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A home for those in need

Two families have brand new homes to call their own after the keys were handed over by Habitat for Humanity Saturday.

The Nixon and Evans families were joined by dozens of people outside the new homes on the chilly Saturday morning in Peachland.

Many of the volunteers who had helped build the houses, along with Dan Albas, member of Parliament for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, and Cindy Fortin, mayor of Peachland, braved the cold weather to see the families move into their new homes.

“It may a chilly November day today, but there’s nothing that warms the heart better than seeing these two families take occupancy of their new homes,” Fortin said.

Jordan and Travis Nixon were overjoyed with the new place.

“This means a whole new start to life, we could have never saved up enough for a down payment,” said Jordan, as her two sons, Zion, three, and Salem, one, ran around her feet. “We currently live in a house with two rooms so the two boys are sharing their room, and because of their ages, they wake each other up.”

Melanie Evans, a single mother living with her two sons said their previous house was infested with ants.

“In the middle of the night one night … my son started screaming,” Evans said. “There were literally thousands coming out of the wall, like horror movie crawling up the walls.

“When you see your child horrified and having nightmares and you can’t get to sleep at night because you’re wondering are you going to wake up covered in ants, that was what drove me to the Habitat site.”

Habitat for Humanity has been operating in the Okanagan for 23 years, but these are the first homes they have built in Peachland.

Shovels first went into the ground on the project in May, and over 80 volunteers, along with multiple contractors and construction companies who offered their services at reduced costs, have worked tirelessly to get the homes built. The municipality of Peachland donated the land to the project.

“We had volunteers onsite, sometimes just one or two, but primarily it would be about five volunteers a day,” said Deborah Guthrie, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Kelowna. “Last Saturday we had twenty.”

The families who move into Habitat homes are required to put in 500 hours of work into their homes, or into another charitable cause in the community.

“I actually built my doorframe downstairs and I did a terrible job,” Jordan said.

Habitat for Humanity chooses who will live in the houses by a number of criteria, including need, having a regular income and having children.

The Nixon and Evans families don’t need to put a down payment on their houses, and they will pay off their mortgage on the homes monthly.

Guthrie says Habitat for Humanity ensures the families' mortgage will never be more than 30 per cent of their income.  

While the total cost of the build is still being tallied, Guthrie says it cost them about $180,000 to build.

Laurie the owner of one of the first Habitat for Humanity houses in the Okanagan, was on hand at the event. She got her house in 1996 and finished paying off the mortgage this past October.  


Free meal in West Kelowna

Christmas is coming early for some less fortunate in West Kelowna.

The Kelowna Gospel Mission and Power's Creek Community Church have partnered to serve a traditional Christmas dinner at the Westbank Lions Hall Saturday.

This is the first time the Mission has partnered with a church on the Westside to provide a free meal.

The Westside Community Food Bank distributed 300 tickets for the evening which will include dinner and live music.

The Gospel Mission will provide and prepare the food while Powers Creek Community Church will provide the space, entertainment and volunteers.

“God placed a strong desire in my heart to help not only people in Kelowna but also people on the Westside who may not be able to make it downtown for our annual Christmas dinner," said executive director Randy Benson.

"This way we extend our reach of helping people who may be lonely, without family or unable to afford a Christmas dinner.”

Powers Creek senior Pastor Dave Barbour, said he is excited about the project and where it could lead in the future.

"It is our hope that this will become an annual event and a long lasting partnership with Kelowna’s Gospel Mission of giving back to the Westside community," said Barbour.

"So many people in our congregation want to help others – this gives them the opportunity to put their faith into action.”

High school evacuated

UPDATE 2:30 P.M.

West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund says heat, not fire, forced the brief evacuation of Mount Boucherie Secondary School Friday morning.

Brolund says fire crews were called to the school after fire alarms rang out. Brolund say heat from a forge in the metal shop was enough to set off the alarm.

After approximately 15 minutes, student were allowed to return to the school.

Alarms sounded at Mount Boucherie Secondary School in West Kelowna, Friday morning.

Part of the school was evacuated at 9:50 a.m., and firefighters rushed to the scene with two fire engines. Twenty minutes later, students and staff returned to class.

A student at the school reports a small fire in the metalwork shop caused the emergency.


Speak up on 2nd crossing

The site for a proposed second crossing of Okanagan Lake will be one of the topics up for discussion at a pair of transportation open houses next week.

The provincial government will host these open houses in an effort to get feedback on transportation issues in the Central Okanagan including a second crossing, the role of Highway 97 and suggestions on how to address future congestion.

While the need for additional highway capacity and a second crossing is still at least two decades away, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is starting the planning process now.

The current population of the Central Okanagan is approximately 187,000 with estimates saying that figure will rise to nearly 225,000 in 20 years.

“We are committed to looking at immediate transportation solutions for the Central Okanagan, as well as looking at solutions for the future, as the population continues to grow,” said Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone.

