Tuesday, January 27th2.7°C

Police seek woman in ATM theft

Don't leave your card in the ATM.

That advice from Vernon RCMP, who are investigating a case of a forgotten bank card being used to withdraw more money without the account holder's knowledge.

The theft took place at the Bank of Montreal on 32nd Street in Vernon on Oct. 5, and police have just released surveillance camera images of a person of interest in the case.

The owner of the card advised police they forgot their card in the ATM after making a cash withdrawal. When they went back to retrieve it, the card was gone. When the owner spoke with staff at the bank, they learned more cash had been withdrawn from the account, said Vernon RCMP spokesman Gord Molendyk.

Police would like to identify the woman in the images so they can speak with her in relation to the investigation.

If anyone can identify the woman in the photos, you are asked to call the Vernon RCMP or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800 222 8477.


City seeks parks feedback

The city of Vernon is asking for feedback on the draft Parks Master Plan and is inviting residents to visit a consultation station from 1 to 9 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 27 at the Okanagan Regional Library Vernon Branch, 2800 30th Ave.

One consultation station already took place on Saturday, Jan. 24.

Additionally, community members can fill out a survey available on the city’s website.

Vernon’s Parks Master Plan process was initiated as a top council priority in February 2014, shortly after the completion of the Greater Vernon Sub-Regional Parks and Trails Service Agreement, which transferred the governance of local parks from the Regional District of North Okanagan to the city.

The goal of the plan is to develop a vision for the city’s parks and trails system that can be achieved, sustained and managed responsibly.

To develop this vision, the city initiated an extensive public and stakeholder engagement process during the spring and summer of 2014. Over 2,500 residents participated and provided their input for the plan.

It includes recommendations for future park land acquisition priorities, park improvement projects, new park development and trail development.

There is also a 10-year playground structure replacement plan. A detailed implementation strategy and funding sources are included in the draft plan, which along with the survey can be found at www.vernon.ca/parks.

Animal cruelty charges laid

One month after 16 horses were seized in deplorable conditions in the North Okanagan, the owner has been charged.

Gary Roberts, 69, of Armstrong faces three counts of animal cruelty after the BC SPCA executed a warrant at his farm on Dec. 11. 

North Okanagan SPCA protection officer Kathy Woodward told Castanet at that time that her office issued a warrant on the property following a lengthy investigation.

She said officials has noticed a dramatic decline in the health of many of the horses, prompting the warrant.

When her team got on the property they found 16 of the horses were severely malnourished and near death.

“The horses were in distress, as defined in our Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, so they were taken into our care,” Woodward said. “The body condition score of the ones we took custody, ranged between 0.5 and 1.5 out of nine, with five being ideal, so they were in very poor condition.”  For reference a 1.5 is considered emaciated.

Roberts is charged with one count of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal, one count of an owner failing to provide necessaries for an animal and one count of uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm.

He is expected back in court Jan. 29 to consult with counsel.


Kevin Hill takes X Games gold

The City of Vernon, Silver Star Mountain and the whole North Okanagan are set to celebrate gold tonight.

A celebration is planned at Monashee’s Bar & Grille for hometown boy Kevin Hill, who took his first gold medal in Snowboard Cross at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado this Friday. 

“X-Games was at the top of my list to win and to take the gold here means the world to me,” Hill told The Canadian Press. ”It’s been my No. 1 goal for a long time.”

It was the second medal in a week for Hill as he nabbed second place in an earlier snowboard cross event at the FIS world snowboard championships.

Vernon city council was excited for Hill’s achievement and Mayor Akbal Mund shared his thoughts on the medal win.

“A lifelong dream for Kevin has been realized today and we celebrate his accomplishment with him,” said Mund. “Vernon continues to produce local athletes who are attaining the highest standards in the sports world. We would also like to thank the coaches, trainers and parents that help these athletes succeed.”  

