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Council nixes 2nd fire truck

Kelowna Fire Chief Jeff Carlisle got half of what he was looking for.

City council Monday said yes to adding $130,000 to the 2015 budget to fund the purchase of a new fire truck, but no to an additional $730,000 for a second truck.

The additional funds for the first truck are needed to offset rising costs due to the weakening of the Canadian dollar.

Purchase of the second truck, needed to replace an engine that failed a mechanical inspection, will be put over until 2016 budget deliberations in December.

Carlisle said an assessment of the vehicle indicated there are challenges to get parts for the 21-year-old engine because the manufacturer is no longer in business. He said there are safety aspects, equipment reliability, equipment deficiencies and the issue of having reliable backup equipment.

"It should be considered it is beyond its usefullness and should be replaced," said Carlisle.

"If we delay the replacement of it, we are looking at a minimum of 18 months to two years. This vehicle would have to be maintained for the next two to three years."

The engine is a backup and only goes out on calls if the main engine is on a call or in for maintenance.

Purchasing the two engines together could save the city two to three per cent, Carlisle said, but it would also put the Fire Equipment Capital Reserve fund into a deficit from 2016 to 2018.

Coun. Luke Stack said he understands the extra funds because of the falling dollar, but does not believe the time is right to approve the second engine.

"I do think it is more appropriate that we deal with the second one in the next budget year. I think there are other thoughts we need to consider. We need to consider beefing the reserve up," said Stack, who added there are ways to manage in the short term.

"Obviously, the option I would prefer is to replace both these engines, then we have equipment that is reliable and we don't have issues with parts and maintenance," said Carlisle.

Of equal importance for at least one councillor was why the reserve funds have been inadequately funded.

Currently, $400,000 is set aside for the fire equipment reserve, with a proposal to increase that by $100,000 in each of the next four years to a total of $800,000 a year.

"Is this because councils over the years have not approved an increase, is it a lack of foresight?" asked Coun Charlie Hodge.

"How have we got to the point where we've underfunded the reserve?"

Deputy city manager Paul Macklem said taking money to put it in a reserve is "not a very sexy" budget item, but added the city is on the right track.

Stack was more direct.

"We're responsible. The last two councils could have put $100,000 a year more over the last six years, and we wouldn't have this debate here today," he said.

"So we're all responsible because we haven't put enough money aside for this need, and I wear that as well. But I do think it's time, now that we're aware we're short, to start planning and we have to put our planning hats on and not just make a quick decision on the fly, which I feel we're doing today."

Council voted five-three against approving funding now for the second truck, with Councillors Hodge, Tracy Gray and Brad Sieben voting against.





City offers trees for cheap

Anyone seeking some more foliage for their yards need not look far, the City of Kelowna is offering up NeighbourWoods trees for only $40.

But time is running out for Kelowna residents, as the city has less than 100 trees left. They are of the Regal Prince Oak and Snowbird Hawthorn varieties and will be ready for pickup next month.

Applications can be found here and will be accepted until all the trees are sold.

The program is restricted to residents living in Kelowna and has a limit of one tree per household. It’s all part of the city’s strategy to grow Kelowna’s urban canopy.

Since 2010, the city has sold more than 2,100 discounted trees for planting.

Trees can be picked up on Saturday, April 25, at the Mission Recreation Park Arboretum (4105 Gordon Dr.) between 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. City staff will also be on hand to answer questions about gardening, tree health and maintenance, and will be conducting tree planting demonstrations.



Fire at Glenmore dump

Kelowna firefighters responded to a fire at the Glenmore landfill this afternoon.

Dan Byl, who was hauling garbage to the dump, said the blaze started about 12:30 p.m., and firefighters were on scene about 15 minutes later.

He said dump operations temporarily shut down, creating a lineup of about 50 vehicles waiting to drop off their refuse.

Byl's photos and video show a thick cloud of white smoke rising over the landfill's sorting containers. The fire appears to be contained to a single bin.

He said a landfill employee told him it may have been a cigarette or chemical reaction that started the fire, but there is no official cause so far.

We'll have more details as they become available.





Farmers' market set to open

The Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market celebrates 20 years this week, when the outdoor version of the popular market opens on Wednesday.

Despite rumblings over the past year, the market will once again be situated at the corner of Springfield Road and Dilworth Drive. And market manager Gisele Glover says it will once again be a popular place.

“It’s going to be quiet at the beginning of the season, but we generally expect (about) 185 vendors over the course of the summertime,” she says.

Last year, the market needed overflow stalls to accommodate all the interested vendors, and it will again have 19 extra spots, as the market continues to gain in popularity.

But what Glover really wants to see is a permanent location.

“We’re waiting to hear from a developer that is going to want us there for the rest of our ... we’re looking for a permanent home,” she says with a laugh.

The market currently has a year-to-year contract with Orchard Park Mall that runs through October.

Longtime market shoppers can expect the same types of produce, fruit, baked goods and crafts, but new this year will be the ability to sample and buy wine or craft beers.

“It’s going to be very exciting,” Glover says.

“All the paperwork has been completed, and it’s up to each individual winery or craft brewery to get their paperwork from liquor control. They bring us all their paperwork, and we set them up.”



This business 'having a ball'

A B.C. company with a Kelowna manufacturing connection recently delivered a giant play centre to Vietnam.

FormaShape, which mostly produces waterslides, is the production arm of WhiteWater Attractions, based out of Richmond.

