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Candidates forum Q&A

At an all candidates meeting in West Kelowna earlier this week, about 150 residents heard from three mayoral candidates and 12 others running for council.

They all unanimously agreed that the district’s economic well-being hinges on the refurbishment of the areas infrastructure, and their ability to reel in younger demographics with desirable amenities and services.

Mayoral candidates Stephen Johnston and Mary Mandarino, along with incumbent Doug Findlater, spoke on a variety of issues including downtown development, business, and the possible need for an alternative power source in the wake of recent outages.

“What I want to do is upgrade our aging and non-existent infrastructure and I am very supportive of a vibrant Westbank town centre,” said Findlater. “I think the key to revitalizing downtown Westbank is putting businesses and residential areas down there.”

That sentiment was echoed by Johnston, who said if elected, there would be a lot more development in the downtown core.

“One of the things of the Westbank revitalization is that actually we need to beautify that strip. The improvements to Brown Road need to continue. The reason is we’re the gateway to Central Okanagan, but also to ourselves. I want to see mixed (use) buildings in there, retail on the main floors and residential above. Get people working, playing, and living more in West Kelowna.”

Meanwhile, Mandarino took a much more slower approach and said she would seek out more information before making decisions on many of the issues.

“Reliable power is important if we want to attract business, if we want to service the business and the residents we already have. It’s a very intriguing question,” she said.

“I would like to research a lot more. I have a Facebook page, I invite to go to my Facebook page, and I will tell you in detail how I have researched this particular topic. There’s going to be a cost involved, as we all know. Hydro has already said between $50 to $100 million. We will pay for it because rates will increase. We won’t get it for free so that’s something we have to take into account.”

The host of the forum then circled the panel, asking questions to councilors in groups of three.

In terms of annual property tax increases for West Kelowna, David Knowles, Rusty Ensign and Rick de Jong do not envision anything greater than the three per cent suggested.

“The outlook for the next five to ten years is to maintain a maximum of three per cent tax increase,” says de Jong. “That’s the top-end benchmark, but I think council needs to work hard on your behalf to get it below three per cent as much as possible.”

“To the first council’s credit, they had a five per cent increase which allowed them to go up that much higher and farther off at three per cent. If it would have been a three per cent increase in the beginning, we would have less reserve funds, said Rusty Ensign. “We need to keep that three percent increase to be fiscally responsible, in order to have the services that the people need. And quite frankly, we’re not going to get all of them because we need to exercise fiscal prudence also.”

“Well, I would strive to make it two percent,” said Knowles. “I don’t see any reason why we could not keep it down to two percent. It needs to be two percent. We are an emerging municipality, not that we can call it new anymore, but we are still paying for infrastructure improvements.”

The questioning then changed as councilors were asked to provide insight into some of the district’s greatest challenges, and Duane Ophus, Tanya Lister, and Gary Stabb offered their opinions.

“I have asked a number of businesses why they have left and they said the taxes are too high, the rents are too high,” said Lister.

“Why are the rents too high? Because [shops] are empty. Landowners need to recoup some of their money, so we need to make it more feasible for them to do business downtown and in all of West Kelowna by revitalizing downtown.”

“The biggest challenge of course, is the continued demand for infrastructure upgrades: major water system upgrades, continuous roads and sidewalks, and sewers, and so on,” noted Ophus. “These things all cost money. There’s a serious demand for recreational services, lighted sports fields, and so on. And what we need to do to address those issues is continue to attract good investment to West Kelowna, increase our tax base to help us pay for all the things that we need.”

Stabb believed the biggest challenge to West Kelowna is the lack of a collective heart or a downtown that residents can be proud of.

“The biggest challenge is the highway going through it, the provincial highway. We have now Christy Clark in our backyard. I think she is being underutilized; we’re going to have her here for a very short time. We have a chance to do something with the provincial highway. Slow things down, two way traffic on Main Street, double up.”

The focus then moved to the question of residential developments in the downtown core, and what council hopefuls Jerome Chung, John Peter Christoff, and Joanne Baker would do if given the chance.

