West Kelowna  

New cops to patrol city

West Kelowna city council has approved the hiring of two new RCMP members.

The additional officers were endorsed this week as council began a detailed review of the 2017 budget and 10-year financial plan.

While the new officers have been budgeted for, it could take up to a year, or more, before those boots hit the ground.

New officers approved by Kelowna city council more than a year ago have still not arrived.

The new hires are two of eight full time positions included in the 2017 budget. Council also approved the hiring of six summer students to work in engineering, roads and parks departments.

Council has already given preliminary approval to a three per cent tax increase for the coming year. That's on par with increases over the past four years, and well above the 2.24 per cent increase in 2011.

The 2017 tax hike works out to an additional $45 for the owner of a $400,000 home in West Kelowna.

Growth was budgeted at one per cent, but is projected at 1.46 per cent. A final number will be provided March 31. If growth hit projections, the additional .46 per cent would work out to an additional $129,000 in taxes.

Council also budgeted $23.1 million in capital expenditures this year.

Among the pricier items, $4.6 million for Phase 2 of the Boucherie Road Wine Trail, $1.25 million for water main replacement on Boucherie Road, $1.1 million for replacement of the Shannon Lake Bridge and $1 million for ongoing road rehabilitation work.

The city also plans to spend $200,000 on walkway repairs, $600,000 for pedestrian infrastructure improvements and $666,000 for its bridge maintenance program.

Grants-in-aid will be considered by council at an upcoming meeting.

The city will present its 10-year plan to the public at an open house Wednesday, Feb. 15, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Westbank Library.


Blaze guts building

UPDATE: 4:30 p.m.

West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund says residents of three homes in the Okanagan Metis Housing Complex on Ingram Road will be displaced for at least one night.

Fire caused significant damage to one home and smoke damage to two adjoining homes.

"Residents in all three homes will be in the care of Emergency Social Services," said Brolund.

He says the situation in the homes with smoke damage will be reassessed Saturday.

Fire investigators have not reached any solid conclusion as to the cause of the fire. However, Brolund says the homeowner is providing information which will help determine the cause.

Everyone got out safely. There were no injuries.

UPDATE: 3:40 p.m.

A resident in the building tells Castanet the fire appears to have started in a kitchen and took off quickly.

The resident said a woman and her two small kids live in the unit and managed to get out safely.

UPDATE: 3:20 p.m.

Firefighters are inside and on the roof of the fire-ravaged building, putting out the remainder of the flames.

Meanwhile, a crowd has gathered outside the building to watch.

A witness said a barbecue was on near where the fire started.

The back of the building is heavily damaged.

– with files from Nicholas Johansen

UPDATE: 3:10 p.m.

Firefighters have managed to knock down flames in a spectacular fire in West Kelowna.

A witness at the scene was picking up her kids from school when she drove past the fire.

"Drove past it and you could feel the heat," she said. "It grew fast. From what I saw driving away the whole inside of one building is just in flames and gone."

UPDATE: 3:05 p.m.

Images and video from the scene of a fire in West Kelowna show a fully engulfed building.

ORIGINAL: 2:50 p.m.

Firefighters are responding to a structure fire in West Kelowna.

The fire is on Ingram Road at the Okanagan Metis & Aboriginal Housing Society.

Black smoke is visible on the skyline.

Castanet has a reporter headed to the scene and will update as details become available.

Tax fail by mail

Almost everyone has received someone else's mail, but a West Kelowna man has received the same person's mail for 16 years.

And it isn’t just any letters — it's tax information.

“They (keep) sending me private tax information, about investments that they have made,” said Stephane Charette. “In this case it is investments they made for their daughter.”

Charette moved into his West Kelowna home in 2001, and has received at least two pieces of mail every year that's meant for the people who used to live at the address.

“I contacted the company and they said they have been receiving my return to sender mail every single year, but company policy and Revenue Canada says that they have to keep sending it to this particular address,” he said.

Charette never opened the mail out of privacy and would just send it back to the business in Toronto, but after years of frustration he finally opened one in hopes of finding out more information about the individuals.

“This year is the first year that I actually opened the envelope to figure out if I could contact these people … find out anything about them,” he said.

“They have been sending me T5’s and T3’s.”

Charette said he could understand being sent someone else's mail for the first few years, but doesn't understand how this keeps happening.

“I don't think private tax information should be sent to total strangers, even after they know these people don't live here any more,” he said.

After only five minutes of searching online, Charette was able to find contact information online for the family.

