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No leads on latest homicides

It has been 14 months since the bodies of Jeremy Snow and Tiffany Goruk were found inside a crashed SUV in West Kelowna.

The vehicle had come to rest against the Terravita apartment complex on Auburn Road, after smashing into a brick lamppost just before midnight on Feb. 19, 2013.

At the time, RCMP said another male passenger had escaped on foot, but the ensuing manhunt turned up nothing.

Police quickly announced they were dealing with a murder investigation, but aside from identifying the two victims a few days later, they have not provided any updates on the case or details on the murder.

It soon came to light that Snow, 33, had been paroled from a US jail shortly before his death. He was part in a cross-border drug smuggling operation and authorities were quick to advise the public that the shootings were not random.

Goruk’s family has since stated the 30-year-old was close to ending her relationship with Snow.

Four months later, the Glenmore area of Kelowna was rattled when residents awoke to police tape surrounding a home at the corner of Yates Road and Ballou Road.

It took cops three days to confirm they were investigating a homicide. Theresa Ashley Neville, 27, was identified as the deceased and her two children (aged 8 and 10) were found unharmed inside the house.

A police sketch was released of a darker-skinned male seen in the area, with authorities calling him a person of interest, but nothing more was ever publicized.

And earlier this year the body of 32-year-old Christopher Ausman was found laying in a pool of blood on a sidewalk in Rutland.

His death was quickly deemed suspicious, then classified as a homicide, but again, little more is known about the investigation other than he was found alongside Highway 33 at Rutland Road.

Cst. Kris Clark says all of these investigations remain active and ongoing, but there are no updates for public release at this time. He also points out that a number of tips have been received with regards to the Ausman and Neville murders, but police are still looking for anyone with information about either case.

Clark also reiterates that there is nothing to indicate a direct threat to the general public in relation to the Neville murder or that of Snow and Goruk.

A cause of death has not been released in any of these three cases, which is typical to preserve the integrity of an investigation. 

SD23 approves budget cuts

The Central Okanagan School District (SD23) has found a way to cut nearly $4M from its 2014-2015 operating budget.

The district was faced with the shortfall as a result of expenses increasing at a faster rate than the available revenue sources.

In order to produce a balanced budget as required by the Ministry of Education, the board Wednesday approved 10 recommendations presented earlier in the month by district Superintendent Hugh Gloster.

These include:

  • $1.3M To be removed from the per pupil funding level to schools
  • $250,000 - Technology budget
  • $50,000 - Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Directors discretionary budgets
  • $50,000 - Hollywood Road/Learning Centre
  • $120,000 - Operations department
  • $500,000 - Resource allocations to schools
  • $180,000 - Budget increases for inflation
  • $400,000 - Apply ministry holdback distribution from spring of 2014 to budget
  • $1.2M - Apply 50% of projected ministry holdback to budget
  • $23,000 - Income generated through a 5% increase in rental fees to user groups

The $1.3M per pupil reduction means the district will cut funding to schools by about $70 per student.

"The end result is that all schools will share in the challenge to operate with less money," Gloster stated in his original report to the board.

The board must finalize its budget before the end of June.

Workers recalled at SRI

That didn't last long.

About 150 workers at SRI Homes in Lake Country will be returning to work Monday just two weeks after being handed layoff notices.

The company, that builds homes at its plant in Lake Country, laid off about 50 workers in January and the remaining 150 two weeks ago.

Plant GM, Jim Stevenson, expects those workers laid-off in January will also be recalled soon.

"We're moving into our busy season so as the province of BC opens up for construction so do we," says Stevenson.

Normally, Stevenson says layoffs occur earlier in the year in December, January or February.

"We had some commercial orders that carried us. Other plants had shut down for virtually all of January, February and March and we were able to stay in full production until the end of January."

Stevenson says 50 workers were laid-off at the end of January allowing the plant to 'limp along at that level' until the 15th of April.

He says once everyone is back to work he expects to hire more staff to cover attrition and summer vacations.

"That's when demand is at the highest and obviously vacation demand is highest as well. Normally we hire 30, 40 people moving into the late spring, early summer."


Teacher strike A, B and C's

For the second time in three years teachers across BC are taking part in job actions to help  support their demands for a new contract.

We have been told that the first phase of job action means that teachers will stop supervising students before and after school and during recess, but what is next?

Teachers have a plan in mind that lays out three stages of job action, but the Central Okanagan Teachers' Association claims they do not want to go past stage one.

“Really you have to understand that we are not interested in getting there. We want this settled as much as anybody,” said Susan Bauhart, President of the Central Okanagan Teachers' Association.

She says they are busy right now bombarded with questions and concerns from the community and they would like to make it clear this 'stage' of the strike is not meant to affect students or parents.

“Stage one is really meant to target and put pressure on administration only. It is not meant to cause parents any grief or inconvenience. The idea is to put pressure on administration and hopefully that pressure will be communicated and will translate into some movement at the provincial bargaining table,” said Bauhart.

