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New buyer for Baldy?

UPDATE: 3:55 p.m.

Mount Baldy Ski Resort could have a new owner soon.

While current operators of the hill said this week the window of opportunity has now closed in order for us to be able to complete the acquisition of Mt. Baldy Ski area, a new potential buyer has come forward.

The receiver-manager of the resort stated in a news release late Friday afternoon it has pursued several other interested parties in an effort to attract a buyer/operator to acquire the resort in time for the 2015/2016 season.

"The receiver has recently received an offer from another party," the release stated.

"Both parties are actively making a great deal of effort to complete a deal as soon as possible."

The release goes on to say that, while it is late in the season to reopen the ski resort, "one of the benefits this prospective party sees is the significant support demonstrated to the receiver and in the media from the local communities who support Mt. Baldy including skiers, local nearby home owners, businesses, former employees and the OIB."

It would appear Mt. Baldy Ski Resort in Oliver won't be operating after all this season.

The recent operators of the resort posted the following statement on their website this week:

"We regret to announce that we have reached the point where the window of opportunity has now closed in order for us to be able to complete the acquisition of Mt. Baldy Ski area and perform the lift maintenance necessary to open the ski hill for this season.

We are very disappointed that we are unable to open the hill with the programs and improvements that we had planned for this season but intend to stay the course with plans for next year.

Although, regrettably, we have no certainty as to the outcome on the horizon for our acquisition of the ski area, we will be continuing to work on our plans and initiatives which will be necessary in order to open the resort for next year if at all possible."

Castanet will provide more details as they come available.


Penticton victim identified


The BC Coroners Service has confirmed the identity of a man who died after a motor vehicle incident near Merritt on Nov. 16, 2015.

He was Martin Lewis Schultz, aged 44, of Penticton.

Mr. Schultz was the driver and sole occupant of an SUV that was westbound on Highway 97C at about 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 16, 2015. About 17 kilometres west of Merritt, the vehicle went out of control and sideswiped an eastbound tractor-trailer unit. Mr. Schultz was deceased at the scene. Weather and road conditions were poor at the time.

The BC Coroners Service and RCMP Traffic Services continue to investigate this death.

The RCMP has confirmed that a 44-year-old Penticton man lost his life in a tragic accident Monday afternoon on Highway 97C, between Merritt and West Kelowna.

According to Merritt RCMP, at approximately 1:30 p.m. Nov. 16, a westbound 2003 Ford Expedition collided with a loaded eastbound commercial car carrier 14 kilometres east of Merritt.

“The on scene investigation and witness assistance confirmed the driver of the Expedition lost control on very slippery compact ice/snow covering the roadway,” explained Cpl. Doug Hardy.

“The vehicle crossed into the eastbound lanes where it was struck by the loaded car carrier.”

A third vehicle then struck the car carrier after it was unable to stop in time behind the original accident scene.

“Police can confirm the 44-year-old male driver of the Expedition was declared deceased at the scene,” said Hardy, who confirmed the man was from Penticton. “The occupants of the other two vehicles were not injured.”

The man has not been identified at this time.

Highway 97C was closed in both directions for approximately seven hours while crews investigated and cleared the scene.

Merritt RCMP, Central Interior Traffic Services, Merritt Fire Rescue, BC Ambulance and the Integrated Collision Analyst and Reconstructionist Unit attended the scene.

“Merritt RCMP would like to remind drivers that winter months are upon us,” added Hardy. “Drivers should expect winter driving conditions through the mountain passes and should exercise extra caution and drive in accordance with those conditions.”  

Centre to house refugees

The Naramata Centre Society is looking into housing Syrian refugees on a short-term basis.

Doug Woollard, chair of the society, said they were approached by the United Church of Canada and a local group who want to bring in refugees.

"Both wanted to see if we could provide housing for Syrian refugee families at the centre," he said. "And since the government has changed and there's now more government sponsorship of refugees, it makes it easier for us to help out."

Woollard said what they've asked to do is provide short-term housing for up to six months.

That helps the centre, which closed in January, because the society is still trying to decide about reopening it.

"A short-term commitment to housing was something easier to make, because it can occur before we make a decision on what's next for the centre," he said.

So far, the discussion has been about hosting three to four families. The society is waiting to hear from the federal government on the matter.

"I think the board, like many Canadians, has been shocked by what's happening with Syrian refugees and wants to do anything we can to help," he said.

