Vernon  

Chopper looks for suspect

A police helicopter took a look for a break and enter suspect from above Thursday, but the bad guy got away.

Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said Vernon RCMP were called following a break and enter Thursday afternoon near Kal Lake Provincial Park in Coldstream.

“Air Services happened to be in area and took a look around. Nothing developed from it,” Moskaluk said.



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Port delay stalls business

A small businessman in Vernon has finally had some good news after losing customers and having to layoff staff.

Henk Blok of Gemini Gas Springs Inc. has been waiting since June 22 for the Canada Border Services Agency to release a shipment from China. The shipment has been sitting at the port for weeks, but Block had word Thursday morning it had finally been released.

“It's way out of control,” said Blok, adding there had been two other one-week delays. “I know there's a lot of contraband coming from offshore. But to hold it for six weeks doesn't make any sense.

“I'm a small manufacturer. We try to keep manufacturing going in Vernon, but on a small scale.”

Blok's problem was taken up by the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce who quizzed members of the federal Liberal Pacific caucus last week.

“We wish to express our concern with what appears to be an increase, or at the very least a lengthy time period required for inspections of product being imported through the Port of Vancouver,” reads a statement from the Chamber. “We appreciate that security is an issue we should all be concerned with and appreciate that due diligence is required when moving product through the country’s points of entry but that security must be balanced with the efficient flow of goods.”

As well, staff for Okanagan Shuswap MP Mel Arnold sent 21 emails about the holdup to Ottawa with no answers, Blok was told.

“I've had quite a few disappointed customers,” he said, adding that some have turned to cheap, offshore springs from Asia and Turkey.

Blok also let three employees go this week, which he described as devastating. He hopes to rehire the workers once the shipment arrives.



Culture team takes action

An action team put together to look at a possible multi-purpose cultural facility for the Greater Vernon area holds its first meeting Thursday.

The team will look at the cost and the structure of a building that could house both the Greater Vernon Public Art Gallery and the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives.

The current facilities “are not able to adequately protect their collections,” said Tannis Nelson, the North Okanagan Regional District's community development co-ordinator.

Speaking to the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, Nelson said culture industries had a large impact on B.C.'s economy.

In 2014, the economic impact of culture industries in the province totalled $7.2 billion, she said.

“Vernon has a tremendous potential because so much is under utilized,” said Nelson. No local figures were supplied.

Nelson also made it clear any new building would be constructed in Vernon's downtown.

“The development of a new multi-purpose cultural facility is to be in the city centre neighbourhood area. That says we're not putting it out at Marshall Field. It doesn't make sense.”

However, Nelson made it clear there is no commitment to use land where an old flower shop sits on 31st Avenue, beside the bus loop. The land has been pinpointed for an art gallery in the past.

“We've taken a step back and said 'we need to first determine what the size of the area is' so we haven't said the flower shop site is inappropriate yet but we have to first determine what the size and what the needs of the facility are and then we'll move to location.”





No reason to panic

 

Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund says there is no reason for people to panic following a spate of shots fired incidents in the Greater Vernon area over the past number of months.

The latest shots fired took place at a house on Palfrey Drive West in Coldstream early Saturday morning.

“It's another isolated case that's gonna happen in communities all over. Unfortunately it happened here and the RCMP, they're doing their investigation. They are dealing with the situation as we would expect them to do,” Mund said Thursday.

Members of council met this week with members of the RCMP, including Supt. Jim McNamara – the head of the North Okanagan detachment, but the mayor stressed the meeting was one of approximately three yearly get-togethers with the police.

“You never want to have shots fired (incidents), but you have to look at each case individually and say 'what was the reason for it?'”

“There is no need to panic,” Mund insisted. “It's a concern of everybody at city hall, but like I say, the RCMP, they're on it and I'm happy with that.”

The RCMP's gang squad was called in to help the Vernon detachment in May following three shots-fired incidents in Vernon in less than a month. All were believed to be linked to the drug trade.

A 16-year-old male was arrested and charged after police found a loaded gun in his possession.

The three incidents included:

  • April 14, a family home on Pottery Road was hit by three bullets early in the morning, terrifying the family inside. No one was injured.
  • April 21, police responded to a report of a shots fired incident in the 3400 block of Okanagan Avenue around 5:30 p.m. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
  • May 8, a teenage boy was wounded when shots were fired in the 1500 block of 33rd Street just after midnight. Police said it was believed to have been a targeted incident and the male did not suffer life-threatening injuries.