“I told (the company) I found the people in just a few minutes, but the supervisor wasn’t willing to do anything to help fix this or even locate them,” said Charette.

The family confirmed they did live in West Kelowna at the residence from 1990 to 1997 and have since moved to Alberta.

Charette said the family plans to call the company to fix the problem.

“I feel quite annoyed that you can tell someone for 16 years, ‘Hey you are sending me other people's tax information,’ and they won't put a stop to it.”


Trooper to rock Westside

They'll be here for a good time, not a long time.

Canadian rock legends Trooper will be raising a little hell at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna on June 2.

Tickets go on sale at 8:30 a.m. today.

The concert will be the first live concert at the arena in its nine-year history.

Schell Shock Entertainment's Mike Schell, also known as a minor hockey coach, is partnering with TCB Rock 'N Roll Legends to put on the show. A portion of each ticket sold will be donated to West Kelowna Minor Hockey, to be given as a bursary for underprivileged youth to play the sport.

Trooper, arguably Canada's longest-serving party rock band, has sold millions of records and is one of Canada's top five selling bands of all time.

In 2012, songwriters Ra McGuire and Brian Smith were awarded SOCAN's prestigious National Achievement Award to acknowledge their contribution to Canada's songwriting legacy.

The band's most famous hits include: We're Here for a Good Time (Not a Long Time), Raise a Little Hell, Boys in the Bright White Sportscar, Two For the Show, Pretty Lady, Good Ol' General Hand Grenade, Round, Round We Go, Santa Maria, Janine, and more.

According to writer Ryan Sparks, Trooper "have woven their way into the fabric of this country like no other bands have been able to do. Tune into any radio station from Vancouver to St John's, and you're bound to encounter one of their dozen hit radio anthems that are still featured in heavy rotation to this day."

All seats for the show are reserved. Tickets prices are $50 and $60 plus service charges. They are available at www.etixnow.com or 1-888-790-1477.

Beavers hold park hostage

Beavers have taken over Rotary Trails Park.

The park, known to be home to many beavers, has been closed after the critters' dam building caused Powers Creek to overflow.

“We love the beavers, but they’ve done some renovations in their dens, and apparently it has flooded the trail,” said city spokesperson Kirsten Jones.

Parks staff were dealing with water on top of ice, Thursday.

“The trails are now way too treacherous for people to walk on, so it is something we have to shut down until we are sure it is safe again,” Jones said.

Beavers have gnawed on park trees in the past, she added.

“We love the beavers, and they are the first residents here, so we certainly do want to work around them."

The lakefront park is prone to flooding, and a reopening date is yet to be determined.

“We want to open it as soon as possible, we just want to make sure it is safe,” said Jones.

Findlater: this is sad news

West Kelowna's mayor expressed concern and distress upon hearing news the West Kelowna Warriors would be leaving town following the season.

Citing mounting losses, Warriors owner Mark Cheyne said he has an offer pending to sell the team to a Delta businessman. The team would then be moved to the Sungod Arena in North Delta.

"Overall, this is very, very sad news," said Mayor Doug Findlater.

"But, I appreciate Mark had to make a business decision based on not enough bums in the seats."

The city did what it could to assist the Warriors, reducing their rent by 16 per cent this season. But, beyond that, Findlater said the city couldn't do much to help the team.

"There are limitations legislatively on what a local government can do for a business in terms of subsidy."

He says he is concerned for the employees and the volunteers – "it's going to hit them hard," he said.

In terms of economic impact, Findlater says there is no data, but said quite a few businesses tightly tied to the team will feel the loss.

While the Warriors appear headed out of town, the mayor hopes there's an opportunity for another Junior A team to come to the city at some point down the road.

But, he cautions the city is not going to subsidize a team, citing the mess Abbotsford got into by subsidizing the American Hockey League's Abbotsford Heat.

"We'll put the word out, and if somebody does want to move here from another BC Junior community, we would certainly look at it and give them a similar deal. When they got the rent reduction, there was some science behind it.

"The big question is, how do we get people here to pay for tickets and go to the games.  That's always been the complex issue. They have other alternatives, let's put it that way."

City council has asked for an impact report on the loss of the team. Findlater says they will have a discussion at that time.

He does say the city shouldn't feel too much of an impact at Royal LePage Place.

"We have people lined up, and people turned away from using the arena, both for non-ice events and ice events. It's probably not going to be significant in terms of loss of revenue," he said.

"We've had people trying to get in that couldn't get in because of the time the Warriors needed."