“The residential developments in West Kelowna have been sufficient,” said Chung.

“But if you look at 2010, we have paid $355,000 for an economic development report and we know our weaknesses and strengths. So where do we stand? Are we going to pay 85 per cent of our taxes to maintain infrastructure there or are we going to introduce more investors to carry some of that burden?”

“I’d like to see something affordable,” posed Christoff.

“In Germany, municipal councils have banned the building of single family homes within the municipality. They only allow multi-family units or apartments. They embraced this drastic measure to bring civic policy to the people. They can provide affordable homes. We have a problem with affordability.”

“What I very much like is the development occurring at the Westbank centre, the Urban Gateway Village has been an excellent addition,” says Baker.  “It’s utilizing vacant land. I like to see projects that incorporate youth; we need to have that downtown.”

An issue close to last night’s predominantly silver-haired audience was whether West Kelowna is doing enough in terms of elderly health care issues.

Candidate Bryden Winsby said that a hospital facility is out of the question, but that consolidating services within a complex is the best option.

“We can’t have a full service hospital here, that’s not going to happen, but we need better and more services in a central location where it’s accessible and people know about it,” he said.

Carol Zanon pointed out her concerns on several issues concerning health care.

“First is that people wanted to have a health centre last time around and we did a study and found out that people really need the service available only in Kelowna. The services exist, but they’re not here. What we need over here is some accommodation treatment of chronic conditions and addictions, in particular.”

Mike Trenn claims that he knows what is needed.

“In the last seven years, we’ve had meetings after meeting over this subject, and the issue is that we know very well what needs to be done. The support for senior in terms of that area is becoming more problematic and more serious and some of the services can be improved just by using some of the newer technology.”

Once the formal portion of the debate had concluded, audience members were able to submit written inquiries for the candidates. They were asked to point out Council’s best and worst decisions in the last four years and the relationship council has with the Westbank First Nation.

-- With files from Sasha Lakic


Prohib driver driving drunk

It seems some lessons are harder to learn than others.

A 33-year-old West Kelowna man faces possible impaired driving charges just one week after being issued a 90-day Immediate Roadside Prohibition and having his vehicle impounded for 30 days.

Shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday, a member of the Kelowna Integrated Road Safety Unit (IRSU) conducted a traffic stop on the same man, while he drove along Capri Road in West Kelowna.

The officer suspected the driver of being under the influence of alcohol and commenced an impaired driving investigation.

The man was taken to the RCMP detachment where he provided breath samples of over four times the legal limit.
He was found to be prohibited from driving a motor vehicle in BC as a result of a 90-day Immediate Roadside Prohibition that he had received just seven days prior.
The man faces possible charges of Impaired Driving and Drive While Over .08.

He was released from police custody on a Promise to Appear for Court in December.

Cat causes crash

A two-vehicle crash in West Kelowna reduced traffic to single lane Saturday morning.

The crash occurred around 9:30 a.m. near the intersection of Old Okanagan Highway and Dobbin Road. There are no reported injuries at this time.

West Kelowna RCMP said the driver of the Volkswagen was not paying attention and rear ended the silver Monte Carlo as it was slowing to turn left onto Old Okanagan Highway. The force of impact spun the car onto the sidewalk.

Apparently the driver of the Volkswagen had a cat and dog loose in the vehicle. The cat crawled onto the driver's lap causing the driver to take her eyes off the road.

The driver of the Volkswagen was visiting from Washington without insurance. She was issued a ticket at the scene.

The Volkswagen sustained damage to the front end and was leaking fluid. The Monte Carlo had the trunk smashed in and the bumper was shredded. 

Both vehicles were towed from the scene.

Drugs and alcohol are not considered to be factors. 


Ross Gorman passes away

Gorman Brothers lumber has lost the last of its founding sons; Ross Gorman passed away Friday at the age of 93.

He and brother John founded the company in 1953 when they opened up a small sawmill operation to supplement their orchard business, which had taken a hit due to heavy frost one year.

The pair began building fruit boxes and durable packaging bins, and soon opened up a distribution plant in Oroville, Washington.

