Denying fire chief's claims

The city of Penticton has responded to the wrongful dismissal civil suit filed last month by the former fire chief.

In the response, filed July 18, the city states it has dealt with the plaintiff, Wayne Williams, in good faith throughout his employment and in relation to his retirement. 

The city says there is no basis for any claim for damages relating to his employment with the defendant and or the termination of that employment as a result of retirement, including without limitation punitive or aggravated damages or damages for mental stress.

"The city is confident that we dealt with Chief Williams' employment and retirement in good faith. Our claim lays out a definitive timeline and strong statement of defence," said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit. "It is dissapointing to have the memory of years of service and commitment to the city overshadowed by this suit."

The response also states that the plaintiff has been provided with all payments to which he was entitled in relation to salary, vacation and ETO pursuant to established policies of the defendant and the terms of the plaintiff's employment.

The city also attempted to organize a retirement party for Williams to celebrate his years of service but to date he has declined to participate.

The city does admit, however, to a minor error in relation to the plaintiff's retention of his uniform. 

This was fully rectified within a few days, according to the response and caused no harm to Williams.

This minor mistake does not demonstrate any ill will on the part of the city and does not give rise to any claim for damages, the response further states.


Naming the top biz in town

Nominations are now being accepted for business awards in Penticton.

The Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards will be open for nominations until Sept. 15, with 15 different awards for local businesses.

Those awards range from agricultural to marketing innovation as well a business-of-the-year award.

PWCCC executive director Brandy Maslowski said the awards are something for businesses to strive for as well as a good promotional tool.

“These awards are a way to almost increase the standard of excellence, but portray to the community that we have so much amazing business culture happening here that they don’t have to run over to the States and they don’t have to buy online,” she said.

“It’s just a really good way to boost the thriving business community in Penticton.”

She also noted businesses can strive for awards, as they can boost their own name in the community.

“You could have a smaller business that’s just starting off and they’re in their first year of business and if they’re nominated for that new business award, it could really give them a boost in their second year,” she said. “Which is really important for a fledgling business.”

Winners will be selected by a committee made up of local business leaders.

The awards ceremony will be held on Oct. 15 at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre from 5-11 p.m. and will include a champagne reception and dinner with wine.

Nominations can be made at the Chamber of Commerce's website.

Pushing for pot panel

A pair of South Okanagan pot dispensaries are saying they would like to work with the city to provide advice for potential regulations.

Green Essence manager Steve Swanson said he felt that Tuesday’s special council meeting, which produced a mandate for staffers to research ways for the city to regulate medical cannabis, could have used more input from the community as a whole.

“I think they should almost have everybody put together and go from there,” Swanson said. “Everybody could bounce ideas off of each other.”

He said the shop would like to work with the city to ensure the best outcome for all parties.

“We would be 100 per cent willing to work with the city and do whatever it takes to make this a successful thing,” he said.

Rush In and Finish Cafe owner Jukka Laurio said he would like to see some sort of pot panel formed not only to consult with city hall, but to co-operate among themselves.

“It would make sense,” he said. “Actually it would make more sense if there was kind of a collective of dispensaries so we wouldn’t have double dispensing, so we can keep proper distances, so there’s better client control.”

Once the city has regulations, Swanson said his shop will follow them and that consultations should be a two-way street.

“They need to figure out what the regulations are going to be, and we will follow it,” he said. “(We could) give them some ... knowledge and we could get knowledge from them.”

However, during Tuesday’s meeting, Laurio would only commit to saying that he would adhere to city regulations to the best of his ability, stopping short of saying he would follow every regulation the city adopted.

“I’ll see what the city set up, I’ll see, I’ll follow it as much as I possibly can,” he said.

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said that he would welcome input from the local industry as part of the regulatory process.

“If you’re going to create a code of conduct or regulations, obviously you need some input from that segment of the industry,” he said. “I think that’s important to sort of make sure that everyone’s on the same page in terms of what some basic standards would look like.”