The company built a Ballocity play structure as part of a massive 157,000 square foot play facility at Helio Centre, Vietnam’s largest family entertainment centre.

The centre employs 600 staff and has the capacity for up to 4,000 guests to play and explore throughout the facility at one time.

“The impressive centre offers hours of activities for guests of all ages, with our Ballocity structure aiming to entertain kids four to 12 years old,” said WhiteWater president Doug Smith.

WhiteWater offers a range of amusement products including harnessed attractions, interactive play structures and water rides.

WhiteWater's main steel fabrication facility for play structures is located in Richmond, while its primary Canadian facility, FormaShape, is located in Kelowna. The 80,000 square foot facility produces fibreglass waterslides and attractions. 



It's all about the experience

In an extension of the theory the customer is always right, a business professor says the best consumer experience is good business.

Whether zip-lining in B.C., skiing in Europe or watching a musical performance in China, it’s all about the experience. And, if you’re footing the bill, you want it to be the best.

Prof. Emeritus Chris Voss of London Business School and professor of operations management at Warwick Business School in the U.K. will speak Tuesday evening at the Rotary Centre for the Arts as part of UBC Okanagan's visiting speaker series. His speech gets underway at 7 p.m.

Voss will examine how organizations design high-experience services for consumers. Drawing on China’s first production of a Western Musical – Mamma Mia! – in Mandarin, and skiing adventures in Europe and Canada, Voss will discuss: What is “experience?" Why is it important to all services? What can organizations learn from leaders in the field? 

The public event is free to attend. Register at: march2015vsschrisvoss.eventbrite.com



Sentes gives trades boost

One of the valley’s most prominent auto dealer groups has pledged $50,000 toward the renovation and expansion of Okanagan College’s Trades Training Complex.

Sentes Automotive made the commitment toward the Bright Horizons Building for Skills fundraising campaign to support a student study space in the new trades tower currently under construction.

“Our company recognizes the impact that new trades students and apprentices have, not only on our business, but on the industry as a whole throughout the Okanagan,” said Sentes general manager Adam Rich. “We see the skills and the energy these young people bring to the table, and we’re proud to support their training."

The new complex will allow the college to train more than 2,400 students and apprentices every year, which will help further establish this region as a hub for trades training, said Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton. 

Rich is also automotive sector chair of the Bright Horizons campaign. 

“It is great forethought on the college’s part to make this expansion now, with all the projections pointing to a shortage in skilled labour over the next decade," he said. "This new complex is a great way to stay out in front of that.”

Sentes operates six dealerships from Vernon to Penticton and is one of the largest automotive industry employers in the region, with 265 employees.

The Bright Horizons campaign for the $33-million complex renovation and expansion project launched in October 2014. The goal of the campaign is to raise $5 million for capital construction costs and $2 million for program and student support. The provincial government has committed $28 million to the project.

Rich says the buzz around the campaign has been positive among auto dealers. A Kelowna Auto Dealers Association’s pledge of $10,000 was one of the early donations that helped to kick off the campaign, and dealerships throughout the valley have collectively provided more than $600,000 to date.



Rally at KGH to protest cuts

Public health-care advocates will take action Tuesday to protest federal Conservative cuts.

The rally at Kelowna General Hospital is part of a multi-city, national day of action drawing attention to the $36 billion in reductions in federal health care transfers over the next decade to B.C. and other provinces, Hospital Employees Union Kelowna spokesperson Megan Korol, said in a press release.

For British Columbians, federal cuts to health transfers mean $5 billion less for hospitals and other health services, the union claims.

Advocates will be demanding action by federal politicians to restore the billions of dollars cut by the Harper Conservatives.

The rally is supported by the Hospital Employees' Union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Kamloops Health Coalition, and the Canadian Health Coalition. 

The rally will get underway at 11 a.m.



4 things you need to know

Castanet's AM Update for Monday, March 30.

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OKC half marathon results

More than 400 runners crossed the finish line Sunday at Okanagan College’s 13th annual Half Marathon, 10K and Relay Race in Kelowna.

The not-for-profit event raises funds to support student bursaries, and this year it was Kelowna’s Christy Lovig who shattered the course record in the female 10K with a time of 36:48. Salmon Arm’s Glynis Sim (38:32) finished second and Kelowna’s Martha Sirdevan (42:39) rounded out the top three.

On the men’s side, it was Greg Edgar finishing first with a time of 35:49. He was followed by the father-son duo of Jacab and Jeremy Harris who finished together with a time of 36:36.

The men’s half marathon was won by Vernon’s Aaron Heidt (1:14:49). Kelowna runners Jeff Vogt (1:17:19) and Rory Switzer (1:21:09) rounded out the top three. On the women’s side it was Claire Young (1:26:44) who came in a few minutes faster than Tracey Dayman (1:33:48) and Cindy Rhodes (1:34:19). All three are from Kelowna.

The half marathon relay event was won by a team from Fresh Air Experience. The team of five runners worked together to achieve a time of 1:38:36.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better day for this event and the group of runners and volunteers who took part this year were incredible,” said race director Christine Ulmer. “I heard runners saying they couldn’t have experienced better weather for this time of year – it was the perfect temperature and nice and dry. The course was really well managed by a great group of volunteers and as always, our participants brought a huge amount of energy to the event.”

Complete race results can be found by clicking here.



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