West Kelowna  

March break plans?

Madison Erhardt

It's officially the first day of spring break for many B.C. students. 

The break runs two weeks, and many are left wondering what to do with their kids. 

''I'm not working now so I know I'm going to be finding the things to do with the kids pretty easy, but I can imagine it can be difficult," said Parent Micheal Banham. 

Parent James Wilder's son said he wants to go to Disney World for march Break.

"Ya that won't be happening," Wilder said. 

"We don't have much planned. We will most likely stick around and play some basket ball," he added. 

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Driver flees crash scene

Emergency crews had the off ramp to Highway 97C to Peachland blocked off Friday night following a report of an accident.

Crews responded at 10:52 p.m. and blocked the off ramp for more than 30 minutes.

Witnesses said police were seen looking in a field across from the highway.

It is not immediately clear what they were looking for, but witnesses told Castanet a dog team was brought to search for the driver of the vehicle who had fled the scene. 

Castanet will have more information should it become available.

WFN to expand school

Westbank First Nation will spend $1.459 million to expand and renovate the Sensisyusten House of Learning.

The school is an independent elementary school in WFN's community core.

Band members voted this week to approve the expenditure.

The project will include four new classrooms, a learning assistance room, expanded administration and storage areas, replaced and upgraded fire protection sprinkler system, mechanical system, lighting, roofing, insulation, and building exterior, outdoor classroom spaces, additional washrooms, and an enhanced entry and reception area.

“Sensisyusten students are so happy about the outcome,” says Chief Roxanne Lindley. “I love seeing the spirit of our future leaders.”

Total cost of the project is $8.866 million, with a bulk of the funds coming from an Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada funding grant.

Construction is set to begin later this year, with completion expected in the winter of 2019.

Upgrades to the school will tie in with other recent investments in WFN’s community core, including the construction of a $5.5 million youth centre, which opened in 2017, and the upcoming 2018 construction of a $700,000 public skateboard park and sports court.


Pickup destroyed in fire

A pickup truck has been destroyed by fire.

Crews in West Kelowna were called to the blaze shortly after 1:30 Friday afternoon.

The truck was inside the gates of Wheel's Truck Parts on Stevens Road.

Firefighters appear to have been able to extinguish the blaze before the fire could spread to other nearby vehicles.

First step on homelessness

West Kelowna is taking its first steps in tackling mounting social issues.

A social issues research paper presented to council this week recommended four areas where the city can help improve services and support new ones.

The recommendations include development of a Community Resource Guide to showcase existing social services, advocate for development of a Westside health unit and emergency health space, a locally operated and managed day/warming centre, publicly accessible washrooms and an increased crime prevention presence.

"What we have here is a good first step," said Coun. Bryden Winsby.

He agreed a proposed moment-in-time homeless count would go a long way to helping the city gather statistical data to help underscore the need for services in the community.

A homeless count would be funded jointly by the city and Westbank First Nation.

"Getting a count is a critical first step," said Mayor Doug Findlater.

"It's not only a count, but where they are coming from. Are they local, transient, or coming from Kelowna?"

Council also agreed first steps, those the city can undertake now, should not wait.

"These issues are not going away," said Coun. Rick deJong.

"We are growing up, and as we do, we have to deal with these issues. Getting a picture of them is a pretty good first step."

Longer-term goals include a warming centre and health centre. But, Findlater warned the city should be cautious on their location.

"We have to cognizant when we locate facilities, whether they are a warming centre or a permanent facility, we have to be careful of the neighbours. We have a downtown that is fragile anyway, and we don't want to do anything that sends it in the wrong direction."

Park closes for movie shoot

Part of West Kelowna's Glen Canyon Park will be closed for a movie shoot this weekend.

The southern portion of the park will be closed to public access on Sunday, for filming of the movie Daughter of the Wolf by Minds Eye Entertainment. 

The parking area off Gellatly Road and lower trail to the first set of stairs will be closed from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

During filming, production security staff will be in place to stop park users from entering the area. The rest of the park will remain open.

A trained wolf with multiple handlers will be interacting with actors during the shoot. Pet owners are asked to keep them on leash at all times. 

'A huge problem': parents

Parents are feeling more upset and dismissed after a public board of education meeting Wednesday night.

About a dozen of the more than 60 people who filled the gymnasium at Hollywood Road Education Services on Hollywood Road South hoped to change the board’s mind on their vote approving reconfiguration of grades in September.

A controversial vote will see reconfiguration having elementary schools with kindergarten to Grade 5 in, middle school with Grade 6 to 8 and high schools with Grade 9 to 12. 

Sara Neukomm spoke on behalf of concerned West Kelowna parent saying the board never followed process of discussion and consultation with parents.

