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Neis making political comeback

West Kelowna's first mayor is attempting a political comeback.

Rosalind Neis, who served one year as mayor (2007) then three years on council (2008-2011), has announced she is running again.

Neis was the top vote getter in 2008 but was unable to parlay that popularity during her 2011 run at the mayor's chair.

She lost that vote to current mayor, Doug Findlater, by more than 1,600 votes.

Neis, a registered nurse at KGH, initially announced her intention to run in November but backed down because she will be in Prince Rupert for the month of October helping with a medical shortage in that community.

"I realize that being physically out of the community for October puts me at a disadvantage but I...want to make a difference in this wonderful community and I know that I have the support of many people," says Neis.

In the meantime, Neis says she will stay connected with the community through cell phone and on line until she returns Nov 1.

"It is a chance I am willing to take.

I am willing to let the chips fall where they may."

Voters in West Kelowna go to the polls to elect a new council Nov 15.



Ex premier has Alzheimer's

Former BC Premier, Bill Bennett, has Alzheimer's disease.

The revelation was made public Tuesday morning when entrepreneur, Charles Fipke, made three separate donations to the University of British Columbia.

Fipke has given $3 million to endow a professorship dedicated to Alzheimer’s research, and has pledged $600,000 to outfit the professor’s lab with cutting-edge equipment at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, a partnership between the UBC Faculty of Medicine and Vancouver Coastal Health. He has also committed $5.5 million to support the purchase of the most novel and coveted brain imaging technology.

Fipke, from Kelowna, was moved to make the gifts by the plight of his longtime friend, Bill Bennett, the former premier of British Columbia, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

His son Brad expressed the Bennett family’s gratitude at a ceremony Tuesday honouring Fipke’s philanthropy to UBC.

“Our family is incredibly grateful to Chuck Fipke for this generous donation to Alzheimer’s research and we are very moved by his reasons for doing it,” says Brad Bennett.

“The end game has to be to find a cure for this. We still don’t know what causes this disease and there are far too many people afflicted with it and far too many families like ours suffering the horrible consequences. They say with Alzheimer’s patients you say goodbye twice, the first of those being the most difficult because you’re saying goodbye to the person you knew and loved while they are still alive.”

Fipke also pledged funds for a machine that combines positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The PET-MRI will enable Dr. Nygaard and other scientists to conduct studies that wouldn’t be possible using two machines separately.

“I was stunned to learn about Bill Bennett’s illness – yet another great mind stricken by Alzheimer’s,” says Fipke. “I want to do anything I can to help UBC’s researchers find a cure.”

A UBC alumnus, Fipke had previously given $8.7 million to the University, mostly for buildings and equipment at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

These gifts contribute to UBC’s 'Start an evolution' campaign, the most ambitious fundraising and alumni engagement campaign in Canadian history, with the twin goal of raising $1.5 billion and involving 50,000 alumni annually in the life of the university by 2015.

Ophus seeks another term

Duane Ophus is seeking a fourth term on West Kelowna Council.

Ophus took the summer to make his decision, due in part to the fourth year added to all municipal terms.

He was elected to the first municipal council in 2007 and was subsequently re-elected to three year terms in 2008 and again in 2011.

He has spent the last six years representing West Kelowna on the Regional District board.

Ophus has lived in West Kelowna for nearly 20 years, during which he has successfully operated a local business with his wife, Elaine and raised three children - now all living
elsewhere on their own.

“I enjoy serving on Council and these Boards. I believe my strong analytical and financial management skills serve me well in helping guide our community and region," says Ophus.

“Over the past seven years we have successfully established a new community of nearly 32,000 people. We’ve made significant investments in roads, sidewalks, water systems and other basic
infrastructure to improve the quality of life for all residents. We have also invested in new parks
and playing fields."

Ophus says he is particularly proud of the fact many of the improvements and additions have been made in a financially sustainable manner.

"While serving on the Central Okanagan Regional District Board, we’ve shown leadership by significantly reducing expenses and costs of running the RDCO.

Next year will be the sixth consecutive year we have funded the Sterile Insect Release Board with no tax increases. Staff and the Board have worked well together under our leadership to get the job done with available resources.”

Over the next four year term, Ophus plans to focus on the proposed new municipal facility - ensuring it stays on budget and delivers significant economic benefits to West Kelowna.

He says implementing the Master Water Plan is also a priority. It will require a substantial financial investment to deliver long term, high quality water service to our residents.

Most important, he intends to see the District of West Kelowna continue delivering needed services to the community in a fiscally responsible way.

“I look forward to continuing to use my leadership experience and strong financial management skills to the benefit of all citizens of West Kelowna.”

Ophus is the last member of council to officially announce his intentions to seek re-election.

Only Gord Milsom will not run for another term.

West Kelowna voters go to the polls Nov 15.


Findlater runs for re-election

Incumbent mayor Doug Findlater will run again. Findlater will make it official on Oct 2, at Volcanic Hills Estate Winery, 2845 Boucherie Rd., West Kelowna.

