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City responds to court ruling

The City of Penticton released a statement Thursday on the hotel room tax decision.

The release came following news Wednesday that a BC Supreme Court judge dismissed the City of Penticton's case against the Penticton Hospitality Association.

The statement reads as follows: 

The City of Penticton has received clarity on its contractual relationship with the Penticton Hospitality Association through the BC Supreme Court, and is looking to move forward in a collaborative manner to achieve the common goal of bringing more tourists to the city.

“This issue has been a very difficult one for the City of Penticton, as we have a duty to protect taxpayer funds and ensure they are being used in the proper way,” said Mayor Garry Litke. “That is why the city has been consistently asking the PHA for two things: provide further and better financial reporting, and sufficient assurances that it will improve its tourism marketing activities going forward. Although it has been a difficult process, the City believes the court process has ensured that the PHA takes its duties under the HRT Agreement and the applicable legislation seriously.”

The City filed a Petition in BC Supreme Court when it received the audited financial statements for 2012 from the PHA in October 2013, those statements confirmed that the PHA had only spent $74,000 of the $400,000 that the City had advanced to the PHA in 2012.

The City was very concerned about what it perceived as a failure of the PHA to discharge its function of marketing the city for the benefit of all tourism stakeholders – some of whom specifically had come forward to the City with concerns to this effect.

In the fall of 2013 the city did not have confidence that the PHA would sufficiently improve their marketing efforts and they notified the PHA that they wished to bring the agreement to an end and transition the tourism marketing to Tourism Penticton.

The City asked the PHA to cooperate with that transition, however, the organization refused and demanded that the City continue to forward the funds. At that point, the PHA stopped providing monthly financial reporting.

When the City later failed to receive a 2014 budget from the PHA, the City became even more concerned. Written communication between legal counsel for the two parties did not yield the necessary documentation to address the impasse; therefore, the city was left with no other recourse than to petition the BC Supreme Court.

On Wednesday, reasons for judgment from the BC Supreme Court were provided on the petition hearing on the Additional Hotel Room Tax (AHRT) that proceeded in early February of this year.

In his reasons, Justice Betton does not determine whether the respective parties committed breaches of the agreement between them. He focuses primarily on the two main issues: whether the agreement has been terminated and if there are any breaches significant or fundamental enough to bring an end to the agreement.

Ultimately Justice Betton concluded that he could not find that the PHA had fundamentally breached its obligations or that the agreement was otherwise at an end.

Justice Betton noted several things in his reasons about the situation that confirmed the City’s position:

“There may well be room to be critical of the PHA and argue that it has not served the interest of the stakeholders by being as active in promoting new projects and marketing as possible. That however is not the task of this court...”

“While it is apparent that the delivery of monthly financial statements was delayed, I am unable to characterize that breach as a fundamental breach, particularly in light of the Mediation and Action Plan that arose from it. If there has been a breach I cannot characterize it as a fundamental breach. The certification referred to appears to have been to satisfy a requirement of the province and could still be provided if needed. The extent of detail the City seeks regarding spending is understandable and something that can be addressed going forward.”

Justice Betton also found: “It is apparent from the review of all of the material and hearing submissions from counsel for the parties that the relationship between these parties is not conducive to effective or efficient communication or collaboration to achieve the broad objectives for the tax scheme.”

Litke acknowledges there is work to be done in terms of communications and relations. “Clearly both parties have a duty to improve this situation going forward,” he said.

“What this means is that the parties can get their contractual relationship back on track. If the PHA provides to the City the monthly financial statements and the certification that the city has long requested, it is expected that the City should be able to resume its role as a conduit for funding,” he said. “The City must continue to protect these taxpayer funds and exercise its role of oversight; however, the hope is that the legal battling can be brought to an end and both parties can work together to achieve the common goal of bringing more tourists to Penticton.”

Alfred Kempf, the lawyer for the PHA, said Thursday, the effect of the decision is that the city must restore funding to the PHA which it has withheld for some time now.



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Triathlon Race Society gets boost

The Penticton Triathlon Race Society is getting a boost of $125,000 thanks to the Province’s community gaming grant program, as announced by Premier Christy Clark Wednesday at the Penticton Chamber of Commerce.

The funds will support the Challenge Penticton triathlon event on August 24, 2014.
 
“Challenge Penticton builds on a long history of iron-distance triathlon in this city,” says Penticton MLA Dan Ashton. “Whether it’s the challenging triathlon or the numerous community events tied to it, this event has something for everyone. I encourage people of all ages to enjoy this year’s festivities.”
 
This grant is awarded under the Sport category of the Community Gaming Grant Program, which allows non-profit organizations to apply for provincial gaming revenues from the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

Gaming Grants are also awarded in the categories of Public Safety, Environment and Human and Social Services.
 
In the 2012/13 fiscal year, the government distributed a total of $135 million in gaming grants for eligible community programs and services.
 
Organizations interested in applying for Community Gaming Grants can find full application information here.
 
 



Fire destroys log home

 

 

A log home on Saddlehorn Drive was completely destroyed in a fire that started Wednesday night.

