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Revitalization a go

Penticton's downtown revitalization project is expected to begin this spring, despite the city not getting grant funding for the project.

Council learned Tuesday the city would not be receiving $2 million from the New Infrastructure Canada Small Communities Fund and the Gas Tax Fund.

As a result, council was presented with two alternatives – one to proceed with the project in the 100 and 200 blocks of Main Street, and the other to provide alternative direction to staff.

After much discussion, council voted, 6-1, to go ahead.

Council must now amend the 2016 draft capital budget to remove the grant funds, delete the LED light canopy from the project and reallocate the $394,000 from that project.

Council was also asked to authorize the use of inter-fund reserve borrowing in the amount of $875,000 to bridge the gap between 2016 construction expenses and passage of the 2017 budget.

The city is expected to proceed to tender for the project, with work on the 200 block being done this spring, and the 100 block in the fall.

Taking this route means the city will have a reduced ability to undertake other projects, such as the SS Sicamous master plan and facility plan master project.

Coun. Helena Konanz was the only one to vote against the proposal, saying she's concerned about projects that will be delayed.

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit stressed downtown is the heart of the community and the project is important.

Kerri Milton, president of the Downtown Penticton Association, said she was very happy with the decision.

"A lot of the merchants have already planned strategically for how to get through a slower spring with the construction and others have planned renovations to the back of their buildings, so people can enter through the alleys, so there has been an output of funds from the merchants," she said. 


Fined for gun at border

An Alaska man has been ordered to pay a $3,000 fine for attempting to smuggle a firearm into Canada.

Judge Richard Hewson handed down the sentence in Penticton court, Tuesday, after James Sumner pleaded guilty to two counts including smuggling goods into Canada and unauthorized possession of a firearm.

The charges stem from an incident that took place on May 25, 2015, at the Osoyoos border crossing.

On that date, according to Hewson, Sumner and his wife were travelling back from the lower United States to Alaska with a plan to stay in Canada for four weeks.

During questioning at the border, Sumner said he had a rifle under the back seat of his truck but denied having any other handguns.

Following a search of his vehicle, loose ammunition was found, as well as a Taurus revolver.

At the time, Sumner said he had mailed it from Alaska to the address he was staying at in the U.S., and didn't bring it through Canada.

During the stop, one of Sumner's three dogs also escaped and was shot by a border officer.

The dog had to have its toe amputated.

In making his decision, the judge ruled Sumner had forgotten or overlooked having the revolver and then panicked under pressure.

Sumner had no criminal record, he added, and in taking the circumstances into consideration he ordered the fine at the lower end, plus a victim surcharge.

Sumner was also handed a 10-year firearms prohibition.

Snowmobiler cold, but safe

A happy ending to a search for a missing snowmobiler in the woods east of Okanagan Falls.

Penticton Search and Rescue was called out shortly after 8 p.m. Monday for a snowmobiler missing in the Allendale Lake Recreation area. RCMP said the man left in the afternoon for a short ride and had not returned.

PENSAR alerted search and rescue teams from Oliver and Osoyoos and, by 10:30 p.m., 26 volunteers had descended on the area, about 24 kilometres east of OK Falls.

Within half an hour, a team of five rescue sleds located the stranded snowmobiler about a kilometre from the lake.

The 40-year-old man was in good condition despite being out in the cold for more than seven hours.

"We were happy the individual decided to stay with his machine and not wander off. Although conditions were cold, it was perfect for this type of operation to take place," said SAR manager Richard Terry.


City shakes up vendors

Penticton is putting a new face on its vending program this year.

Council followed staff recommendations this week in approving the changes.

"We are trying to find a balance between what the community needs and allowing vendors to be successful," said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit. 

The approved policies are reducing the number of beach vending locations to 25 from 40, moving some of the vendors near the Peach from the beach to the concrete plaza, adding six new mobile truck vending locations and creating a mobile vendor hub between Martin and Main Streets.

Reasons for making the changes include having fewer, but better locations, allowing more space on the beach for visitors, while allowing for two prime vending locations and having a mobile food truck hub.

The hub would operate from Sunday to Friday and after 4 p.m. on Saturdays, allowing the farmers and downtown markets to clear prior to the trucks parking.

Beach, street and park vending commenced in the city in 2002 and has moved through many different departments including business license, land management and most recently with the recreation department.

The recreation department's mandate was to maximize revenue while providing services that the tourists and public desired.

