Friday, August 28th20.9°C
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Province buys old motel

An old Vernon motel will soon be transformed into an affordable housing complex.

The provincial government, through BC Housing, recently purchased the Journey Inn Motel on 28th Avenue, behind Fruit Union Plaza.

Once renovations are complete, it will provide 38 units of housing for people at risk of homelessness. It will be run by the John Howard Society.

The facility will provide independent living with minimal supports.

"We're excited to be working together with the province on this project. It builds on our goal of providing a continuum of housing options for low-income residents in the North Okanagan," said society executive director Barbara Levesque.

"Many of the prospective tenants are working either part-time or full-time, but haven't been able to find safe housing they can afford. The location is within walking distance to many amenities and is ideal for people who can't afford transportation."

The building will include a community kitchen and a community garden along with programs to help residents overcome social isolation.

Renovations to make the building safer and more comfortable are expected to begin later this year and continue until later 2016.

The first tenants are expected to move in over the next few weeks.



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Tourists still coming to town

While the smoky skies may not make for the best vacation conditions, tourists are still coming to Vernon.

For the past few days, the Okanagan has been huddled under a blanket of smoke from massive fires in Washington State.

However, it would appear the gloomy skies are not enough to keep people away from the North Okanagan.

Swan Lake RV Park and Campground manager Travis Van Hill said business is booming.

He said people call and ask how the smoke is, but he has only had one person cancel their reservation because of it.

“It's been a great year – we've been full, full, full. Every year is getting better,” said Van Hill.

Kevin Poole Manager of Economic Development & Tourism for the City of Vernon, said hotels are looking at a strong tourist season as well.

“We’ve had some conversations with several of our accommodators and although the skies are smoky, people are still coming and overall numbers seem to be strong,” said Poole. “We’ve heard of a few cancellations due to the smoke, but for the most part those rooms have been filled with walk ins.”

Tourism in Vernon is also weathering the economic storm and posting some strong numbers.

“August is typically the busiest month for accommodators here in Vernon. In 2014, there was $4.5 million generated in room revenue for the month of August alone, which was up 19 per cent over the same month in 2013,” said Poole, adding the numbers this year are also expected to be good.

“Last year was a phenomenal year for us, with a 22 per cent increase.”

While August in the Okanagan typically means beach time, employees at the Vernon Information Centre have put together an information package of indoor activities tourists can indulge in, from the recreation centre to the Okanagan Science Centre.



Mayor OK with rainbows

Kelowna introduced rainbow crosswalks – to some controversy – earlier this month, Penticton is talking about it now, but so far no one has approached Vernon city council about the idea.

Rainbow sidewalks are a visible show of inclusivity of LGBTQ individuals in the community.

Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund said he expects the issue will make its way to Vernon eventually, but right now it has not reached council's agenda.

“We haven't given it any thought in Vernon. I don't have any issues with what they have done in Kelowna. It's a crosswalk, it's not something that will make or break someone,” said Mund, adding the brightly coloured crosswalks might even make the crosswalk safer by standing out more than a regular white one.

“It adds something interesting for a community. I cannot speak for all of counsel, but I have no problem with it,” said Mund, adding inclusivity is important to the community and if people want the rainbow crosswalks, he is all for it.

Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubei said staff is going to start researching the issue over the next few months and will come back with a recommendation.

Jakubeit said the issue was placed on the agenda because Kelowna has installed rainbow crosswalks and it has been discussed by Summerland council.

Many communities across Canada are installing rainbow crosswalks.

While the crosswalks have been generally well received in Kelowna, some people were not happy to see the very visible show of support for LGBTQ individuals in the community.

Nancy Enns said earlier this month, she is willing to go to the Supreme Court of Canada to have the Kelowna rainbow crosswalks removed.





Two suspicious fires set

Vernon Fire Rescue was called to two small fires within 30 minutes, Thursday morning.

Both fires were within blocks of each other and deputy fire chief Jack Blair said both were suspicious. Police are investigating.

The first fire was set at 5:53 a.m. on the 3200 block of 30th Street, where two bags of yard waste were on fire. About half an hour later, crews doused a small grass fire in Becker Park, eight blocks away.

“We requested RCMP, and they are under investigation,” said Blair. “They are both suspicious in nature.”

While the Becker fire only grew to 10 feet by 10 feet, the potential for disaster was there.

“It was not a large area, but had there been winds, it would have been a different story. It is very dry up there, lots of tall grass,” said Blair.

Becker Park is in the middle of a residential area next to the Vernon Recreation Complex and was the site of several human-caused fires in the spring.

RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk said police attended the Becker fire, but could not determine if it was an act of arson.

Vernon was plagued by arson fires earlier in the year, with numerous fires set. An abandoned house, boat and other targets were intentionally torched.

There have been no reported arson fires for several weeks, and Molendyk said it's impossible to say if the latest fires are related.



Cause of death unknown

No cause of death has been determined in the discovery of a body in Polson Park, Wednesday.

Vernon RCMP police spokesperson Gord Molendyk said the man, in his 40s, was found dead in the downtown park shortly before 10 a.m.

“The man’s identity is not being released at this time until next-of-kin notifications have been made,” said Molendyk. “The B.C. Coroner’s Service and members of the Vernon serious crimes unit are continuing with the investigation of the death.”

An autopsy will be done during the next few days to determine the cause of death.

The body was found near some bushes behind the lawn bowling club, about 30 metres from the park bandshell.

A portion of Polson Park was secured by police for the Coroners Service and RCMP forensic identification section to complete the scene examination. Public access to areas of the park was restricted for a number of hours.

The scene has since been released by police, and there is full access to the park.



Benches turned into art

Local artists have added some flair to downtown benches.

While they normally go unnoticed, several benches in downtown Vernon are getting a lot of attention after they were turned into works of art.

Dauna Kennedy Grant, Vernon Public Art Gallery executive director, said the benches were one of the artistic projects for the annual Riot on the Roof, held last week atop the Vernon parkade.

While it may seem an odd place to hold an artistic social gathering, Kennedy Grant said some 700 people attended the seventh annual event that features all forms of art from dance to wearable art to music and everything in between.

“It's such a unique event to be able to host it in the parkade on the rooftop. When night falls, it's a beautiful venue,” said Kennedy Grant, adding people were dancing under the stars.

This year, four benches were decorated. Last year, two were done and all of them will be in the downtown core.

The bench project was done in conjunction with the Downtown Vernon Association and the City of Vernon.



Fire at golf club

UPDATE 5:11 P.M.

Officials have determined what caused a fire in the kitchen of the Vernon Golf and Country Club.

Deputy fire chief Lawrie Skolrood said the cause was electrical.

“It was a pinched power cord for one of the small appliances,” he said. “It arced on a metal table and started from there.”

The fire was confined to the kitchen, but the dinning room has had some smoke damage, however the course itself is still open.


ORIGINAL

A kitchen fire has put a local golf club in the rough, but duffers can still hit the links.

Vernon Fire Rescue was called to Vernon Golf and Country Club on Kalamalka Lake Road just after 11 p.m. Tuesday.

Deputy fire chief Jack Blair said when crews arrived, they reported seeing smoke coming from the building.

“It was coming from the inside, and once they got access they found a small fire in the kitchen area,” said Blair, adding it was knocked down quickly.

Power has been cut to the golf club, and the kitchen and lounge are closed.

Blair said there was some smoke damage to the pro shop, but because it is downstairs from the kitchen, the damage was not too extensive.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time and investigators are looking in it.

The golf club had two men manning the front gate Wednesday morning, who told Castanet golfers will be able to access the parking lot so they can play, but will not have access to the building.



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