Wildfire break-in update

A possible sentencing hearing has been set for a man who broke into an evacuated home during the Smith Creek wildfire in July 2015.

Justice Peter Rogers convicted Niso Kamhakoataew of unlawfully being in a dwelling on Dec. 16, after his fingerprints were found inside an evacuated home on Cobblestone Road.

The owner of the home returned home to find her house broken into and several bottles of wine missing.

Along with Kamhakoataew's prints, another set of unidentified prints were found. Rogers did not find Kamhakoataew guilty of theft, as the second set of prints cast doubt on who actually stole the bottles.

A pre-sentence report is being prepared to assist Rogers in sentencing. The report will include interviews with Kamhakoataew's family, his history and his risk to reoffend

Kamhakoataew, who has no previous criminal record, will appear in Supreme Court on Feb. 20, when Rogers will review the report. He may decide to sentence Kamhakoataew at the same time. 

New high school in West K

Glenrosa middle school could become a second high school in West Kelowna.

A proposal to that effect is part of a Westside Area Study the board of School District 23 will be asked to forward to the Ministry of Education.

It's part of a long-term facility plan for the Westside initiated back in 2012.

In order to meet growth and enrolment projections, seven options designed to address capacity, reconfigure grades and include a middle entry French Immersion program were reviewed.

The board will be asked to approve a plan where a new middle school would be built on the George Pringle Elementary School site while maintaining George Pringle Elementary, and converting Glenrosa middle school to a high school.

Schools in the city would also be configured to K to Grade 5, Grade 6 to 8, and Grade 9 to 12.

The price tag is expected to be just north of $29 million.

The district's Planning and Facilities committee will review the proposal Wednesday.

If approved, the Westside Area Study would be submitted to the province.

Sledder rescued by winch

UPDATE: 4:12 p.m.

Vernon, Kamloops and Clearwater search and rescue teams were able to find an injured snowmobiler and transport him to hospital on Sunday morning.

Kamloops and Clearwater search and rescue teams received a call around 7:30 a.m. for an injured snowmobiler who went over a cliff.

With the use of Vernon’s helicopter winch team, they were able to locate the injured man near Blue River. 

Leigh Pearson, search and rescue manager, said the man had a significant broken leg but is confident he will make a full recovery.

The team transported the man in stable condition to Kelowna General Hospital. 

– with files from Alanna Kelly

UPDATE: 1:30 p.m.

An injured snowmobiler spent the night out in the North Thompson backcountry with search and rescue personnel before being winched to safety on Sunday.

The Okanagan-based winch rescue team flew by a B.C. Air Rescue helicopter to the scene in the Smoke Creek area south of Blue River. 

The man had to be winched out due to the steep terrain.

"The male was transferred to BC Ambulance in Kamloops at 1:10 p.m.," said Ian Wilson, vice president of Wildcat Helicopters. "He was injured at approximately 5:30 p.m. (Saturday). 

"He spent the night with rescue personnel on location until he was extracted by us today."

The man's injuries, age and hometown were not disclosed.

UPDATE: 12:25 p.m.

An injured snowmobiler has been lifted out of the backcountry in the North Thompson region by the Okanagan-based winch rescue team.

The team was flown out by a B.C. Air Rescue helicopter from West Kelowna earlier this morning.

The injured sledder, believed to be male, will be transported to a hospital or a waiting ambulance, said Ian Wilson, vice president of Wildcat Helicopters.

An RCMP helicopter is said to have spotted the victim early this morning in the Smoke Creek area south of Blue River, but could not land in the steep terrain.

The specialized team was then called in to help out.

Castanet will provide further details when they become available. 

A B.C. Air Rescue helicopter with a winch rescue team has been called in to help in the rescue of a person in a mountainous area near Clearwater, north of Kamloops.

The team was called in to attempt "the extraction of an injured party" after an RCMP helicopter in the region was unable to land, said Ian Wilson, vice president of Wildcat Helicopters.

Wilson was unable to provide further details on the location of the individual.

He said the chopper left West Kelowna around 10:20 a.m.

New Westside boat launch

The regional district is proposing a newlaunch on the west side of Okanagan Lake.

The district is applying to various provincial agencies to establish a boat launch at the end of Bancroft Road in Wilson's Landing.

Application will be made to the province for a Crown land tenure License of Occupation. In addition, staff will apply to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for a permit to construct a boat launch and amenities.

The area off Bancroft Road has been used by locals to launch boats.

The regional district will also consult with the Wilson's Landing community to discuss financial considerations for development of the boat launch. Those will be considered during the 2017 board budget discussions.

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