A press release from Findlater's camp states:  

"Findlater has been an active community leader since the Westside first sought incorporation and he has been on the West Kelowna District Council since incorporation. He has been the Mayor for the past six years throughout the Council and Community establishing their governance, administration infrastructure and the development of a series of Community Master Plans.

Doug is seeking re-election because he believes that the next years are critical in maintaining the current momentum of delivering good governance that will continue to define West Kelowna. His platform is based on the conviction that Council must remain focused on implementing the Master Plans that have been established by community involvement and at the same time Council must uphold good governance and administration, advocate economic development and maintain the urban infrastructure standards and character of West Kelowna"


Nut farm expands with grant

A grant from the Tree Canada Edible Trees Program is helping to spread the work of Jack Gellatly beyond the boundary of the Gellatly Nut Farm Regional Park.

The program, supported by Loblaw Inc., Silk and TELUS, provided a $4,000 grant to the Regional District of Central Okanagan to expand the nursery compound in the park where nut tree seedlings are germinated, grown and now available for sale to the public and interested growers. 

The nut orchard at Gellatly Nut Farm Regional Park produces walnuts, tree hazels, butternuts, buartnuts, heartnuts, chestnut and hazelnuts from hardy tree stock. These mature trees are a valuable seed and scion source for producing local nut trees and to promote the unique nut trees developed in the 1920’s and 1930’s by Jack Gellatly.

The Tree Canada Edible Trees Program supports municipalities, schools and community gardens to purchase, plant and maintain nut and fruit trees enhancing community access to fruit and nut trees.

Now is also your chance to start your own nut tree legacy by growing one of the unique Gellatly Family bred nut tree species. 

Two gallon potted seedlings are now available for $20. Funds raised from the sale of seedlings will assist the Gellatly Nut Farm Society for park enhancements and continuation of the seedling program. 

Seedlings will be on sale during the annual Nut Farm Harvest Fair, Saturday, September 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the park, 2375 Whitworth Road in West Kelowna. 

They’re also available for purchase from Society volunteers at Gellatly House in the park from 9 a.m.  4 p.m. daily until early November.

Boucherie rollover

One man was transported to Kelowna General Hospital with non-life threatening injuries following a single vehicle crash on Boucherie Road Friday afternoon.

The crash occurred shortly before 2:30 on a stretch of road between Green Bay Road and Pritchard Drive.

Police on the scene say speed appears to have been a factor in the crash.

"He appears to have lost control about 100 metres south of here, went onto the shoulder, crossed the centerline and went off road left," says Cst. John Brown.

"He hit the ditch and that's what caused it to flip over."

Witnesses at the scene say the driver (and lone occupant) of the later model Mustang was able to free himself and crawl out.

While the vehicle is structurally still in good shape, Brown says the fiberglass and plastic construction broke apart as it usually does in a crash such as this.

Boucherie Road was closed in both directions while crews removed the vehicle and cleaned up glass and debris.

--Files from Carmen Weld

A different kind of loss

Jennifer Zielinski

They used to be inseparable, Colleen Szalka and her daughter did everything together.

Today, Szalka’s daughter Destiny is 16 and living on the streets or in shelters. She struggles with a mental health issue and has turned towards drugs and away from her family.

“Destiny comes from a good home, she comes from a two parent home,” explains Szalka. “She comes from a home where her parents have been there every step of the way, and still are supporting her.”
Szalka says her daughter was an avid writer, with dreams of becoming a fashion designer; she loved Harry Potter and family vacations,  but now that has all changed.

“She had some kind of mental break at 13, and since then she has run away, she’s tried to take her life… she’s not going to school and at this point we haven’t had contact with her for a few months.”

As Destiny slips away from her family, Szalka is turning to others who are in similar situations – parents who have lost a child to the streets, to drugs or to mental illness. She is asking other parents to come together and meet in a support group she’s created called ‘A Different Kind of Loss’.

“It is a place for them to get together to support each other, because it is a different type of grieving. It’s like you’ve lost your child but they are still alive, so you have the grief and you have all the worry on top of it.”

Outreach Mental Health Clinician, Amanda Donaldson says a support group like ‘A Different Kind of Loss’ will offer members a safe space to bond and come together

“It sounds like this group, of parents or caregivers, will already have this shared experience, so there is already a sense of understanding, bonding, vulnerability,” explains Donaldson. “They are looking at ‘how are you handling this’, ‘what’s going on for you’, what’s normal, what’s not.”

Donaldson says support groups normalize the behaviours of the members and validate their feelings.

“I think it’s important for people not to feel alone.”

Szalka says she hopes many topics will come up during the meetings, but the group will focus mainly on support for one another.

“Unless you’re in this situation, you don’t get it and people need to be there for each other.”

To contact Szalka email [email protected] or go to the group’s Facebook page to find out more about the initiative. Meetings will be held at the West Kelowna Yacht Club.


Baby, parents pulled from wreck

Video by Jordan Annan

An air ambulance was called onto Hwy. 97C, near the Sunset Main Exit, Thursday to airlift accident victims to hospital.

Witnesses say a vehicle, with two adults and a baby in it, rolled over several times after the driver lost control on the rain slick highway.

Travellers on the route were able to rescue the baby, but firemen had to use the jaws of life to get the two adults out of the overturned vehicle.

