Wednesday, December 17th0.4°C

Airport operation under discussion

The Penticton council agreed this week to move ahead with discussions regarding the operation of Penticton Regional Airport.

The action came after council received a recent letter from Transport Canada regarding transferring ownership and/or operation of the airport.

"We have endorsed sending a letter back and hopefully in the new year we will have all the players sit down," said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit.

Such a move is in accordance with the National Airports Policy that was introduced in 1994.The policy focused on moving the government's role in airports from owner and operator towards landlord and regulator.

Since then, Transport Canada has successfully transferred ownership and/or operation of 128 sites to local interests.

There are 18 airports, including Penticton, in four provinces, that remain under the sole responsibility of the federal government.

Jakubeit said every once in a while Transport Canada makes this overture, because the government wants to divest itself.

Any meetings would involve the city, Penticton Indian Band and regional district.

PIB Chief Jonathan Kruger is aware of the letter and said the first people Transport Canada should be talking to is them, because the airport land is PIB land.

"A long time ago during World War II the land was appropriated by the federal government, and they promised to give it back after the war was over, and it's still an outstanding issue," he said. "There was also some pretty bad stuff that happened in the 90s."

However, fast forward to today, and the PIB has a good relationship with the city and the RDOS, he added.

"We have had a lot of good strong things going on, so it's not like a long time ago," he said. "We are planning to meet with Transport Canada first and then collaboratively." 


Electrical rate hikes

A report on potential revisions to the 2015 electrical rates was presented to Penticton Council this week including considering three separate components that affect prices.

First is the FortisBC increase of the price of power purchased by the city, which is 3.5 per cent. Second is the increase of the price FortisBC pays for power purchased from BC Hydro, which is 1.05 per cent.

The third is the adjustment to address timing issues related to the difference between when the FortisBC Rate and the BC Hydro flow through rate are instituted, versus when the city  rate increase is put in place, calculated to be 0.05 per cent. 

The BC Hydro rate increase will take effect Jan. 1, yielding an increase of 4.6 per cent.

The increases can be applied in different ways, creating three alternatives to be considered that have different impacts on customers.

The first alternative applies the increase to the existing rate the city sells power; with this having the largest impact on customers.

The second applies the increases to the rate the city purchases power at; this affects customers the least. The third alternative applies an average of the two.

Here is a breakdown of the three:

  • Alternative 1 - Highest impact: Apply the FortisBC and BC Hydro increases at the retail power sale level and the revenue difference increase at the retail power sale level for a total increase of 5.11 per cent.
  • Alternative 2 - Lowest impact: Apply the FortisBC and BC Hydro increases at the wholesale power purchase level and the revenue difference increase at the retail powers ale level for a total increase of 3.7 per cent.
  • Alternative 3 - Moderate impact: Apply an average of the FortisBC, BC Hydro and revenue difference increases at the retail level for a total increase of 4.4 per cent.

The report by Director of Operations Mitch Moroziuk generated council debate at Monday's meeting.

Concerns were raised by Councillor Helena Konanz, about not deciding on the rates until January, when a public hearing is scheduled, when budget talks are happening now.

"The budget is based on option three, and how do we not debate this now," she said. "And I have a problem with the electrical rates going up, raised incrementally every year, and getting larger and larger."

Council agreed to begin the public notification process in advance of the public input session set for Jan. 7.

It also does not have to make any final budget decisions until the new year.

Helping assault victim

People are invited to drop off donations at a Penticton store on Tuesday, for the victim of a violent assault.

Leigh Follestad, the owner of Smart Shopper on Main Street, said one of the members of the Penticton Shoplifters and Thieves Exposed! Facebook page, suggested helping Ken Paton and his daughter.

"It's not something we would normally do, but with all the negative stuff out there, it's nice to create something positive," he said.

Paton, 34, was badly beaten and bitten during the attack at his home a few weeks ago. He had just fallen asleep on the couch around 9 p.m., with his two-and-a-half year old daughter sleeping nearby, when he was awakened by someone knocking.

The tall man at the door asked for rolling papers, and then began hitting and kicking him.

Paton sustained bruised ribs, a mild concussion, a bite mark on his right shoulder and bruising in the unprovoked attack.

Follestad said since he started the effort, he has received food, toys and cash donations for Paton.

Paton is also aware of the effort and has offered to give donations above and beyond what he needs to other families.

"He has been very grateful and gracious and willing to pay this forward," said Follestad. 

Smart Shopper is at 232 Main Street in Penticton.

Council reviews cemetery plan

The need for expansion at Penticton's Lakeview Cemetery was brought to the attention of the new council at Monday's committee of the whole meeting.

Public works manager Len Robson discussed key findings in the 2013 master plan, as well as recommendations to promote the cemetery and its services.

"The main gist was to bring the new council up to speed with the master plan," he said. "We are also asking for a capital budget of $400,000 for 2015 and council had some questions."