He said that could take a number of forms, from staff consultations with the industry to a town hall meeting to an ad-hoc committee made up of community members, including local shop owners, to hash out some regulations.


A briefs sentence

A Penticton man who ran from police clad only in his underwear was sentenced to 60 days, minus time served, in Penticton court on Friday.

Nigel Laforme earlier pleaded guilty to several charges, including wilfully resisting or obstructing a peace officer and break and enter, stemming from an incident in Penticton on June 20.

On that date, according to crown counsel Kurt Froehlich, an officer was looking for Laforme over a breach of probation order.

The officer went to his home where he was met by his father. Laforme wasn't in his room and upon further investigation the bathroom window was found open, with his clothing on the floor.

He was observed running by civilians, and police found him sitting in a wooden tree house along the creek in the vicinity.

He then ran north on Fairford Drive, with the police pursuing him through backyards and over fences.

He ran through a residence on Atkinson Street, with the couple who were home at the time telling the police he burst through the front door and then out the back.

He also left a little blood on the floor, and when the police caught up with him they noticed a large cut on his foot.

The couple indicated they weren't fearful of Laforme, but didn't want him in the home. There was also no damage to the residence.

In terms of his criminal background, Froehlich said he does have a significant prior conviction for manslaughter.

Laforme's defence lawyer Robert Maxwell told his client that at 25 years of age it is time he grew up and that he was also from a good family.

He said the 60 days, which will end up being only 14 days more behind bars due to time served, was good considering his background and what had taken place.

Laforme told the court he knew he messed up, with Judge Gale Sinclair telling him "don't breach your probation anymore; it's simple."

The accused was also handed one year probation, with conditions including not to have any contact with the folks whose house he ran through in the attempt to get away from the police. 

Urgent need for foster care

There is an urgent need for more foster homes in the South Okanagan, according to the area's foster parent co-ordinator.

In order to best serve children at risk in the area, a wide range of homes is needed. 

“I encourage anyone who has wondered about becoming a foster parent to investigate further," said Leann Pitman Manuel with the Okanagan Foster Parent Association. "Foster parents tell me all the time how rewarding it is to contribute to their communities this way, so please don’t hesitate to contact me and find out for sure if fostering is right for you or not.”

The association's mandate is to educate and support foster parents and they currently have about 80 foster homes in the South Okanagan who care for more than 120 children. 

Some foster homes care for children for just a few weeks while others do so for years. 

There is no way to predict who might be in need of a caring home, it could be a newborn baby, a preteen with special needs or a teenager who has experienced trauma.

"Children in care can come from a wide range of backgrounds, and in order to best serve them, communities like ours need to train and support a wide selection of homes," said Manuel. "Not all foster homes are currently caring for children, while others are caring for multiple children. This can be a result of which school a child is used to attending, where their family and other community supports live or access to appropriate health care and educational supports. 

Basically, in order to best serve children in care we need to have more foster families available to us than we have children in our care."

Manuel said with October being foster parent appreciation month here in B.C., there is now a committee made up of herself, a few MCFD social workers, a few foster parents and a couple of other support service folks to work on a wellness calendar of events that will run through October.

They are seeking help from the South Okanagan business community to fill this calendar with significantly discounted or free events, services and items that will be made available on specific days in October to foster parents only. 

"Our goal is to bring awareness to what foster parents do for our communities when helping to raise some of our most vulnerable children and to show foster parents that they are valued and appreciated by the whole community for their tremendously heartfelt work," said Manuel.

They are also planning a dinner and entertainment evening in October for their foster parents.

For more information, go here.

Life next to a 'mini hotel'

A district board vote on a contentious vacation rental application has been resolved, after leaving attendees, staff and board members scratching their heads.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen board of directors planning committee voted on whether or not to deny Alan and Jill Kerr a permit to use their house near the east shore of Skaha Lake as a vacation rental.