Then on June 26, police responded to a call of shots fired at a home on Scott Road in the Okanagan Landing area. An examination of the scene confirmed the house was struck by bullets, police said. An adult and a child were at home at the time of the incident however no one was hurt.

–with files from Darren Handschuh



Gunfight trial to be set

Three men, alleged to have been involved in a confrontation and shooting at the notorious Green Valley Motel and Polson Park two years ago, have been committed to stand trial.

A lengthy preliminary hearing into the case against two of suspects, Adrian Dziedzic and Robin Rochemont, ended in Vernon provincial court last week.

Police reported multiple shots were fired during the incident on Aug. 12, 2014, which then led to a manhunt across the North and Central Okanagan.

This then led to a number of charges being laid against Rochemont, including attempted murder, while Dziedzic was charged with using a restricted weapon to commit robbery and discharge of a firearm.

The two next appear in court on Aug. 29 to fix a date for trial, according to Dan MacLaughlin, spokesperson for the Criminal Justice Branch.

A preliminary inquiry into the case against a third man, Jacob Lowes, ended in court this week.

Lowes, 30, was also charged with attempted murder following the shootout.

All of the men were known to police.

He appears in court on Aug. 8 to fix his trial date, McLaughlin said.



Save the Speedway

There's been an explosion in membership to a local Facebook group that wants the engines restarted on a race track near Vernon.

The number of people joining  the 'Save the Motoplex Speedway' Facebook group rocketed in just hours on Wednesday, after word that no events were planned for the summer. The track's owner has been embroiled in a legal battle.

“Our goal here is to see if there is enough interest from racers, fans and sponsors to save the facility,” wrote Allen Hartley, host of the Facebook page.

Hartley suggested a number of ways the facility could be purchased, including through a cooperative society or a group of wealthy individuals but there has been no indication the track is for sale.

Whatever the case, Hartley's effort has growing public support. By 6 p.m. on Wednesday, 1,375 new members had joined, taking the total to more than 1,660.

Meanwhile the current owner of the track, Okanagan Aggregates Ltd., faces more time in court as a nearby land owner attempts to keep the gates shut for good.

In April, a B.C. Supreme court judge granted an injunction limiting the noise level at the Spallumcheen race track and ordered the company to pay $100,000 in damages to the developer of nearby Lawrence Heights.

In May, the land developer filed a notice with the B.C. Court of Appeal asking for the ruling to be set aside, in the hopes of obtaining larger damages and “a complete injunction on noise-making activities.”



MP ready to help Splatsin

Mel Arnold is ready and willing to step in and help resolve a land dispute in the Splatsin First Nation.

The North Okanagan-Shuswap Conservative MP said he has not spoken with representatives of the band yet, but he “will be reaching out to see if I can offer any assistance.”

At the heart of the matter is an ancestral burial ground located in a farmer's field near Enderby.

The band was to hold a referendum earlier this month to see if band members would accept $300,000 for the land, but a swell of opposition from band elders forced council and chief to cancel the referendum.

Chief Wayne Christian did not respond to requests for comment.

Arnold said attempts to correct it – referring to the referendum – have been made, but now the ball is in the court of Splatsin officials.

“It's up to band as to what direction they want to go,” said Arnold from his Vernon office. “I will be trying to reach out to Chief Christian to see if my office can be of any assistance.”

Arnold said he is unaware of any other situations like this one.

“There were cases in Northern B.C. where they actually had to move burial sites because of reservoirs for the dams. In those cases, they moved the remains to a new site. That's difficult to do in this situation. It's unlikely it can be restored to its original condition, so what is the best solution moving forward?”

Arnold said the land owner must also be considered in the situation.

Jody Leon has been speaking on behalf of the elders and she said the elders also want the farmer to be looked after.

“The farmer was put in a very difficult position by his government,” Leon told Castanet last week, adding the farmer did not know there was a burial site on the land, but the government did.

“We have a very good relationship with the (farmer), but it must be uncomfortable for them as well,” said Leon. “We really want to acknowledge the farmer for making an agreement with the elders. It's not fair the government put the farmer in this position.

“We definitely want to make sure he is taken care of. He is in a Catch 22 as well. He is very good friends with some of the members of our community and our elders.”



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