The highway was closed for over an hour while fire crews rescued the adults.

Witnesses say it appeared everyone survived the crash.

More details to follow.


Cops thought truck would ram them

Two officers who set up a roadblock near Vernon believed they would be rammed by a speeding vehicle that had allegedly fired at police on July 31, 2012

Court heard from Cst. Tara Schneider and Cst. Clay Fixsen Thursday morning during ongoing testimony at the Michael Edward Ellis attempted murder trial in Kelowna, but neither officer could identify the accused.

Schneider took the stand first and said when she arrived at the intersection of Highway 97 and Westside Road near Vernon, it was a “chaotic” scene as officers attempted to block off the area in spite of numerous vacationers using the roadway.

There were only four officers at the scene – Fixsen, Schneider, and two others – and three police vehicles, able to block off three of the four lanes of traffic. They decided to leave the eastbound exit open towards Vernon and used that to shuttle traffic exiting Westside Road.

Over the police radio they heard Cpl. Richard Gingras moving closer to their position and yelling, “he’s the one behind me”.

As the police vehicle passed by and took the exit ramp, the court heard Schneider leveled her gun from her location behind the back of an unmarked police SUV and fired three shots at the black truck speeding towards her.

“I think he’s going to ram us,” she yelled. “At that point I realized I could possibly die at this moment.”

Schneider said she fired her first shot directly at the driver; her second shot at the driver’s door as the truck passed, and her third shot at the back of the truck as it also took the exit lane and continued moving eastbound towards Vernon.

She told the court that the four officers were at the scene for approximately 10 to 15 minutes redirecting traffic and blocking the road before the chase got to their location. When the black truck appeared, it was riding on its front rims, but there were no sparks.

It was also travelling at such a speed that Schneider did not believe it would make the turn and that’s why she wondered aloud if the truck would continue into the three police vehicles blocking its path at the northern end of Westside Road.

“I thought he was going to come right through us.”

That same thought raced through the mind of Fixsen, who also took cover behind a police car as the black truck bared down on them.

“I felt like we were dead,” Fixsen told the court. “I felt he was coming right through the roadblock.”

Fixsen elaborated by saying the driver of the truck seemed to be clinching the steering wheel, and described the man in the passenger seat as sitting sideways with his back to the driver and appeared to be bracing for impact.

“It felt so imminent, that a collision would happen.”

But at the last second the driver either abruptly or gradually swerved right and took the exit ramp towards Vernon. Both officers gave different descriptions of the move, but agreed the vehicle was moving very quickly.

Fixsen was unable to fire any shots at the vehicle as it sped past, and could not identify Ellis as the driver in court.

Both officers then rejoined the chase and arrived at the final location a short distance away to find all suspects had been apprehended.

Schneider ended up staying with a female who was found in the box of the truck. She had been shot during the chase and ended up having her kidney removed.

Shawn Adam Wysynski has already pleaded guilty to two counts of robbery with a firearm and Ashley Collins pleaded guilty to knowingly being in a vehicle where there were illegal firearms.

Neither person has been sentenced.

Ellis is facing 22 charges in relation to the chase.

ERT member fired at fleeing truck

As a police chase on Westside Road was coming to an end on July 31, 2012, members of the Emergency Response Team opened fire on the suspects' vehicle.

That testimony was heard Tuesday in the Michael Edward Ellis attempted murder trial, after officers overheard radio dispatches of gunfire between a speeding minivan (later the suspects changed to a black pick-up truck) and members of the RCMP in West Kelowna.

Cst. Justin Fradette took the stand and said he was in Vernon when the call came, and headed to the northern end of Westside Road to cut off the vehicle.

He was able to position his unmarked SUV across the southbound lane of traffic and set himself up on the passenger side, near the engine compartment. Fradette was equipped with his ERT issued M16 rifle and told the court he was able to squeeze off two rounds aimed at the driver’s door, before the truck whizzed past him.

Fradette arrived just in time at his location, stating he could see the black pickup truck driven by the suspects was right behind Cpl. Richard Gingras, who testified last week that he was rammed from behind and fired upon by those in the truck.

Fradette also revealed his surprise that the black truck was still moving, noting he had heard spike strips had been deployed, and said he remembers rubber still being on the truck’s tires.

After he fired his two shots, Fradette says the truck swerved to the right and briefly rolled along the shoulder while kicking up a cloud of dust and tearing off part of a tire, but corrected itself and continued northbound.

He saw two people inside the cab of the truck, but was not able to identify either person.

Fradette then jumped back into his vehicle and resumed the chase along with several other police vehicles. He caught up with the truck after it merged from Westside Road onto Highway 97 and began travelling east towards Vernon.

It was on a straight stretch of road north of Swan Lake when the truck began to slow as it moved towards an onramp.

He told the court that two men exited the vehicle before it came to a stop, with the driver getting out through the driver side window. The two men then ran off and were quickly apprehended by police.

As Fradette ran towards the truck, he noticed a female in the box laying on her side. Inside the cab, he testified to seeing a machine gun style firearm on the floor.

The trial is expected to last another week.

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