She could not give details on what exactly the teachers are looking for at the bargaining table or what ground may have been made, but explained it is clearly not going well.

“The only thing I can say is that, had things been going well at that bargaining table we wouldn’t be here in stage one.”

If this job action does not work the BC Teachers' Federation has authority to move into stage two, but when and if that is going to happen is very unclear.

“We do not know that yet, everything is contingent on progress at the provincial table. We are sitting waiting and watching to see what happens at the bargaining table,” explained Bauhart.

The second stage of strike action would see temporary school closures.

“Stage two involves rotating strikes and what that would be is a shut down of schools one day a week. I don’t know what the schedule would be, it would be rotating throughout the province,” she said. “What is absolutely certain though in terms of parents is that they would be given a minimum of two days notice.”

During the 2012 teacher job-action many parents were outraged that services like report cards, field-trips and sport team coaching were cut, something Bauhart said they recognized and adjusted this time around.

“Stage one has been adjusted from last time as teachers were very aware of the problems that were created in stage one. Stage one has now eliminated any interruptions to report cards for example, or any prearranged voluntary activities like field trips and spring concerts, they will all go ahead like usual. We really tried to address things that caused angst to students and parents so it really is business as usual.”

If negotiations fail entirely the BCTF could suggest a move into stage three. Stage three would see a complete walkout and school closures.

Bauhart said the BCTF would have to go to the membership and take a vote for that level of job action to go ahead, but she stated this is unlikely and that, that type of job action is nowhere on their radar.

“There is no talk of that right now, absolutely no talk of that at all. The teachers want this settled at the table,” Bauhart added.

During the last strike there was a lot of parents backlash and lack of support for the teachers but Bauhart explained she hasn't seen that this time around as they are fighting for proper funding for their kids.

“A huge part of the reason that all of this is going on is budget cuts. If you look at what is happening in each district including ours, this district is having to find $4M. $4M to balance their budget this year. 44 per cent of the recommendations before the trustees right now are taking dollars out of schools, direct support to children; this is a huge concern for teachers, we do not want to see that,” said Bauhart.

A point reiterated by B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker who said BC Teachers and students are falling behind the rest of the country.

He stated that the province pays $1,000 less per student than the national average for education funding.

He also explained salaries are far behind in the country with the average BC teacher making $10,000 less a year than a teacher in Winnipeg and $13,000 less than a teacher in Toronto.

The first stage of strike action has cut recess in several areas of the Okanagan and shortened school days. 

Are you a parent of a student in the Okanagan? How does this impact you and do you support the teachers? Send your letter to [email protected]



The bees are still buzzing

The population of honeybees has recently been declining around the world, but one expert in the field says that is not the case in the Okanagan.

Victor Macdonald, with Bees Incorporated, is a breeder of bees, specifically the Victorian Queen Bee which has responded well to the beekeeping challenges of today. He is also a past president of the Capital Beekeepers Association and teaches courses in beekeeping.

Macdonald says it’s amazing how many beekeepers there are in the Okanagan, he's even formed the BBC (Backyard Beekeepers Club).

“It’s increased tremendously and there’s definitely not a decline in bees in the Okanagan,” he says.

Macdonald points to the number of beekeepers and the level of interest that continues to grow in the area, adding that he just finished a two-day class for 15 new members.

“Each one of those 15 individuals I guarantee will be taking up beekeeping and getting a hive of their own,” says Macdonald, who suggests each student get two hives.

“Each one will be starting with a nucleus colony. As a result of that, you’ve got 30 new colonies in the Okanagan area. This weekend we have another course again where those people will be added onto the BBC and it just grows and grows. We’ve got over 200 members already.”

Bees Incorporated tries to hold three classes per month, and there is already a waiting list beginning to grow.

While these types of hives and colonies could thrive in the coming years, that is not the case with the bees which are typically found in nature.

“Those bees unfortunately are going to succumb to the biggest problem in beekeeping and that is the bee mite. It is called the varroa destructor and it’s a problem around the world,” he says.

“If you can control the varroa destructor in your hive, you’re going to be a good bee keeper, if you do not, you’re going to find problems.”

This parasitic mite attaches itself to the body of the bee and weakens it by spreading a virus. A significant mite infestation will lead to the death of a honeybee colony, usually in the late autumn through early spring.

Macdonald says many of the new beekeepers he meets are also orchardists or berry growers from around the province who will use the bees to pollinate their crops.

He also delivers bee colonies to certain orchards, but would not share information of which orchards, or how many he deals with.

“Bee keepers make more money from pollinating than they do from producing honey," he said with a laugh.

Fred Steele of the BC Fruit Growers' Association also says he's been watching the bee situation from afar, but has not had any orchardists voice their concerns since taking over as president earlier this year.

Read more Central Okanagan articles


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