You can check out Hill’s winning run in the video above. Hill pulled ahead early and stayed in the lead of the pack to earn that golden medal.

“It was the best feeling ever to be able to get an early lead and take the race from start to finish,” Hill said. ”I’ve never felt so fast and confident on my snowboard.”

Mayor Mund hopes that Vernon residents will turn out to show their pride at the celebration planned for Hill Sunday evening at Monashee’s Bar & Grille.


Vernon ready to rock for carnival

Vernon is getting ready to rock as final preparations are being made for the 55th annual Vernon Winter Carnival.

This year’s theme is “Carnival of Rock ’n’ Roll,” and the annual celebration will kick off Feb. 6, continuing to Feb. 15.

Carnival executive director Diana Williamson says “ticket sales are coming along amazingly. We’re looking at selling out several events … it’s really going well.”

Williamson says this is the 23rd year for the popular Hot Air Balloon Fiesta and this carnival also marks the 50th birthday of carnival mascot and jester Jopo.

The night before carnival officially gets underway, Queen Silver Star LV will be crowned at the coronation at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre, starting at 7 p.m.

The royalty will then ride on the official City of Vernon float in the winter carnival parade on Saturday, Feb. 7, at noon.

Williamson says the parade, by far the biggest event of carnival, regularly attracts 15,000 to 20,000 spectators, and organizers are keeping their fingers crossed for good weather. Shaw TV will televise the event.

She notes this year, carnival kicks off with a long weekend, as it coincides with the B.C. Family Day stat holiday.

“We’re going to have a special Family Day in the Park event at Polson Park that’s free for everyone with activities for all ages,” said Williamson. “We’re hoping the holiday weekend gives us a big push to kick off the rest of carnival.”

The Hot Air Balloon Glow is another crowd favourite, 5:30 p.m. Feb 6 at Polson Park. Assembled balloons in town for the fiesta light up the night sky with their burners and colourful craft.

The fiesta continues through Feb. 8, and the balloons can be seen floating above the city in many locations.

Another perennial favourite, Suds n Cider, is once again sold out at the Vernon Lodge ballrooms. Those lucky enough to grab tickets will sip and savour beers, ciders and coolers from 20 different suppliers.

The B.C. Championship Snow Sculpture Competition returns to Silver Star Mountain Resort, where eight teams will be competing to artfully carve their creations from giant blocks of the white stuff. The winners qualify to compete in the nationals at Quebec City’s Carnaval – the only winter carnival in Canada larger than Vernon’s.

The sculptures will be on display in the village for all to view.

Williamson says it’s great to see businesses already starting to decorate for carnival and show their imagination around the rock ’n’ roll theme.

The most popular will again be awarded in the Best Decorated Premises Contest.

“It’s nice to see people getting into the spirit,” says Williamson. “There are quite a few events specifically fitting the theme this year, such as the Rock ’n’ Roll Fever Dance Party and others.”

The first Winter Carnival was held on Kalamalka Lake in 1893. According to a news report at the time, it “proved to be successful and a very enjoyable event. Many prominent citizens of the time took part as well as hundreds of skaters who enjoyed the ice rink that had been cleared for the event. Many people who attended came in horsedrawn sleighs which kept livery keepers busy.”

Back in the present day, there are literally dozens of children’s, family and adult events taking place during this year’s Winter Carnival. You check out a complete schedule on the Vernon Winter Carnival website.

“Fifty-five years and going strong,” said Williamson. “We’re pretty proud of it.”

Slopes for Hope

Cancer fighters will take on a new challenge by hitting the slopes of Silver Star for an Everest-style event.

On February 22, winter enthusiasts will attempt to ski or board the equivalent of Everest (29,029 vertical feet) in one day.

Appropriately titled ’Slopes for Hope’, this event will take place in six other locations across B.C. during February and March with the goal of raising vital funds for cancer research and support programs for people living with cancer in the province.

The event is a family friendly ski-a-thon where teams challenge themselves to ski or snowboard the vertical height of the highest mountain in the world.

