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Injury, addiction, crime

A Kelowna man's path from injury to addiction and a life of crime is all too familiar. 

Whether he continues on that path will be up to him – when he's released from prison in 190 days. 

Arley Markiewicz has served 175 days behind bars for a crime spree that ran from January to May.

Markiewicz grew up in a less than desirable household, according to his defence lawyer, but managed to stay out of trouble throughout his youth.

At 19, he was involved in a quadding accident. After a number of surgeries, one of his legs was amputated, and he was prescribed morphine and Dilantin to manage his pain.

Markiewicz was in custody Friday, watching his trial proceedings via video, stone-faced, as his story was presented to the judge.

At 26, in September 2014, Markiewicz’s prescription was cut off by his doctor. After years of prescribed opiate use, he was addicted, and began to get his fix from the street. To feed his habit, crime soon followed.

On Jan. 22, 2015, he was found stealing fuel from an industrial area on Acland Road.

Markiewicz was released on bail, but turned up three weeks later when he was found breaking into a storage yard. He was charged again and released on bail.

The cycle continued, quite literally, when two stolen bikes sold to pawn shops in Kelowna were traced back to him in early May, followed by him stealing two motorized scooters from an underground parking garage at an apartment building on Leon Avenue.

He has been in custody since June.

Since then, Markiewicz has been taking courses offered by the prison in an attempt to turn his life around.

He was given the opportunity to address the court before sentencing.

Markiewicz said: “During that period of time, I was addicted to heroin and I was just trying to feed my habit. I’m kind of glad I got caught, because I was out of control … I couldn’t break that circle.”

He apologized for his actions, becoming emotional on the video feed.

“I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to everybody, and I just want to make my life better.”

Markiewicz was given a 15-month sentence for his crime spree. After credit for time served, he's left with 190 days in custody.

Once he is released, Markiewicz said he plans to become a heavy machinery operator.

“I want to live life,” he said. “I want to be a law-abiding citizen.”


Bail changes in arson case

A man facing multiple charges for allegedly trying to burn down his house was granted a change in his bail conditions Friday afternoon.

Wade Farrell, 67, was arrested at the scene of a house fire in Winfield on Nov. 2. He has been charged with arson damaging property and possession of incendiary material.

The fire reportedly stemmed from a domestic dispute.

Farrell was requesting he be allowed to contact his former partner, who had lived at the house in question, by phone, text and email for the purpose of separating their assets.

Farrell was granted this change in his bail conditions by the judge, with the exception of text messaging, a decision supported by Crown counsel.

Farrell will next make an appearance in court on Dec. 3.

Kelowna's chief innovator

The Kelowna Innovation Society has a new face at the top.

Donnie Ungaro has been appointed the society's first executive director. He will assume his new role Dec. 1.

One of the key initiatives for KIS is the development and operation of 20,000 square feet of creative space in the new Okanagan Centre for Innovation, under construction next to the downtown Kelowna library.

“We are thrilled to welcome Donnie to the position.... He is well known and
respected in the region as a community builder that has been successful through collaborative
leadership, active engagement and entrepreneurial spirit – a perfect fit for this role,” said Jeff Keen,
director and vice-president of the society.

Ungaro brings award-winning experience to KIS, having led the Okanagan Young Professionals initiative
for the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission for the past three years. The program recently was named both the provincial and national Economic Development Program of the Year.

Ungaro is also a seasoned entrepreneur, having run his own company, Culinary Ink GastroVentures,
for the past eight years.

“I am honoured for the opportunity to not only lead, but shape the direction of KIS in conjunction with
the development and goals of the OCI," said Ungaro.

"The OCI is a monument to the movement of change occurring in Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley as we continue to build upon our thriving technology and knowledge-based economy. KIS will play a critical role in continuing this movement."


Farmer's request rebuffed

Kelowna farmers hoping to diversity their operation by adding two non-farm uses on the property are being rebuffed by city staff.

Despite a positive recommendation by the city's Agricultural Advisory Committee, staff are giving the thumbs down to Kristi and James Caldwell's request to allow weddings and a craft distillery on their Goodison Road farm.

In a report, staff say weddings would run contrary to the city's bylaws against such activities on agricultural land.

For a distillery to be considered a farm use, a minimum of 50 per cent of the products must be grown on the farm. In this case, staff say, the majority of the distilled products would be grains grown on other farms in the province.

The Caldwells took over ownership of the farm after Kristi's parents died in 2014.

Since then, they have continued with production and sales from their market garden and egg sales, and have plans for future expansion with three head of cattle, floral production and an apiary, planned for 2016.

The Caldwells are also hoping to add an agricultural heritage tour to the property which houses a collection of farm equipment, industrial tools and antiques. That would be allowed by the city and the Agricultural Land Commission.

According to their application, the requests have the unanimous support of neighbours.

City council will hear the application request Monday.

Council can only make recommendations in these types of applications. A final decision rests with the ALC.

Creek rehab begins

Shovels are officially in the ground at Mission Creek, as a project to widen and return it to its original condition begins.

The Mission Creek Restoration Initiative will increase the creek’s channel from 40 to 150 metres, reducing flood risks and expanding fish and wildlife habitat.

The first phase of the project is expected to be complete by spring, before high-water season. Proponents of the project say it will result in no harmful impacts to the quality of creek water.

During construction, the dike between Casorso Road and Gordon Drive will be closed.

A new dike that is being built is designed to withstand a one-in-200-year flood. It will require about 9,000 cubic metres of sand, clay and gravel, the majority of which will come from the old dike.

Four "meander notches" will be carved into the creek, and large trees will extend over the pools to improve fish habitat. This is part of what the initiative calls “re-naturalizing flow patterns.”

“As nature takes its course over time, and native trees and vegetation take hold, the view from the new dike across the naturalized creek will be stunning,” said Steve Matthews, MCRI project co-ordinator, in a statement.

Grizzlies inducted into hall

The only B.C. team to compete, and win medals during three Special Olympics World Games has been inducted into the B.C. Special Olympics Hall of Fame.

The Kelowna Grizzlies softball team were inducted during a special ceremony at the Rotary Centre for the Arts Thursday night.

The Grizzlies have been playing together for nearly 25 years, and while some members have stepped away, the core group has remained the same.

In 1999, they became the first Special Olympics BC softball team to make it to the World Games. They went on to win a gold medal.

The team continued to work hard, and in 2010, they won the right to represent Canada at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Greece.

They tied for gold, but were awarded silver based on runs for and against. 

The Kelowna Grizzlies set a B.C. record by representing Canada for the third time at a World Games this past year when they competed in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, capturing the bronze medal in the process.

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 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, an 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.

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