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Helicopter parts found

Update -- Dec. 19

Police say they have recovered most of the helicopter parts stolen from a local company earlier this month.

A search warrant executed Tuesday led police to a home in Lake Country where they found 30 of the 31 stolen parts, but no one was home. The estimated replacement value of the parts is $397,000.

The one part that remains missing is a Honeywell Power Turbine Governor, along with a Qualcomm Globalstar Satellite phone that was also taken from the van.

Anyone with information is asked to call West Kelowna RCMP or Crime Stoppers.

Original story -- Dec. 8

Alpine Helicopters and the West Kelowna RCMP are asking for your help in locating a thief or thieves and the $397,000 worth of goods they stole from the company.

$397,000 worth of parts that are apparently worthless to the culprits, as the parts cannot be resold under strict industry protocols.

On Saturday Dec. 6 at 8:10 a.m., West Kelowna RCMP received a report of a theft from a vehicle in the 2100 block of Peters Road.

A total of 31 helicopter parts in various boxes were taken from an Alpine Helicopters company van, parts that cannot be resold according to Alpine.

“All helicopter parts are serialized and must have a traceable lineage in order to be sold,” says Jill Seaton, Chief Financial Officer of Alpine Helicopters.

“The parts would be quickly noticed during any repairs and reported.”

This process helps to ensure the safety of helicopter operators worldwide as they know each parts complete history, right back to production.

This theft is a major loss for the local company who is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to the arrest of suspects and/or the recovery of their stolen property.

The stolen parts include:

  • DC Control
  • Invertor
  • Dual Torque Gauge
  • N1 Gauge
  • ITT Gauge
  • Torque Transmitter
  • Oil to Fuel Heater
  • Front Cuff
  • Rear Cuff
  • 4-man Seatbelt Recoil
  • 5-man Seatbelt Recoil
  • Seatbelt Connection Half (2)
  • ITT Trim Compensator
  • Triple Tach
  • Particle Separator Motor
  • RPM Box
  • Oil Pressure/ Temperature Gauge XMSN
  • Oil Pressure/ Temperature Gauge C-Box
  • Big Heater
  • Little Heater
  • Fuel Control Pack
  • Check Valve
  • FM Radio
  • Starter Relay
  • Generator Relay
  • Governor
  • Engine Oil Pressure/ Temperature Gauge
  • Pressure Transducer
  • Pressure Switch
  • Hydraulic Pressure/Temperature Indicator

Anyone with any information is asked to call the West Kelowna RCMP, Cst Gingras, at 250-768-2880.

Remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, leaving a tip online at or by texting your tip to CRIMES (274637) ktown.


Sneena Road overpass opens

A new roadway which connects WFN lands on each side of Highway 97 and also connects Lakeview Heights with Casa Loma and The William R Bennett Bridge officially opened Wednesday morning.

Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie says the $9.3M project, which began in the spring, concludes a commitment made years ago between the province and Westbank First Nation.

It's the third Highway 97 improvement project funded by the province and managed by WFN.

"What the underpass does is fulfills a commitment negotiated many years ago with the province of British Columbia," says WFN Chief, Robert Louie.

"We have to have access to lands on both sides of the highway so, while this can be used as an emergency purpose for travellers going south from Kelowna, the purpose of it is to allow access to the WFN lands on the northern portion of Highway 97."

Louie admits there are development plans on Locatee lands between the highway and Okanagan Lake which the underpass would access.

There are also possible development opportunities on the opposite side of the highway including a proposed medical centre.

"That is something that will be an accessibility to that facility when it is built," says Louie.

"That's still a few years away and that's something that is going to take more involvement from our community members."

The new roadway links off Tomat Avenue near Boucherie Road, goes behind the new shopping centre and the WFN Band offices, runs along the highway and connects with either the underpass or the Campbell Road interchange taking motorists to Casa Loma or Kelowna.

Louie says it will serve as an alternate route for emergency vehicles, and in case of accidents.

"Having this road will be a benefit and will be proven to be a benefit when accidents happen and emergency vehicles have to use it."