Teams are asked to fundraise in advance instead of paying a registration fee. All participants who raise a minimum of $50 by a youth and $100 by an adult will be eligible for a half-price lift ticket the day of the event, courtesy of Silver Star Mountain Resort.

Emily Braun, volunteer organizer for the Canadian Cancer Society says the Okanagan is known for it’s sun worshipers, but there are also snow worshipers here too.

 “This event has been a big hit in the Kootenays for the past three years and we’re so excited to finally be able to bring it to Silver Star so Okanagan skiers and boarders can join in the fun!”

During Slopes for Hope Silver Star there will be children’s activities, an après-ski party with entertainment and an awards ceremony with amazing prizes. There will be prizes for “best costume” and the team or individual who raises the most funds and skis the farthest distance will be awarded the coveted Golden Boot trophy.

“It’s a real ski boot, painted gold and mounted on a trophy base,” says Braun. “It’s pretty cool and the bragging rights that go with it might be even better.”

To be eligible to take home the Golden Boot, register online at and select “Silver Star” from the list of seven resorts participating across B.C.

Skiers and boarders of all ages are welcome.

Slopes for Hope takes place on Sunday, February 22 at Silver Star Mountain Resort and is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Vernon grapples with water quality

How to grapple with water system upgrades is again front of mind for Vernon-area residents.

The Greater Vernon Water District held a referendum in November asking the public to borrow $70 million for the first phase of a water upgrade, which would have included a $26.5-million filtration plant at the Duteau Creek water treatment facility.  

Voters soundly rejected the plan, and now it's back to the drawing board.

Coun. Juliette Cunningham, director of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, said Thursday was the first meeting on where to go next. She thinks the key is better public education.

"None of the options are inexpensive, and we have to clarify that to the public," Cunningham said. 

"Personally, I liked the option we chose. It gave us flexibility in terms of challenges in the future. We have two distinct water sources, so we have a level of redundancy, which to me is prudent when you look at needing water. We'll always need water."

Interior Health does not keep data on how many people have been hospitalized due to waterborne organisms or illnesses, yet it is the body mandating the higher water standard. IH communications officer Grace Kucey said they do not collect that information. 

Despite a lack of data indicating whether residents are getting sick when drinking from the tap, new Canadian drinking water standards require municipalities to bring all water sources to a higher level of filtration. For Vernon, which has two water sources, both the Duteau Creek and Mission Hill treatment facilities have to be upgraded. 

Christina Yamada, program co-ordinator with Health Protection at Interior Health said Vernon's drinking water doesn't meet those provincial objectives, which makes residents vulnerable to waterborne illnesses. 

"The provincial drinking water objectives are based on national and international standards. Those standards are developed with a huge amount of work, through a large amount of different scientific stakeholders," she said. "There is a huge amount of science behind the standards the objectives are based on."

She didn't provide details on what those standards are.

Cunningham said the timelines for the expensive upgrades sought in the referendum were too tight, and she would like to see concessions from Interior Health. 

"We were expected to do this by 2022, so seven years from now we're expected to have full filtration at Duteau and then the next phase would have been full filtration at the Mission hill plant," she said. The second phase would cost an additional $40 million. 

The process had its flaws, Cunningham said.

"This is a mandate that is imposed on us from a senior level of government, and it didn't give us a real opportunity to get that public input," Cunningham said. "(Public consultation) is not mandated by the province when doing a master water plan, but we really feel that's important. If nothing else, then the public understands why we need to spend this kind of money to meet the standards basically being imposed by Interior Health." 

Yamada said there is still the potential for a collaborative process to take place between Interior Health and the Greater Vernon Water District. 

"Vernon will have the opportunity to sit down at the table and propose possible alternate plans, and the environmental health officer has the discretion to say 'well this is doable and still meets the provincial objectives,' or not. So there's still the potential for a collaborative process to go on."

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