Tuesday, October 13th7.1°C

Advance polls still busy

If advance polls are any indication, the 2015 federal election could have the highest turnout in recent memory.

When the advance polls opened at noon Friday, people lined up by the hundreds to cast their ballot. Waiting times at some polling stations was more than two hours.

While those lines may have diminished somewhat by Sunday, people were still turning out in droves to cast their vote for the next government of Canada.

“Today was as busy as yesterday,” said Mary Thurber, Central Polling Supervisor for the Schubert Centre polls on Sunday.

“At our worst, the line was about 45 minutes for one poll. On Friday, our worst was around two hours.”

When the polls opened at noon there was a crush of people, but by 3:30 p.m., Thurber said the numbers had dwindled significantly and there was hardly any wait at all.

At the Vernon recreation complex, supervisor Patricia Anderson said by the time they opened at noon Sunday “there was quite a line up. At least two hours before the polls opened, I had to turn 10 to 12 people away.”

Like the Schubert polls, the lines all but disappeared by 4 p.m. and Anderson suggests anyone wishing to cast a ballot Monday should show up around dinner time to avoid the crowds.

“I have never seen such a turnout,” said Anderson who has worked several past elections. “Advance polls are busy, but I have never seen them this busy.”

It is a trend taking place across the nation.

According to Elections Canada, 1.6 million Canadians cast their ballots during the first two days of the advance polls, a 26 per cent increase from the 2011 and a whopping 90 per cent jump over the 2008 election.


RDNO buys Camp Hurlburt

It has been a fixture on Okanagan Lake for more than eight decades and the site known as Camp Hurlburt will remain accessible to the public.

The camp had been operated by Trinity United Church for years and when it was shut down, many people speculated it would be sold off and turned into a condo complex.

However, the Regional District of North Okanagan has announced it purchased the approximately two-and-a-half acres of property. The property will offer the public more than 1,000 feet of waterfront recreation area.

Juliette Cunningham, chairperson of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, is pleased Trinity United Church presented this opportunity to the regional district, saying she shared similar concerns it would be developed privately and lost to the public.

“Lakefront property is limited and in high demand,” says Cunningham. “We are fortunate the members of Trinity United Church were interested in keeping this property open and available to the community.”

"Camp Hurlburt has been a critical part of Trinity’s relationship with the Greater Vernon community for more than 80 years," says Rev. Jeff Seaton, with the church.

"Since 1931, thousands of young people and families have been blessed by the opportunities available at this beautiful place. The sale of the property to the regional district allows Trinity to maintain that legacy through community-based programs for children, youth and families, while ensuring the entire community can benefit from direct access to this special location."

The development of the property will be subject to a park planning process, following which the park will be opened to the public.  

Accident spills oil into creek

An early morning accident in Vernon was causing headaches for crews well into the afternoon.

The 43rd Street accident felled a power pole and two transformers were smashed. Each transformer can contain up 250 litres of oil, some of which went into the drainage system which dumps into Vernon creek.

People reported seeing a sheen of oil on Vernon Creek and by 2 p.m. environmental crews had set up a boom where the creek enters Okanagan Lake at Kin Beach to collect the oil.

It is not known at this time, exactly how much oil entered the creek or the lake.


Streaming along

Experts are going to take a close look at 18 streams around the Okanagan Valley to see what's needed to maintain a healthy ecosystem for fish, animals and plants.

The Okanagan Basin Water Board also wants to know the minimum amount of flow needed in a creek during a drought.

The board says a new provincial Water Sustainability Act means it is now critical to determine environmental stream flow needs (EFNs) to ensure human needs are met without damaging the environment in drought years.

The 18 creeks chosen are considered high-priority throughout the Okanagan.

A contract has been awarded to Vernon-based Summit Environmental Consultants Inc.

Crash knocks out power

A hit, crash and run early Sunday morning in Vernon knocked out power and has police scrambling to find those responsible.

According to Vernon RCMP, this morning just after 5 a.m., police responded to a single vehicle collision on 43rd Street in Vernon.

“The vehicle had struck a bicyclist, then left the roadway and severed a power pole, causing a large portion of Vernon to lose power,” explains Const. Jocelyn Noseworthy.

The majority of power was returned to Vernon customers by 7 a.m, however approximately 20 customers are still without power near the accident site.

Fortunately, the male cyclist was taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The occupants of the vehicle fled the scene, leaving the accident area prior to police arrival.

“43rd St between 25th Ave. and 30th Ave. is expected to remain closed for several hours while BC Hydro repairs the damage done to the pole and equipment,” says Noseworthy.

“Vernon RCMP are asking the public to avoid the area as much as possible, and use alternate travel routes.”

The collision is still under investigation by Vernon RCMP. 

Anyone with information regarding this accident is asked to call the Vernon/North Okanagan RCMP or CrimeStoppers.

Buzzing into winter

Planet Bee honey farm is putting its bees to bed for the winter – all 12 million of them.

“They actually go semi-dormant and lower their cluster temperature down to about 45 degrees F (7.2 C),” says Ed Nowek, owner of the Vernon operation.

Nowek says it wasn't a great year with production down almost 20 percent. He blames that on the region's early spring.

“Everything was too early. We got caught, we couldn't catch up with the season,” he admits. “When the honey flow was normally starting in another year, this year it was already finishing.”

The below average crop was typical of what happened around the province and opposite to a great honey production year in 2014, Nowek says.

He doesn't appear to be too worried about another warm winter. “For bees, overwintering should be easier on them.”

As far as threats to his bees, Nowek says staff constantly monitor for the varroa mite, a pest that attaches itself to a bee and weakens it. The mites can destroy a bee colony.

“We had treatments that worked well but there was always a small percentage getting tougher and hardier and now it's those tough mites that are the dominant ones,” he explains.

“The treatments that we used to kill the mites may have had a prolonged effects on the bees too that may have weakened their immune systems and so now they've become a little more vulnerable to some of the viruses that have always been evident in the hives.”

Nowek has yet to see signs of a so-called `zombie' bee syndrome caused by another parasite or the small hive beetle that has been found in Abbottsford and southern Ontario.

“If they get established inside (the hive), they eat the honey, the brood and the pollen and turn it to slime,” he says.

“It's one of these things that I believe if you manage your hives properly, keep the area around your honey houses clean and organized, that you're not providing a breeding ground for these things."

"You can't get lazy, you can't just put your bees in the hive in the fall and then expect them to be full of honey and healthy if you're not watching for stuff like this.”

Part of getting his bees ready for winter means ensuring the bees have plenty of food reserves and that varroa mite levels are under control.

When asked about the long-term future of the yellow and black creatures that pollinate the Okanagan's fruit trees, Nowek admits he doesn't know.

“I don't think we've reversed the damage that's being done, just the way we're not taking good care of our planet,” he says. “The natural environment for bees is just being pushed back further and further with urbanization, the sprays and insecticides that people are using are not very bee-friendly a lot of times.”

“It's just a combinations of things that are making it tougher than ever for the bees to survive.”

Enderby water runs again

Enderby residents are back online as far as water goes.

Engineers restored the northern Okanagan city's primary water source Friday following 11 days of servicing.

The source, a raw water intake on the Shuswap River, was taken offline on Sept. 28 for filter repairs.

At that time, 3,100 water users were asked to voluntarily reduce unnecessary water consumption. They were put on well water.

Tate Bengston, the city's chief administrative officer, said the repairs involved removing filter sand and internal components, re-installing those components and disinfecting the system. 

Once the water was found to be free of bacteria, the system was returned to service, he said.

Filtration is one of several steps taken at the Enderby water treatment plant to make the river water safe to drink.

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