“It came to no one until Jan 31, the board may be justified in their decision tonight, but I absolutely believe they went against their board policy in making this decision,” said Neukomm.

Neukomm said she does believe the decision would have been different if they consulted with parents earlier.

“Very simply they could have made an effort to consult with parents in November, communicate with the principals, bring it to the PAC levels, start spreading the word,” she said.

Lee Mossman, School District 23 Trustee said “you have every right to be upset."

Mossman went on to say he would not be changing his vote because he believes the change will be successful for students in the future. 

Neukomm said she believes the board has made up their mind after Wednesday's meeting and they won’t change their decision.

“Our only hope was for one of them who spoke in favour of the motion to make a motion tonight,” she said.

Mossman said he was basing his decision on research focused on graduation rates and students transitioning into high school, not emotion.

“Kids are resilient, but (there will be) ones that are going to struggle, we’ll do every damn thing we can to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said Mossman.

Neukomm, who has children in Grade 3 and Grade 5, said the problem isn’t about student adjusting to different grades, but schools becoming too full.

“I hear what they are saying, I believe my daughter will transition fine to middle school,” she said. “The trouble is by the time my kids hit Mount Boucherie there is going to be over 1,700 kids there.

“They have admitted there is no contingency plan," she said.

The most prevalent issue parents are faced with is where their children will attend school when they become full, according to Neukomm.

“By the time my daughter hits high school that school could be full, and then what? It really is a huge problem, where do you send these kids then?,” she said.

Neukomm said she would rather move then send her children to a school with 1,700 other students.

“They are telling us the schools are full in Kelowna," she said. "Summerland isn’t our district, there is not another school to send my children to.”

She adds there needs to be a process in place and saying it will be “OK” is not enough.

“It’s like they are playing a chess game with the province,” she said. “I am sorry, but it’s my kids future, you’re playing chess with my kid’s future.”

A petition was handed over to the trustees on Wednesday night with over 300 signatures from concern parents. The petition can be found online here.

153 km/h on Hwy 97

Spring leadfoots beware, RCMP have nabbed several excessive speeders in the Central Okanagan since the weather turned last week.

Police are warning drivers to slow down, or they could go without their vehicles for at least a week.

A woman was caught doing 153 at km/h in an 80 km/h zone on Highway 97 in West Kelowna. RCMP seized her vehicle for a minimum seven-day period.

Just one day before, an officer caught the driver of a black sports car excessively speeding at 150 km/h in a 60 km/h zone.

Since March 6, seven drivers have been ticketed for excessively speeding in the region and have had their vehicles towed.

“RCMP throughout the Central Okanagan wish to remind motorists that March is distracted driving month. In addition to watching for those travelling at dangerously high speeds, they continue to search for drivers distracted by their electronic devices,” said Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey.

Excessive speed under the BC Motor Vehicle Act comes with a fine of $386 to $483.

Railing against spec tax

West Kelowna wants out of the provincial government’s planned speculation tax.

City council agreed Tuesday to petition Minister of Finance Carol James to leave the city out of her government’s planned tax on out-of-province homeowners.

The decision came after both city staff and representatives from the Urban Development Institute spoke to council about the impacts the tax could have on the city.

West Kelowna CAO Jim Zaffino pointed out that the city relies heavily on the development cost charges to pay for city infrastructure projects. If those developments dry up because of the tax (Which UDI's Kevin Edgecombe said will happen), West Kelowna taxpayers are likely looking at tax hikes of five per cent or more a year.

West Kelowna has also received close to 250 letters from people weighing in on the proposed tax. For more on why only 7 per cent of them support the tax, check out the full story on Castanet's sister business news website, Okanagan Edge.

Dog in truck = fine

A man driving a truck with a dog sitting on top of a tool box could face fines from RCMP if caught.

The driver was spotted in West Kelowna on Main Street, and a witness says the dog was tied to a short, one-foot leash, struggling to keep its balance.

Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey says Section 72 of the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act and Section 9.3 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act each prohibit the transport of an unsecured pet in the back of a pickup.

“Unsecured pets not only become a distraction to drivers, but more importantly, are at a higher risk to suffer serious injuries should they jump from the truck bed, or be involved in any collision,” said O’Donaghey.

The driver or registered owner of the truck could face fines starting at $109.

The SPCA says the safest place to secure a pet is inside the passenger compartment.

“The safest method to transport your pet, if they must be transported in the truck bed, is inside an animal crate secured in the centre of the truck bed,” states the B.C. SPCA website.

An owner may secure their pet with a leash, short enough to prevent the animal from jumping out of a vehicle, strangulation, or potential for death.

Kevin Alexander captured an image of the incident and said he was extremely angry.

“This man needs to wake up and realize his dog's life is at risk and if he does not care then he shouldn't be a pet owner,” he said.

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