I believe too, it will relieve some of the congestion. Even if we have 200, 300 or 400 cars per day, that's still cars off Highway 97 and that has to be a benefit to the travelling public as well."

Along with the $9.3M the province paid for the project, WFN also kicked in about $700,000 for streetlighting, sidewalks and landscaping.

Next is an expected interchange and underpass at Boucherie Road which Louie says was also part of the negotiated deal with the province some years ago.

"I don't believe the province has made a final determination yet (in terms of timing). Yes, there are discussions happening and I am hopeful sooner than later, but time will tell. That will be up to the province," says Louie.

"I believe all of the accesses need work -- some more than others. Hudson Road is certainly a congested area and I know that it is a topic the province is well involved with. The District of West Kelowna is involved with that as well."

According to Mike Jacobs with Emil Anderson Construction, the company that worked on the project, nearly 6,500 labour hours went to WFN members, more than four times what was originally committed.

New website for district

Users of the District of West Kelowna's website will notice a new look and new features after the municipality unveiled its new look Monday.

The new website uses responsive design to provide an optimal viewing experience across a wide range of devices, from desktop computers to mobile phones. An enhanced search function ensures that users can easily find information they are searching for and offers familiar News, Calendar and Popular Links on its homepage.

Features of the new website include:

  • Responsive design allowing users to effectively navigate the site whether accessing it on a desktop computer or a smart phone
  • Efficient search function
  • Notify Me option to sign up to receive emails from the District on news and events
  • Online searchable directory of West Kelowna businesses
  • Popular Links access for our most popular webpages
  • Social Media connectivity

Users will find comprehensive maps pages, searchable facilities and parks access and links to popular activities in the District.

People who have signed up to receive email-notification from the District’s previous website have been signed up to receive notification from the new site, and will be prompted to update their preferences.

Please note, typically it takes up to 48 hours for new websites to display properly in all web browsers and to be captured by search engines, which will temporarily impact the search function on the new website.

Comments and questions regarding the new site can be directed to the District’s Communications Department at 778-797-2253.


Cookbook features local cafe

More love for a westside restaurant from the Food Network.

The Kekuli Cafe, featured on the network's 'You Gotta Eat Here' two years ago has now been featured in the program's latest cookbook.

Sharon Bond, owner of Kekuli Cafe, says after the program shot the episode at her restaurant, she was asked to provide pictures and the recipe for dishes featured on the show.

She was told they may be featured in an upcoming cookbook.

"I've kind of had that in the back of my mind over the last couple of years," says Bond.

"I went to Chapters the other day and thought 'the cookbook is out, I wonder if we are in it.' So, I'm going through it and I did find it and thought Oh my I bought it."

Bond says she was so excited.

"I had to show the girl at the till."

The program filmed the episode at the restaurant in Sept, 2012

She says the exposure has been great for the Kekuli Cafe.

"I think it just brings us more to the forefront being a local restaurant/Cafe. We just try and stay in people's minds.

We do get a lot of people coming in saying they saw us on the Food Network. I guess there was a repeat of the episode a few weeks ago. You can always tell because there is an influx of people coming in and you're not quite ready for the slam."

Bond has now opened up a second location in Merritt.

The recipes in the cookbook are the same as were featured on the Food Network episode.

If you haven't seen the episode, we are not going to spoil the surprise as to which recipes are being featured.

Stolen truck in crash

Update -- 2:30 p.m.

The RCMP have now confirmed the vehicle that caused a multi-car accident in West Kelowna this morning was stolen.

Cst. Kris Clark says the blue Dodge Dakota had just been reported stolen from the Logan Road area at around 8 a.m., and when the driver noticed police, he sped off at a high rate of speed.

Due to the potential danger to the public, the police did not give chase.

But the truck continued driving erratically and then crashed into three cars on Gosset Road at Highway 97.

Police say witnesses told them the truck turned westbound onto Gosset Road, when it struck two cars and clipped a third.

Three men then exited the truck and ran towards the Westbank Shopping Centre parking lot.

All three were taken into custody and are being held pending further investigation.

At least one person was taken to hospital suffering from non-life threatening injuries.