Among the findings were demographics and trends for 25 years, including a predicted annual death rate of 15.4/1,000 and 256 interments per year.

Others were no burial capacity at Fairview Cemetery; Lakeview Cemetery in-ground cremation capacity exhausted in 2017; Lakeview Cemetery in-ground traditional full burial capacity exhausted in 2019 and additional in ground capacity could be developed on the southwest corner of the cemetery.

Among the recommendations were beginning phased expansion of the cemetery in 2017, updating the maintenance standards for cemeteries, increasing hours administrative staff is available and providing a quiet flexible space to meet with cemetery clients.

Under products and marketing, Robson suggested promoting Lakeview through hard copy literature and the Internet, increasing the range of interment and memorialization options and developing and implementing a marketing plan.

"It's recommending the various products we have available for different interments and just letting people know the package we have available," said Robson.

The last council endorsed the  master plan in August, 2013. In December of that year, the city did the adjustment to cemetery fees and charges.

In 2014, through the budget process, staff was given the OK by council to design phase one and two of the expansion.

Robson said the expansion was primarily focused on Lakeview, because the historic Fairview Cemetery is basically closed for interments.

There will be ongoing upkeep and maintenance there, he said.







Trail network designated parkland

A popular mountain biking and hiking area at the top of Riddle Road will continue to be used for those types of outdoor activities.

Penticton City Council voted unanimously Monday night on an amendment to the Official Community Plan for 1400 Riddle Road to be made part of parks and recreation. 

The vote came after a standing-room only public hearing, during which time several people expressed support for it becoming parkland.

"Now we have really created a dedicated park area that already has world renowned recognition," said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit. "And this will help to elevate its stature."

The property had been previously designated for residential use in the Northeast Sector Plan, in anticipation of major growth in Penticton.

But the decision was changed, as parkland use was preferable to residential use.

The area is mostly known for its popular mountain biking area, Three Blind Mice, and there had already been work done to improve its trails.

Investigation by staff further showed the change would result in a qualification for the Avoided Forest Conversion Program, whereby local government could generate carbon credits for dedicated forest areas.

The initiative was brought forward by the city's Climate Action Advisory Committee, which unanimously supported the proposal.

The majority of people attending Monday's public hearing were in favour of making it parkland.

Some stated that people move to Penticton for the quality of mountain biking, while others described it as a  beautiful area that is perfectly suited to parkland.

Among the concerns residents hope will be addressed down the road are forest fires, erosion and flash flooding.

Former Mayor Garry Litke was in attendance and continued to show his support.

"The stars are beginning to align here," he said. "We are are looking at something like a Skaha bluffs scenario, a win-win situation as far as I'm concerned."

Planning Manager Blake Laven said the property has now been qualified as park, but to qualify for the forest conversion program, the city will be bringing in a forester to do a management plan.

That person will look at such issues as wildfire risk, invasive species and land erosion.

Blanket drive best ever

People sorted through tables piled high with blankets, scarves, coats and more on the first day of a blanket drive giveaway, Monday, in Penticton.

This holiday season marks the fifth year of the Cover with Kindness drive, and organizer Greg Litwin said it's the best yet.

"I see the generosity of the community grow every year," he said. "I just think the bigger the better, so more people benefit."

Litwin, a notary public, was spurred to start the drive after working at the Soupateria for a number of years and seeing similar efforts meet with success in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

He also found that blankets could be expensive, even at the Salvation Army.

"Realistically even on our board of directors for the Soupateria, we've seen food costs jump 30 per cent and utilities rise, so I can only imagine what it's like for those in need," he said. "So I took my idea to the board, and we said that's what we will do."

To make it happen the call goes out in November and people drop off donations at Litwin's office on Main Street.

On the December giveaway days, a big group of volunteers man the tables laden with blankets, warm clothing, shoes and socks.

Anything left over goes to charities including Discovery House, Compass House, Unity House, Transition House, Cold Snap Inn and the Native Friendship Centre.

A Penticton resident trying on shoes, said the giveaway helps at this time of year.

"There aren't that many resources in Penticton, and it can be a struggle for people in need," he said. "This makes a difference at Christmas time."

The Cover with Kindness giveaway will continue from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday in the parish hall at St. Saviour's Anglican Church on Orchard Avenue, adjacent to the soup kitchen.




RDOS chair, vice chair elected

Elections were held for chair and vice chair at the recent Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen inaugural board meeting.

Rural Osoyoos Director Mark Pendergraft was elected as chair for a third term and Director Andrew Jakubeit, representing the City of Penticton, was elected as vice-chair for a first term.

"I would like to thank the RDOS Board for their support and I look forward to the year ahead," said Pendergraft. "I plan to maintain a regional perspective while ensuring local concerns are recognized and handled in a fair manner."

The regional board consists of elected representatives from each of the eight electoral areas and appointed representatives from six member municipalities within the regional district.

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