Laura Gray, with the group supporting the effort, said its goals would include providing other immediate needs with the objective of helping refugees assimilate easily into the community.

A public information meeting is planned.

Meanwhile, the society just completed consultation with members and supporters across B.C. and Alberta and has published a summary of results on its website. The board met at the centre last wekend and began planning for a possible reopening.

"The key for us is developing a financially viable operating plan, which would have to be approved by the B.C. Conference of the United Church of Canada and by our members," said Woollard.

"I'd say the board is feeling cautiously optimistic."

Fire under investigation

Deputy fire chief Dave Spalding says the cause of a garage fire on Middle Bench Road in Penticton early Friday remains under investigation.

The fire broke out just before 1 a.m.

Firefighters found a garage behind the home at 130 Middle Bench Rd. fully engulfed in flames.

Crews were on scene for about three hours, with two remaining behind to deal with hot spots.

A neighbour, who called 911, said he was awoken by a bang, and when he tried to go back to sleep he heard another bang.

"I got up, and I could see the house was really bright and the whole garage was engulfed," he said.

Spalding said it's not necessarily an explosion that started the fire. The bangs more likely came during the course of the fire.

The property owner was not available to comment.

In addition to the garage going up in flames, equipment, a car and some recreational vehicles also burned.

Firefighters were able to protect a motorhome parked adjacent to garage.

Spalding said there is no reason to think the fire was suspicious at this time.

Late-night garage fire

Penticton firefighters responded to a fully involved structure fire early this morning.

Just before 1 a.m., a two-storey garage caught fire on Middle Bench Road.

Three crews attended the blaze, in which open flames could be seen rising from the building.

All occupants of the building got out safely.

Two fire engines, a command unit, RCMP and B.C. Ambulance paramedics all responded to the incident. City utility and works crews were also brought in to deal with power to the structure and freezing water from the firefight that was icing up the road.

By 2 a.m., firefighters had knocked the fire down and were checking for hotspots and mopping up.

There is no word yet on the cause of the fire.

Prelim for kidnapping case

A preliminary inquiry will likely take place next year for the four men accused in a Penticton kidnapping and assault case.

Judge Meg Shaw made the decision at a pre-trial conference for the four men, Carey Anderson, John Szanto, Kerry Ellis and Albert Fontaine, in Penticton court on Thursday.

Anderson, who was released on bail last week, selected the trial by judge and jury, with a preliminary inquiry beforehand. All four will now follow that procedure.

On May 21, a Penticton man was kidnapped and seriously assaulted in the early morning hours.

The victim was found by a motorist in a ditch on Shingle Creek Road with a broken leg and restraints on his hands.

Four suspects were quickly identified, and Szanto was arrested the same day and charged with kidnapping, forcible confinement and aggravated assault. A warrant on the same charges was issued for Ellis and Fontaine.

Ellis was arrested in Summerland on May 22 and Fontaine was arrested in Abbotsford on July 1.

On Aug. 26, a warrant, with the additional charge of choking, was issued for Anderson. He was arrested in Osoyoos on Aug. 28.

All four have since been held in custody. A fifth man was arrested and released without charge.

In September, Szanto was sentenced to three years behind bars for a separate incident in which he assaulted a Penticton man in March.

Szanto had turned himself in on the March assault and was out of custody when he was allegedly involved in the kidnapping.

The length of the inquiry is expected to be 10 days.

Health boss tours hospitals

Interior Health's new CEO is on tour – visiting the health region's many facilities.

This week, Chris Mazurkewich, visited South Okanagan/Similkameen sites, meeting staff, physicians and volunteers.

He toured Princeton and Keremeos on Monday, Oliver and Penticton Tuesday, and his next tour will take him to the Kootenays.

Mazurkewich visited Penticton Regional Hospital and was shown a mock-up of the planned patient care tower  and new student housing.

He told media accompanying the tour he is doing his due diligence on the controversial matter of privatizing laundry services, and any decisions have been put off until a board meeting in March.

On his visit to Princeton, he said, he was impressed to see young doctors working with nurse practitioners.

"Princeton has moved to an innovative little community, a remarkable shift in my mind," he said.

At South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver, he noted a new computer system has resulted in a large drop in medication errors. The innovation will spread to a "new use of it" at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.

Mazurkewich said there are some changes he would like to see in the emergency ward in Oliver, with the main problem being staffing.

– with files from Oliver Daily News

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