Kaleden Fire Chief Darlene Bailey says 17 firefighters from the Kaleden Volunteer Fire Department responded, along with the Okanagan Falls Fire Department, just after 11 p.m.

Forestry was on scene, as well, because the fire was moving through the forest.

Bailey says the fire was challenging because there was no hydrant service at the location, and they had to turn to nearby St. Andrews By the Lake for water.

There were a few small explosions at the scene, but it's hard to say what it was because it was so dark, she adds.

"Every part of the log house and the trees around it were on fire," says Bailey. "So our primary thing was for it not to get away, with so many other houses around."

Neighbour Jim Challoner says he started hearing popping and crackling around 11:05 p.m.

"I could see it burning from here. It was a whole ball of fire going up just like a huge bonfire," he says. "We were just lucky there was no wind last night."

Gerry and Ron Stimson got a phone call from a neighbour around 11:30 p.m. saying they should evacuate because the house across the street was burning.

"I looked out and saw flames shooting 100 feet high," says Gerry Stimson. "It was like the biggest chimney fire you ever saw. I tried to breathe and put the sprinklers on, and we did pack up a few things and get pets ready."

The Wiren family was in bed when the phone rang and a neighbour started pounding on their door.

"I opened the door and saw the whole sky was orange," says Dennis Wiren.

His wife Tammy and two children left the scene and went to a safe location, while he stayed behind to help get animals and people out safely.

All the neighbours were grateful that firefighters arrived so quickly on the scene and no other homes were lost.

It is not believed anyone was living in the home at the time, but that is still being looked into.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

Send photos and video to [email protected] 

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Teachers picket Clark luncheon

Teachers picketed outside a chamber luncheon attended by Premier Christy Clark at the Penticton Lakeside Resort on Wednesday.

Leslea Woodward, president of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers Union, who was in attendance, said they thought this would be the perfect time to let the public know they are still fighting for public education and better support for teachers.

"We want the message to get to Christy Clark that we need unfettered mediation to start taking place now," she said.

Woodward said BC Supreme Court Justice Stephen Kelleher has a few dates available in August to do mediation with both parties, but the problem they are having is getting government to agree to it.

The rally included teachers from the south Okanagan, as well as Central Okanagan, carrying signs with sayings including: "Christy mediate a fair deal, put our kids and teachers back in school."

At a press conference following the luncheon, Clark said they have spent substantial time the last couple of days as a cabinet talking about this and that both sides have a lot in common.

"We all want teachers to get a raise, and we all want to address these issues with class composition, so kids can learn better and we all want labour peace," she said. "That's a pretty good starting point, so I'm hopeful that we can get there. It might be little steps, but I really would love to see this wrapped up by the end of August."

In terms of mediation, she said, "We've always said we're open to mediation, absolutely. We've had a couple of mediators come and go, but the issue with mediation is both sides need to be close enough. The teachers union has to get into the settlement zone. We need a deal that's fair for teachers, and we want an agreement that's fair for the 150,000 public sector workers, over half of them, who have already settled their agreements as well."

The first day of school is supposed to be Sept. 2.

 



A letter from the LCB

Penticton Indian Band member Pierre Kruger stated earlier today (Wednesday) the liquor license for Boonstock was denied because of one person.

Castanet received the following letter from LCLB General Manager Douglas Scott in response to the comments that one person was solely responsible for the Boonstock liquor license being opposed:

 

It is important to understand that in the case of a Special Occasion Licence application, the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) has an obligation to the people of British Columbia to ensure that the liquor is served in a responsible manner and in a place where it can be safely consumed. This obligation to protect public safety is a significant responsibility. We work hard to help each festival in B.C. – major or minor – have a successful liquor application and a safe event, and approve over 20,000 applications per year with this in mind.
 
I can confidently say that approving a liquor licence would not have improved the level of public safety at Boonstock as has been suggested. In fact, the opposite is true.
 
The decision to deny this liquor application was not made by any one person or based on any single recommendation. During this type of liquor application review, we have LCLB and local RCMP public safety experts assess the plan proposed by organizers. In Boonstock’s case, only days before the event was set to open, we had a number of outstanding concerns including unclear evacuation routes and a lack of proof of signed contracts for security, emergency first responders, drinkable water, waste and tents.
 
To properly protect the public we cannot “hope” these critical services will be in place for a festival with over 8,000 in attendance. We must ensure they will be in place. That is why we require copies of signed contracts in advance of any event of this nature.
 
Adding on-site alcohol to a situation where we do not have assurances that there will be sufficient resources to manage safety issues (including evacuation) could have very dangerous consequences. Therefore, to fulfil our obligations and keep the public safe to the best of our ability, the LCLB could not sanction liquor to be legally sold or consumed on Boonstock festival grounds under these circumstances.
 
As well, it was critical that we made the final decision when we did in order to give festival goers as much notice as possible that liquor would not sold or served at the event.
 