After a large electrical fire wiped out the mill in 1969, they simply rebuilt a more modern facility.

John retired from the business in 1996 and passed away six years later, but Ross would continue working until the age of 92.

The Council of Forest Industries issued a statement on the passing, with president James Gorman (no relation) saying Ross’s legacy will be remembered.

“Ross was committed to the company he and his brother built from the day they fired up their first sawmill to the very end, visiting the mill in West Kelowna almost every day for the past 60 years,” he said.

“Ross, along with his brother John, was a pioneer in the industry whose legacy will be one of community, loyalty and value.”

The mill was threatened by a large forest fire in 2009, but was held at bay with the help of numerous employees who showed up to help forest fire fighters attack the blaze.

The company still employs hundreds of workers at mills in Revelstoke, Salmon Arm, Lumby, and Oroville, but the West Kelowna location is still its main operation.

A memorial service will be held Oct. 25 at the Trinity Baptist Church, it is open to the public.

Traffic delays along highway

Traffic along Highway 97 has been slowed after a traffic light failure in West Kelowna.

Lights at the intersection of the highway and Hudson Road are out, which is causing delays for commuters traveling in both directions.

It's believed that construction in the area may have contributed to the outage.

Send pictures to [email protected]

This to That for Habitat

The first annual This to That for Habitat contest is wrapping up with 10 local designers showing off their re-purposing ability, all for a good cause.

Months ago, each designer headed into the ReStore building, chose a piece to refurbish and weeks later presented something entirely new, 'upcycled' for auction.

“We had these designers that all came together to take a product from our ReStore and turn-it-up into something different, and we ended up with some amazing projects, it is just something else,” shares an excited ReStore Executive Director Deborah Guthrie.

The focus of the contest was to bring awareness to the variety of ways to recycle usable items, keeping them out of our landfills. Each of the 10 pieces was then put on the display for public auction, with all proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity.

The public was then asked through social media and radio to vote on which project they thought was best, and today (Friday) a winner was announced.

Local contractor Jace Albrecht was awarded the best design among the 10 entries.  

With only a couple doors, and door pieces, Albrecht created pieces for both inside and outside your front door.

“I find it really hard to find things for the entry ways to homes. Furniture pieces are hard to come by for that area of the home. When I saw the nice solid fir doors, my mind got going and I wanted to build a couple piece that could be used on either side of your front door,” explains Albrecht.

He says he is a general contractor who builds homes around the Okanagan and does a lot of custom work.

“It is a hobby by necessity. If I see a need in my home, then I go into the pile of scrap from the job-site, or into a place like ReStore so I can recreate something or re-purpose it for the need that arises.”

All 10 pieces are still up for auction until Oct 18 at 5 p.m. and everyone is welcome to head to the ReStore building and place their bid.

The proceeds will go towards the new Habitat build in Peachland, which will see three new family duplexes and a Peachland Food Bank coming to the community, with land donated by the District.

“This is our first land donation as an organization so we are really happy about that," says Guthrie. 

She adds that Habitat is still looking for volunteers for the Peachland project and hopes to have the Food Bank open by the end of November.

“With this ReStore, we are really hoping to see two to three builds a year, which is huge,” adds Guthrie.

To take a look at all ten refurbishes and meet the designers click here.

All the entries are on display in the Habitat ReStore at 1793 Ross Road in West Kelowna and for sale by silent auction until 5 p.m. October 18th, 2014.

Prolific offender picked up

Police have arrested a man they’re calling a prolific offender after he was found in a stolen minivan Wednesday evening.

Stanley Charles Nickason, 33, was picked up in the 4000 block of Pritchard Road in West Kelowna. A concerned citizen had called police about a suspicious male inside a gated community on Chardonnay Place just prior to his arrest.

Earlier that same day, police had responded to a reported theft of a vehicle from a business in the 2300 block of Enterprise Way – the caller witnessed a Dodge Caravan being driven away.

Nickason was spotted by an officer in West Kelowna who confirmed the vehicle to be stolen.