This focus increased revenues from approximately $13,200 in 2012 to $55,800 in 2015.

Following the 2015 season, staff commenced an evaluation of the vending program based on feedback from the waterfront committee, vendors, public and employees.

Carmi garbage changes

Homes in the Carmi Road area, east of Penticton, will start receiving curb-side garbage and recycling collection as of March 4.

The 87 homes have for more than 10 years been using a drop-off depot located in the city.

In a report submitted to the regional district in December, RDOS staff pointed to the start of a new province wide recycling program as a major reason for the change.

Multi-Material BC helps pay for the curb-side collection of recyclables, but doesn’t contribute to the depot used by Carmi residents.

In 2015, the net cost per year to provide the depot was $26.54 more per home than the cost for curb side collection.

Moving to curb-side collection will save more than $2,300 per year for the program.

The Carmi depot was originally set up due to concerns that garbage would attract bears to the area.

The regional district will require that residents place out garbage only on the day of collection, use bear-proof garbage carts or set up bear-proof garbage enclosures at the end of their driveways.

These requirements were implemented in Naramata and resulted in a dramatic reduction in bears being killed from five to seven per year to only two in the last five years.

The last day Carmi residents will have access to their garbage and recycling depot will be Feb. 24.

Residents with questions can contact the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen solid waste group at 250‐490‐4129 or toll free at 1‐877‐610‐3737.

They can also visit the RDOS website.

Precision apple harvesting

A tool that could change how and when Canadian apple growers harvest their crops is being worked on in Summerland.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers at the Summerland Research and and Development Centre and in Kentville, N.S., are creating protocols for using the DA Meter, an instrument that takes the guesswork out of apple harvesting.

"You can't judge an apple by its looks. That's why we use an instrument like the DA Meter to help us know what's going on inside the apple," said Dr. Peter Toivonen, who is working on the apple research in Summerland.

Toivonen, whose areas of expertise include quality of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables and energy-saving approaches for storage, has been working on the meter for measuring apple maturity since 2010.

His work has focused on the measuring the maturity of ambrosia apples, but they are developing protocols for other apples as well.

The work is an advancement on traditional testing which involves cutting the apples open and spraying them with iodine.

The iodine reacts with the starch in the fruit and turns black. When an apple is ripe it has very little starch and the iodine creates only a light stain.

The method isn’t very precise and the grower loses fruit with every test, said Toivonen.

"On average, orchardists or field service people might cut five to 10 apples in an orchard to determine how ripe they are and they can lose apples that way," he said.

The DA meter on the other hand has LEDs on the outside of the sensor. When the light from the LEDs shines on the apple, it goes into the fruit and gets reflected back.

The instrument reads the light reflection to measure the chlorophyll content of the apple's peel without damaging the fruit.

This means growers can test the apples right on the tree and leave them on the tree to continue to ripen. Picking the fruit when it's at the correct maturity is important in keeping their quality high throughout the storage season.

"Because it is fast and non-destructive, you can take as many samples from an orchard as you want," said Toivonen.

The research scientist said the work is still in the early stages. They are working with field servics people and imagine it will take them a few years to get comfortable with the meter.

"I'm quite happy with the reliability of the instrument for the ambrosia apple, and I'm quite optimistic," he said.

A changing neighbourhood

Penticton residents raised concerns ranging from losing the character of their neighbourhood to parking issues, at a public hearing on a Churchill Avenue duplex development this week.

Some described parking in the area as already a problem, with new development expected to make it worse.

"I have been in a situation in the summer without the parking on Lakeshore, where Churchill is a zoo," said Robert Duncan. "You cannot move, the congestion in that area is horrendous."

The rezoning requests for 451 Churchill Avenue is from small lot residential to duplex housing-lane.

The residents, along with the developer of the property, spoke at the public hearing. Th developer told council that putting the units on the lot, makes it more accessible to families. 

Council subsequently approved the rezoning request, as well as a lot width variance to allow the lot to be subdivided, so two front to back duplexes could be developed.

Staff were also asked to monitor the parking situation on Churchill.

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit described the street as a neighborhood in transition with several modernized housing units ranging from single family to duplex to multi-family units.

"It is a very desirable location," he said. "A  duplex is a great opportunity to densify, compliment and create neighborhood charm."

This week's meeting wasn't the first time, residents have raised concerns about duplex construction in the area.

In 2014, residents objected to duplex construction in the area, saying they don't fit in with the older homes in the neighbourhood.

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