The motion failed in a 4-4 vote, but what caused confusion was the follow-up vote on whether or not to approve the permit, which also failed in a 4-4 vote.

The result led to murmurs in the boardroom’s public seating and talk among board members as to what the pair of votes—a vote against denying the permit, and a vote against approving the permit—meant for the application.

Board members discussed among themselves whether a failed approval vote would mean a denial of the application or whether the issue was in an administrative limbo.

After the meeting, RDOS planning supervisor Christopher Garrish said he would need to speak to a lawyer to figure out exactly what will follow.

“I can’t think of the last time I’ve seen a negative recommendation, but also to have the follow-up positive recommendation fail as well,” he said.

He later clarified that a failed vote on the approval would mean denial of the application.

Council members of the strata to which the Kerrs’ house belongs said it has been an issue for three-and-a-half years.

“Four out of the five [strata council] members basically have said that they do not support the vacation rental,” said council member Deborah Shields, who noted that the fifth member of the strata council is the Kerr household.

She said the issue isn’t personal to the Kerrs, but that they have fought for years to not have the vacation rental in their community.

“This isn’t a question of neighbours not liking Mr. Kerr,” Shields said. “This is a situation that has a historical past.”

Fellow strata council member Mike Arcand said the vacation renters can be disruptive to the neighbours and their property values.

“It’s noise; you’re living next to a hotel,” said strata council member Mike Arcand. “We have spent a lot of money on our homes and … our homes are being devalued.”

Alan Kerr delivered an argument for approving the application before the board of directors, detailing precautions they took to ensure respectful occupants of the house.

“When we rent our house, we are very cognizant of the neighbours,” he said.

“We know the neighbours ... Previous to this, we had a great relationship with the neighbours. Some we still do, some we don’t.”

Among the measures taken, he said, are talking with potential renters and taking down all of the names and ages to ensure it is mostly family renters, and meeting renters and walking them through the house while going over house rules with a “big emphasis.”

He said some of those rules include allowing only paying guests in the house, noise-level regulation and a three-car parking maximum.

Still, Shields said there have been up to 18 people at the house, and that issues with occupants have been common.

“He’s had people at his residence, where one of the neighbours saw one of his customers urinating on the side of [Kerr’s] house,” she said.

However, Shields said she felt like the community came out on top with Thursday’s decision.

“It’s a win for us, because he doesn’t have a temporary use permit,” Shields said.

Arcand said he is hesitant to call it a full win at this point, however.

“It’s something he’s ran for many years without [a permit], anyway.”

A pitch-perfect legacy

A former conductor of the Penticton Concert Band passed away this week.

Gerald Nadeau lost his eight-year battle with cancer on Monday.

Nadeau is remembered by his wife, Nathalie Butler, who said in a release he brought a special talent to the band.

“Music was his passion and he had a rare gift that inspired so many people, not only in music, but personally too,” Butler said.

Nadeau stepped away from his place in the band at the end of the 2015 season after cancer left him unable to continue.

His presence in local music went beyond the Penticton Concert Band, however, as he directed the Tune-Agers for two seasons.

Butler said he had a way of inspiring those around him.

“His charisma, pride and confidence made everyone feel special, and strive to be better,” she said.

Outside of Penticton, Nadeau had played in the RCMP band from 1960-69, and was the music director of Ecole Secondaire Andre Laurendeau in Ottawa.

He first moved to Penticton in 2005, joining the Academy of Music to teach brass and woodwinds, and soon became the director of the concert band.

He is succeeded by retired music teacher Dave Brunelle who began working with Nadeau in September to transition the band to the new conductor.

Butler said Nadeau's life was filled with joy in and out of music.

“His positive outlook on life led him to live a full and wonderful life, which he enjoyed fully.”

Anyone wanting to make a donation, can send it to the Penticton Concert Band or Moog and Friends Hospice House.

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