“We are very interested in hearing the public’s views on the Highway 97 corridor and the surrounding roads, and we encourage everyone to join the conversation.”

The province estimates the William R. Bennett Bridge, which opened in 2008, will reach capacity in its current configuration. It also says by that time a trip between Peachland and Lake Country will take an extra 15 minutes during peak morning times and an additional 24 minutes during peak afternoon times.

Open houses will take place:

  • Monday, Nov. 30, 2015 at 4:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. - Westbank Lions Community Centre, 2466 Main St., West Kelowna
  • Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at 4:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. - Ramada Kelowna Hotel and Conference Centre, 2170 Harvey Ave., Kelowna

At a recent meeting between West Kelowna council and Ministry of Transporation and Infrastructure staff, Mayor Doug Findlater suggested the top two priorities for his community was the elimination of the Westbank couplet and the addition of a second corridor which could connect with roads and neighbourhoods from Peachland to Westside Road.

Council expressed concerns Highway 97 would become nothing more than a series of overpasses and underpasses.

The future of water

In the last 10 years the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) has awarded $3.2 million to 197 projects through its Water Conservation and Quality Improvement (WCQI) Grant Program.

The groups behind these efforts, in turn, delivered projects worth more than $20 million to our valley – projects that have helped conserve and protect water in Canada’s most water-stressed region.

OBWB Chair Doug Findlater said the grant program started in 2006 as a way to build collaborative approaches to address water issues in our region and develop best practices.

"Looking at the results of these efforts on display today, you can see the valley-wide benefits of this program,” he said.

Projects include stream restoration work for fish, flood mitigation, and improved ecosystems, xeriscape demonstration gardens, water metering, foreshore inventory mapping, drinking water protection efforts like cattle-fencing, and much more.

Zoe Eyjolfson with the Okanagan Nation Alliance says the OBWB has assisted the non-profit with many projects including the restoration of the Okanagan River in Oliver.
“It is a project that focuses on habitat restoration and returning the creek back to where it was originally, bringing back a lot of the habitat for the fish and providing habitat for fish and wildlife to spawn and migrate.”

The restoration started in 2009, with two major phases, supported by approximately $50,000 from the OBWB for the $5-million project.

Another initiative funded by the OBWB is the Okanagan Xeriscape Association. Executive director Gwen Steele says funds from the OBWB have helped build a website for the association, with a searchable plant data base as well as xeriscape demonstration gardens outside the H2O centre in Kelowna.

At an event held Thursday in West Kelowna, funders such as the Real Estate Foundation of BC, RBC Blue Water Project and the National Wetland Conservation Fund were on hand to discuss possible partnerships - bringing additional project dollars into the valley.  The event also served as an opportunity for the Water Board to announce the call for WCQI applications for 2016.

Other project categories considered for priority funding will be discussed by the Board of Directors at their December 1 meeting and posted to the grants page on the OBWB website.  The complete program guide and application forms can be found at www.obwb.ca/wcqi.

Be an ambassador

The West Kelowna Youth Ambassador program is seeking new candidates for 2016.

The competition, which will crown an ambassador and two vice-ambassadors, is open to girls and boys in Grades 9 and 10.

A total of 10 youth took part last year, the inaugural year of the program.

Similar to royalty or pageant programs, the ambassador program allows entrants to learn valuable life skills, such as effective communication, etiquette, interviewing skills, poise and public speaking.

Those interested in taking part are invited to attend a candidate information session on Monday, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Heritage on Brown Road.

All interested candidates are asked to bring a parent or guardian.

Not guilty in sex assault


A local 54-year-old man was found not guilty in B.C. Supreme Court today on two charges related to the alleged sexual assault and interference of nine-year-old girl, more than 11 years ago.

While he was found not guilty in this case, the man will be back in court to face four more charges involving the sexual assault of two minors in West Kelowna during the last decade. 

The four remaining charges have been split into two trials, one for each alleged victim and incident.

The man cannot be named under a publication ban due to his relationship to the alleged victims.  


The crime allegedly occurred more than 11 years ago, but the pain is still fresh for a victim who took the stand in Kelowna, Tuesday.

The 21-year-old woman, who cannot be named, is one of three alleged victims in the attacks on underage girls.

The man on trial, a 54-year-old, is accused of the sexual assault and interference of the three, in three different incidents in West Kelowna during the past 13 years.

The accused has been charged with six counts, two for each victim, including three counts of sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference with a person under 16 and one count of sexual interference with a person under 14.

The man was supposed be on trial this week for all six counts, but, at the request of defence counsel, the case has been broken into three separate trials.

The first takes place this week in Kelowna Supreme Court, involving an incident from the early 2000s, when the alleged victim was nine years old.

The now 21-year-old woman took the stand as the first Crown witness. She identified the accused as the man who allegedly assaulted her and immediately broke down in tears when Crown asked her to explain what happened.

