for 2015 sits at slightly more than $19.3 million, an increase of more than $455,000 from a year ago.

A business system review in 2014 found savings of $201,000 annually. De Feo says $97,500 of that is allocated to increase the capital funding program, with the balance used to offset any tax increase.

The proposed 2015 tax hike would be the second lowest in the past 12 years. The lowest was 2.5 per cent in 2012. During the past 11 years, the average tax increase has been 3.88 per cent.

Included in the budget proposal is a recommendation for a $25 per household reduction in garbage and recycling fees.

The operating budget was drafted to maintain existing service levels while also incorporating annualized increases and contractual and inflationary increases. What the budget does not include is a proposal to borrow up to $2.6 million for half of Lake Country's share of the purchase of the defunct CN Rail line.

That proposal is still before taxpayers in the form of an Alternative Approval Process.

If fewer than 931 eligible voters oppose the borrowing, taxes would increase by approximately another $27 per home.

Axe falls again at SRI Homes

For the second time in less than a year, SRI Homes in Lake Country has been forced to make massive layoffs.

According to one employee, workers were issued layoff notices Jan 9. The last day of production was Friday, Jan. 16.

An employee who contacted Castanet says approximately 155 employees are affected by the plant-wide layoff.

He adds only 90 at the top of the seniority list will be brought back to work once the plant resumes operation.

The reason for the shutdown is apparently the loss of a large project in the Northern Alberta oilfields that was cancelled due to falling oil prices.

SRI Homes builds factory homes at its operation on Jim Bailey Road in Winfield.

Company officials have not returned a call from Castanet looking for comment.

In April of 2014, the entire 140-person production staff was given layoff notice. That was in addition to 50 employees who were laid off three months earlier.

Within two weeks, those workers were recalled back to work.

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