The stolen truck had no insurance at the time of the theft.

Original story -- 10 a.m.

Police have provided few details on a three-vehicle crash at Highway 97 and Gossett Road Monday morning.

The incident occurred around 8 a.m., and witnesses say one of the vehicles involved – a blue Dodge truck – may have been the subject of a police chase earlier this morning.

One witness told Castanet that three police vehicles were chasing the pickup along Boucherie Road earlier in the morning.

RCMP have yet to confirm any of these details.

Police on scene did say the pickup blew through the intersection heading west, causing the three-car crash.

One lady was taken to hospital with undetermined injuries.

Witnesses then say the occupants fled the truck and ran toward the Westbank Shopping Centre.

One individual was seen in the back of a police cruiser.

A police dog was dispatched to the scene as well.

We'll have more information when it becomes available.

Westlake watermain replacement

Watermain replacement work on Westlake Road between Caledonia Way and Sussex Road, part of the Westlake Road Upgrade project, will begin Wednesday, Dec 10.

Motorists can expect minor traffic delays when travelling through this section. Work is expected to take four days.

Motorists are asked to obey all signage and traffic control personnel when travelling through this section of construction.

The $6.2 million Westlake Road Upgrade project is transforming the heavily-used rural road to an urban arterial standard multi-modal transportation corridor.

Westlake Road, from Highway 97 to Starlight Crescent, will see the following improvements:

  • 3.6 metre wide travel lanes in each direction
  • 1.5 metre cycling lanes in each direction
  • Curb, gutter and underground storm drainage
  • Replacement watermain
  • 1.8 metre wide sidewalks in each direction from Stevens Road to Highway 97
  • 1.8 metre wide sidewalks on the east side from Stevens Road to Starlight Crescent
  • 56 streetlights
  • A roundabout traffic circle at the intersection of Stevens Road and Westlake Road

Final paving of the Westlake Road Upgrade project will occur in spring 2015.

Dump truck rollover

One man is in hospital after losing control of his dump truck and flipping near Westside Road Wednesday morning.

The truck rolled on Bear Lake Main Road just after 8:00 a.m. with multiple police, fire and ambulance personnel attending.

“A dump truck overturned while coming down the road towards Westside Road, spilling its cargo,” says Cst. Jon Doan.

The truck landed on the driver’s side door and contents of the vehicle were found scattered around the road.

Doan says the driver has non-life threatening injuries and has been taken to hospital for assessment.

RCMP are now working to determine what caused the accident and whether speed was a factor. 




Early Christmas gift for district

The District of West Kelowna received an early Christmas gift courtesy of the BC Assessment Authority.

If you're a taxpayer, the news isn't quite so good.

According to Jason Sowinski with BC Assessment Authority, property values in the district have been underassessed by an average of about $10,600 per property.

That works out to approximately $750,000 in additional tax revenue at current tax rates.

Sowinski made a brief presentation during council's inaugural meeting Tuesday.

He talked of Inventory Currency, a system the authority is using to review each property in the province.

The system, according to Sowinski, is a topographical review of each property.

"Essentially, we've done two things within the District of West Kelowna. We've sourced out up to date oblique imagery...essentially aerial photographs that you take from both a topographic view and from a 45 degree angle," says Sowinski.

"We also contracted out for high quality street front imagery. They would take high quality imagery from the front of the home."

Sowinski says the authority then uses property information collectors who compare the topographical imagery with sketches of the property.

Any differences are then turned over to the assessors.

Sowinski says the technology began in Nanaimo as a pilot project in 2009 and has since been rolled out in communities in the Lower Mainland.

In Surrey alone, he says the new technology identified $3.5M in additional tax revenue as a result of new additions that were previously not detected.

West Kelowna is one of the first municipalities outside the Lower Mainland where this new system is being used.

Of the 13,400 assessment folios on the roll, Sowinski says BC Assessment Authority has reviewed about 9,900 to date.

"The total new construction inventory...inventory that is new on each property is about $105M and the average change per folio is about $10,000.

That's what you are going to see as added value for each property."

He says those numbers are comparable to what has been found in other cities across the province including Kelowna and Vernon which have also been completed.