We have been in touch with the RCMP and I am confident they have put in place the appropriate measures to protect public safety at Boonstock despite the fact that, at the time of writing this letter, they still do not have an agreement in place with organizers to cover the policing costs at the festival, as is normally required. Such an agreement provides assurances for B.C. taxpayers that they aren’t paying for the costs of policing at the event.
 
To be clear, a rejection of a liquor application or the absence of a supplemental policing agreement does not mean that the festival organizers are absolved of the responsibility to ensure an appropriate level of security at their event.
 
Most of all, our concern is for festival goers. We want them to have a safe and fun weekend. The Ministry of Justice will continue its work to help ensure things go as smoothly as possible, and liquor inspectors will be in Penticton to support police.
 
At the end of the day, I am confident that removing a liquor licence from the equation will give Boonstock a much better chance to provide for the safety of its festival goers. It is my sincere wish that this festival provides a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone who attends.

 
Douglas Scott
General Manager, BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch

 

 



Hospital gets new tower

Premier Christy Clark's announcement, Wednesday, that the Penticton Regional Hospital is getting a new tower brought the crowd in attendance at a chamber of commerce luncheon to their feet.

"As Penticton continues to grow, so does the demand on services Penticton families rely on, including the hospital. We committed to moving forward with a new patient care tower, and today we're moving forward," she said. "This is a crucial step in the right direction."

The hospital tower will include approximately 26,700 square metres of new health care facilities. This project will significantly improve access to services and improve patient care through the consolidation of programs currently distributed throughout the hospital.

A request for qualifications will now be prepared seeking qualified companies to design, build, finance and maintain the new tower. The RFQ is expected to be released later this summer.

Following evaluation of responses to the RFQ, up to three companies will be shortlisted and invited to submit responses to a request for proposals.

A successful proponent will be selected from that process. The entire procurement process will take approximately 18 months to complete.

The project will be completed in two phases. Phase one will include the construction of a new patient care tower. The tower will have a new walk-in care centre, surgical services centre, 84 medical/surgical inpatient beds in single patient rooms, a new medical device reprocessing unit and space for the UBC Faculty of Medicine Program.

Phase two will involve the renovation of vacated areas in the current hospital to allow the expansion of the emergency department into a space almost four times the size of the current department, as well as renovations to existing support areas of pharmacy, laundry and material, (supplies and equipment), stores. The construction of the new tower and renovations to the existing building will take about three and a half years.

The total budget for the project is $325 million. It will be funded jointly by the provincial government, with $122 million provided by the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District and $20 million provided by the South Okanagan-Similkameen Medical Foundation. It is expected to create more than 1,910 jobs for workers over the life of the project.

Clark also discussed support for the Challenge triathlon, education, agriculture, changes to liquor laws in BC, the growth of small business and new jobs generated by the LNG industry, in her speech to chamber members at the luncheon held at the Penticton Lakeside Resort.

 



Boonstock organizers talk

Boonstock organizers presented their side of the story on the liquor license denial as well as other issues, on the festival grounds Wednesday morning.

The statements came following a tumultuous week for the festival slated for this long weekend in Penticton.

"There are a lot of conversations out there, and a lot of them are skewed, so we wanted to clear the air," said operations director Barb Haynes. "Suffice it to say one of the bigger conversations was the denial of our liquor license."

She said organizers learned it had been denied late Friday afternoon, and that the information that went out to the media, (from the LCB), regarding this was unprecedented and doesn't typically happen.

Then on Monday, they tried to have a conversation with the liquor control branch, and realized at that point it was going to be a dry event.

According to Penticton Indian Band member Pierre Kruger, the license was denied because of one person, who said it was not going to happen.

"He is working and doing back door meetings. It's just one man and he says it's not negotiable. If he had common sense and an open mind I'd agree with him. But he doesn't. He's doing whatever it takes."

Kruger added people have invested a lot of time and sweat, and they are just getting frustration, playing tag. Look at the RCMP they want a ratio of one to 170, who has something like that. The only time there was ever a ratio like that was when the Pope was supposed to land in Alberta.

PIB member Harmony Kruger-Pickett further stressed she was very disappointed with the city's level of support.

"I find it very disheartening. There has not been mutual respect between the PIB and the city," she said. "I feel very sorry for Colin, (Kobza), and the hurdles he's had to go through and all the disappointments."

Deputy Mayor Andrew Jakubeit was in attendance and after questioning, he stated "any new event brings apprehension, but this is a positive thing for Penticton, bringing in a younger generation."

Despite the liquor license being denied, he said the show will go on and be safe, fun and a good time for everyone to be here.

In terms of sponsorship loss, due to not having a liquor license, Kobza, president of Boonstock Productions, said they were disappointed because they have a huge history with Bacardi, but they can't be a part of the event without a license.

Despite the setbacks, Haynes stressed there is a great event coming this weekend and they want to turn it into something, this community, the PIB and locatee families can be super proud of.

The press conference was often heated, as reporters asked questions they said have not been answered in recent months by organizers.

The festival is slated to start Thursday and continue until Aug. 3 on PIB locatee lands. Organizers have continued to keep ticket holders and others updated on their Facebook page. 



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