He was been charged with one count of Possession of Stolen Property Over $5,000, two counts of Possession of Ammunition Contrary to Order and one count of Driving While Disqualified. He has been remanded into custody and is expected to re-appear in court on October 23, 2014.

A search of provincial court records show Nickason has a history of criminal offences in the Kelowna area for the past decade.

Local man safe in Nepal


CTV Vancouver

CTV Vancouver is reporting that Adams is apparently safe and has spoken to family. 

He had been missing since an avalanche in Nepal. 

More details to come.

CBC is reporting that a young West Kelowna man is one of several Canadians still missing in Nepal after blizzards and avalanches killed many hikers. 

His family tells the CBC that 29-year-old Matt Adams was last seen on Oct 10. He was reportedly travelling alone, without a guide in the Manang region hiking the Annapurna circuit.

Bad weather along that particular circuit has caused blizzards and avalanches that have killed at least 27 people, including four Canadians whose bodies have not yet been recovered.

It is reported that up to 70 people are still missing along or near the popular hiking circuit, located 160 kilometres northwest of the capital, Kathmandu.

Adams' sister-in-law, Jocelyn Enns, tells CBC that it is not like Adams to be out of touch for this length of time.

"He was supposed to be in contact every three to four days at the most and he's been very good about being in contact on a regular basis, so it is unusual to not hear from him for this length of time.”

Enns says their family is hopeful Adams is OK and just unable to reach a phone or computer to make contact with them following the blizzard.

She says his wife Ria is clearly very concerned.

"My sister is quite upset right now," Enns tells CBC. "She's inconsolable beyond words."

For help, Enns says they have reached out to the consulate and various travel agencies in Nepal and have also posted photos of him online.

Three other hikers from the BC Interior who were also missing in Nepal, two women and one man, were rescued Thursday reports the CBC. So far the storms have claimed the lives of at least four Canadians. 

If you know of anyone caught up in the area, or someone who has come home safely, please contact [email protected] 

Mail theft epidemic

Mail theft is on the rise in West Kelowna.

Over the past six weeks, 13 incidents of theft or attempted theft of mail from community mail boxes has been reported.

Just one incident was reported over the same time period a year ago.

"Although it is difficult to determine what mail may have been stolen, several community mailboxes in rural, industrial and residential areas have been tampered with and sometimes entered," says Cst. Jesse O'Donaghey.

"Police have noticed that the area of Stevens Road and West Gate Road appears to be most targeted by thieves."

O'Donaghey says RCMP have not yet identified any suspects regarding the recent spike in mailbox thefts.

To prevent this type of theft, police suggest:

  • Be vigilant and report suspicious activities around the community mailboxes
  • Pay attention if you do not receive mail that you had expected
  • Don’t let mail build up in your mailbox, have a family member or friend bring it in for you
  • Place a hold on your mail if you are away for an extended period of time
  • Immediately report any signs of tampering or damage to both the police and Canada Post


From cowpath to city road

The $6.2M upgrade to Westlake Road was officially opened Wednesday.

Funding for the project came from various sources including the federal Gas Tax Fund ($500,000), ICBC ($98,000), local Development Costs Charges ($3.9M) and the District of West Kelowna ($1.63M).

The project upgraded nearly 2km of Westlake Road from Highway 97 to Starlight Crescent.

It includes a roundabout, 1.5m wide cycling lanes, left turn lanes onto Industrial and Sussex roads, sidewalks from Stevens Road to Highway 97, 56 street lights plus replacement of an aging water main.

The project also included a special turtle corridor under the road near the pond just past Stevens Road.

West Kelowna Mayor, Doug Findlater, says the project is part of the district's ongoing commitment to upgrade what he calls paved cowpaths into urban arterial roads.

The project was originally scheduled to be complete in time for the start of school in September, however, some crews were diverted to emergency repairs on Gellatly Road in the spring forcing some construction delays.

Findlater says there are several more road projects on the horizon including Gellatly, Boucherie, Glenrosa and Shannon Lake roads.

He says it will be up to the newly elected council to determine the next set of priorities.

Findlater did indicate that scheduled improvements to Gellatly Road near the area of the slope failure in the spring is engineered and shovel ready.

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