The woman remembered a happy day in the summer. She was out swimming with friends and had returned home when she sat on the couch to dry off. She wore a wet bathing suit and was wrapped in a white towel.

She said the accused joined her on the couch and put his arm around her.

“I felt his arm go down the right side of my body and his hand reached under my towel and then I felt his hand go under my bathing suit, and I felt his fingers start rubbing my vagina, a couple times for a couple of minutes,” said the woman. “I felt scared and I started to feel numb, like I didn’t have any feeling at all.”

She testified she asked him to stop, and he looked at her with a smirk.

“He had a sick smile like he was allowed to do it and it was OK for him to do it,” said the woman. 

The woman said he stopped when she left the room.

The woman did not come forward with the information until a family member told her about another incident involving a different girl and she felt safe to come forward with her own story.

The alleged incident is the first of three between 2002 and 2012 the accused is on trial for.

The first trial is expected to wrap up this week; the following two trial dates still need to be set.

The accused is currently not in custody.

Councillor denies conflict

Rusty Ensign has denied he was in a conflict of interest over a development in West Kelowna.

The first-term councillor told his council colleagues Tuesday night a letter alleging conflict was based on inaccurate information.

Despite his assertion, Ensign did recuse himself from the matter in question, the West Bay Beach Resort development.

According to the city, Ensign's company entered into a demolition contract with the developer following a public hearing in September, a point reiterated by Mayor Doug Findlater.

"We have received a fair bit of legal advice on this as well, and other correspondence from the developer and various parts of the development agency to indicate there was an intervention between Coun. Ensign and the developer post public hearing," said Findlater, after Ensign had recused himself from the proceedings.

"There is an issue here where I think it's absolutely correct to pull this back and clarify the process and make it fully transparent."

Council agreed to rescind second and third readings of the OCP and zoning amendment bylaws Ensign had previously voted on. They then voted to adopt second reading once Ensign had left the room.

Despite comments from the mayor, Ensign maintained he did nothing wrong.

"I have had legal advice, and I would like to state for the record that I had no prior conflict of interest and the original letter that precipitated this wasn't based on accurate information. That action plan that was submitted to say I had a contract was overstating the situation," said Ensign.

"Having said all that, I am prepared in this case, out of respect for my colleagues and for the process, to recuse myself from any further deliberations and any more discussions on the matter."

While he supports the project moving forward, Findlater said it's the process council is trying to protect.

"When members of the public come to a public hearing, they believe and expect the people sitting around this table don't have any other interests, that they may be looking at whether there is a business opportunity for them," said Findlater.

"This is an inconvenience to the public, an inconvenience to the developer, it cost the city some money, some staff time and CAO time and legal consultation time.  We don't want this to happen again."

A new public hearing on the development will be held Dec. 8.

Hunter stranded on shore

A Summerland man in his 30s is safely home after a Tuesday hunting excursion left him calling for help.

The man was on the east side of Okanagn Lake, hunting and hiking, across from Peachland, when he got back in his boat to return home.

That's when his boat started taking on water from a hole in the hull. The man beached the boat, stranding himself. He called 911 on his cellphone.

Peachland firefighters responded by boat, shortly after noon.

“We went over and picked him up and ensured the boat was secure and there was no risk of any environmental damage from the boat,” said Fire Chief Dennis Craig. “There were no injuries or health concerns, he just had no way of getting home.”

Craig says a hike into Kelowna from where the man was stranded would have been unsafe.

“He could have spent a couple hours out there for sure, easily. He was prepared to be out in the elements,” said Craig. “However, the longer he stays out there, the greater chance it could become an emergency. He was well prepared for a couple hours, but not so much overnight. The terrain is rather difficult out there, too.”

Firefighters secured the boat and left it on the east side of the lake to be recovered today.

“We were not comfortable towing it back across. We weren't sure how big the hole was in it – it had taken on a significant amount of water,” said Craig.

The owner is set to contact a salvage company to retrieve the boat. RCMP are aware of its location.

Plow ends up in ditch

Both a logging truck and a snow plow ended up in a ditch Tuesday afternoon, losing control on the icy roads. 

The picture above, snapped about 12 p.m., shows both the loaded logging truck and the snow plow down in the ditch in the median in the centre of Highway 97C near Sunset Main Road.

Blowing snow reportedly caused the treacherous conditions on the highway, resulting in the accidents.

The condition of the drivers are currently unknown.

DriveBC reports compact snow with slushy and slippery sections for the entire Okanagan Connector between Merritt and West Kelowna and the Coquihalla Highway 5 from Kamloops to Hope.

Drivers are urged to take caution and ensure their vehicle is equipped with proper tires for the conditions and check DriveBC for current road conditions.

Here in the Okanagan Valley bottom, residents are being warned to get ready for a cold winter snap.

Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist says overnight temperatures dipping down to -10 C or colder are expected to hit the Okanagan overnight Wednesday.

Lundquist says the high temperatures will remain below zero into the weekend.

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