Sowinski says some of the improvements detected may have been done years or decades ago.

"We haven't had the technology to do all of West Kelowna all at once. We certainly have attended each of these properties over the last 20 or 30 years but we would have done it more in piece meal where here we had an opportunity to go through the entire community," says Sowinski.

He cautions that municipalities do not have the authority to collect back taxes on those properties.

"One of the things I campaigned on was expanding our tax base, thank you very much," says Councillor Rusty Ensign.

Once council begins tax deliberations early in the new year it will have the option to give the taxpayer a tax break, use the funds to prop up reserves or use it for new projects.

Dissension creeps into council

It didn't take long for the bloom to fall off West Kelowna's inauguration rose.

Following the swearing in of the new council and Mayor Doug Findlater's inaugural address, council got down to the job of deciding who would represent the district on certain boards.

The recommended re-appointment of Councillor Duane Ophus for a new two-year term didn't sit well with some.

"I will come out of the gate saying what I believe and how I've always said my opinion it's a slap to the face of Councillor de Jong to not be appointed as he was the highest vote getter for this council," says newly elected Rosalind Neis.

"If he is not supported by us as was reflected in his selection success I think we are doing a disservice to this community."

Traditionally, the top vote getter has, in most cases, been given the plum appointment on the regional board.

Neis also referenced a pair of seminars conducted by George Cuff for the new council.

"He is the guru of good governance and I find it a bit disconcerting that many of his suggestions and recommendations are in contravention with this appointment.

One of them when he was talking about appointments to says rotate! rotate! Do not allow members of council to park on a committee. Remember, they were elected as generalists and not specialists."

While praising the efforts of Ophus and Findlater at the regional board table, de Jong believes that, with a number of new board members being appointed from other communities, maybe this is the time for West Kelowna to change as well.

"Just as there is a time to embrace the comfort of what is familiar, there is also a time for change. With the beginning of this new term the regional district is at a unique point," says de Jong.

"There will be new faces around the table and a new chair after over 20 years of leadership from chair Robert Hobson."

If not now, de Jong wonders when would be the ideal opportunity to inject new blood onto the regional board.

"Here is the opportunity. I would support sending a new face and new ideas from West Kelowna to sit with Mayor Findlater at the regional district table."

Council ultimately decided by a 5-2 vote to appoint Ophus to the regional board, however, it compromised by making the appointment for just one year.

West Kelowna fire chief retiring

Wayne Schnitzler is getting ready to hang up his hat for the last time.

Schnitzler informed West Kelowna Council Monday he will be retiring in March of next year.

His last day on the job will be March 27, 2015.

Schnitzler has been West Kelowna's Fire Chief since March of 2008.

Prior to that he spent 12 years as chief of the former Westside Fire Protection District.

He began his firefighting career in 1979 as a paid-on-call firefighter with the City of Surrey becoming a full time career firefighter in 1982.

“I have been extremely fortunate to have worked in the fire service for over 30 years. It is an incredibly rewarding career,” says Chief Schnitzler.

“I am also very proud to have worked with our excellent West Kelowna firefighters who are a force, I believe, which is second to none. I will miss them, and working with the staff and Council of West Kelowna, but I am looking forward to starting the next chapter.”

Schnitzler oversees four fire halls, two assistant chiefs, 28 career firefighters, approximately 60 paid on call firefighters, a fire prevention officer, a fire inspector, a public educator and two support staff.

The District will now begin the process of searching for a new fire chief.

“I know I speak on behalf of Council when I say that Chief Schnitzler will be greatly missed. Wayne has worked alongside myself and Council on numerous occasions, helping us to navigate some significant emergency situations and it was obvious how fortunate we are to have his tremendous experience and knowledge on our side,” says Mayor Doug Findlater.

“He will be a hard act to follow, but I know he has also ensured that West Kelowna has a well-trained, dedicated firefighting force that will continue to serve us well.”

Schnitzler oversaw the evacuation of thousands of West Kelowna residents during two significant fires, the Glenrosa Fire of 2009 and last year's Smith Creek Fire.

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