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Highway 97A reopens

Update 5:20 p.m.:

Highway 97A has been reopened 5 km south of Armstrong, according to DriveBC.



According to a Castanet viewer, one person was injured in a collision on highway 97A near Armstrong.

The crash happened around 4 p.m. just past Eagle Rock road headed north and involved at least two vehicles.

DriveBC is reporting the road to be closed and there is no estimated time of opening an assessment in progress and a detour available via Eagle Rock Rd or Pleasant Valley Rd.

The witness says she watched emergency crews assess the scene and pulled one person from a vehicle.

Castanet will have more information if it becomes available. Check DriveBC for updates.



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Flood work at Marshall Field

The City of Vernon is continuing flood-protection work at Marshall Field.

The city is starting the next phase of the project this week at the popular soccer fields and recreation area in Okanagan Landing. 

Work under this phase includes restoration and landscaping of works completed in late 2014, as well as continuation of the channel adjacent to Okanagan Landing Road that was constructed in 2012. 

The final phase is proposed to start later this summer and continue through fall. The work will include connections to Vernon Creek, work in other riparian areas where environmental permits are required, and final restoration of the site.  

Note that pedestrian detours and traffic control will be in effect during construction. 



Streets given clean sweep

Dusty streets in Vernon will be given a clean sweep.

The city is starting its spring sweeping and flushing program, with high-volume roads that generate excessive dust being first on the agenda.

The remaining residential areas will be completed as soon as road edges are clear of snow, but the entire procedure is expected to be completed in four to five weeks.

Residents are encouraged to sweep sand from sidewalks onto the roadway prior to the mechanical sweepers entering their neighbourhood.

They should also watch for “Spring Sweeping in Progress” signs and park off roadways when possible.





An 'Udderly Awesome' party

Get your best cattle puns ready. The 116th edition of the B.C.’s largest agriculture fair has adopted its 2015 theme.

It’s no bull the Interior Provincial Exhibition has chosen "Udderly Awesome: Party Till The Cows Come Home” as its theme.

The 116th edition of the fair will run Sept. 2 to 6. The IPE board held its annual general meeting over the week-end, with one of the tasks to adopt the theme.

The nearly 2,000 exhibitors are encouraged to decorate their booths and take part in theming the fair.

“There are so many ways to celebrate the theme,” said IPE general manager Bryan Burns. "We are confident people will get behind the theme and will come up some creative ways to celebrate it.”

In 2014, more than 147,000 people came through the IPE gates.



Chamber to honour its best

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce is counting down to its annual Business Excellence Awards on March 7.

Winners will be announced in 11 categories, including the prestigious Business of the Year Award.

According to last year’s winner, getting recognized is not only an honour, it's good for business.

“We were thrilled when our name was announced last year as Business of the Year, says Rodney Goodchild of Okanagan Spirits. “Since that time, we have incorporated the award into our marketing strategy, and even a year later we have people coming in and congratulating us.”  

“This is our premier business event of the year, and it is a great opportunity for our members and non-members to attend and network with the best,” says Dan Rogers, general manager at the chamber. “This is a chance for the entire community to recognize our diverse and dynamic businesses that are driving our economy.”

The theme this year is “A Tribute to Mad Men,” the long-running TV series about an ad agency in the 1960s.  “We are going to have a lot of fun incorporating the theme into the awards this year,” says Dan Proulx, membership and events co-ordinator. 

Tickets for the awards gala at the Best Western Vernon Lodge are available by calling 250-545-0771 or online at vernonchamber.ca.



Film pitch for reel cash

The Okanagan Film Commission is looking for more funds to keep productions rolling into the region.

Film commissioner Jon Summerland is seeking an increase from the Regional District of North Okanagan from $24,000 to $35,000 a year – the same amount the Regional District of Okanagan Similkamen puts in – for a total budget of $180,000 from across the valley.

Using industry standard calculations, just under $18 million in economic impact was generated in the Okanagan last year by the film industry, including animation.

“Without the proper amount of funding, I cannot be a good host to production companies during the scout and preproduction. These productions are looking everywhere and every region wants them, so it is very important to make sure you sell the region properly. Without the proper funding, it is nearly impossible to do. I have four director-producer scouts for the month of March and each will cost between $2,500 and $5,000 with travel, accommodation, vehicle and food costs,” said Summerland.   

It could be the right time to ask, with two major features films having shot in the North Okanagan and another Canadian film, Numb, currently in production. Summerland feels the political will is there.

“I think that they are starting to. Just like anything else, when new directors get voted in, it’s up to us to educate them on the value. It’s a catch-22; you can’t sell without money, but money is hard to come by without results. I hope they see the results now. 

"This year alone, we have had two films in two months. That’s over $2 million in economic impact in the North Okanagan. Not bad for a $35,000 investment," said Summerland.    

“It’s a great return for the investment,” said Coun. Brian Quiring at this week’s Vernon council meeting.

Even with a budget increase, Summerland doesn’t see the commission increasing in size dramatically.  

“I think we will stay a one man office with three contracted scouts. Scouting is the biggest expense, and I want to make sure we have enough to service every film that comes in. We want to keep our reputation as accommodating and hard-working. Our reputation is all we have," he said.

The Okanagan has a growing reputation for skilled crews, and novices are getting more experience all the time. More than half the crew filming Numb are locals. Our scenery and variety of locations is also part of the bargain.

“If a location doesn’t suit a script, but the location can still offer production value, then they can change the script to suit the area. It happens eight out of 10 times. Big studio films are the only ones to go where the locations tell them. Indie's (our bread and butter) will go where the dollar and screen value take them.

"With our infrastructure and tax credits, we are way ahead of most places. It took a while to build, but I think we are there now,” said Summerland.

If he were writing the script for the future of the film business in the valley, Summerland said: “A studio close to the airport would help.”



Hit and run suspect nabbed

Almost three months later, an elusive Vernon man has been arrested for a hit and run in December.

On Dec. 3, police allege the 22-year-old Vernon man left the scene of a serious crash at the intersection of Alexis Park Drive and 39th Avenue, between a blue Jeep and white Hyundai car.

The man driving the Jeep was seen running from the scene, while the second driver, a Vernon woman, was rushed to hospital.

The 44-year-old woman was then transferred to Vancouver General Hospital, where she remains recovering from serious injuries to her spine.

RCMP spokesman Gord Molendyk says officers from the Vernon detachment continued to work on evidence from the crash scene and leads from the public, which led to the arrest on Tuesday.

“A team of officers were assigned to this case. They never gave up on finding the person responsible for this terrible crash that left a seriously injured woman trapped in her car,” says RCMP Insp. McNamara.

The suspect is expected to face charges of hit and run negligence causing bodily harm.



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