Armstrong Regional Co-op pumps $2,500 into campaign to save Vernon's Towne Theatre

Towne closer to being saved

Vernon's Towne Theatre is $2,500 closer to being saved, thanks to the Armstrong Regional Co-op.

Co-op board member Brett Kirkpatrick says the donation was made as a way to give back to the community.

Scott John with the Okanagan Screen Arts Society, which has taken over future operation of the theatre, said the donation helps bring the campaign to save the historic venue to 90 per cent of it $75,000 goal.

“We are so thankful to Co-op for helping us out,” said John. “They are so supportive of local ventures like this.”

John said the goal of the campaign is to reach $75,000 by the end of the month “because there are matching federal grants we can apply for, so the we can effectively double it.”

Once the money is in, the society has big plans for the theatre, which opened in 1929 in Vernon's downtown core.

Those include renovating the building's bathrooms, making the building more accessible for people with mobility issues, and rebuilding the original stage for small live performances.

To support the Towne, visit www.SaveOurTowne.ca.

The owner of the theatre retired after being in the movie business for decades, and handed the keys to the Okanagan Screen Arts Society.

City of Armstrong seeking partner for controversial affordable housing project

Armstrong seeks partner

The City of Armstrong is seeking a partner to help build affordable housing.

Earlier this year, civic leaders in the North Okanagan community passed a bylaw that would allow for an apartment complex on a parcel of land near Nor-Val Arena.

The project has been mired in controversy since it began, but council is pushing ahead and recently sent out an expression of interest to find a building partner.

“This Expression of Interest is an invitation by the City of Armstrong for the purposes of identifying housing providers that are interested in providing design, construction and property management services for new affordable housing projects in the City of Armstrong,” the EOI states.

“The city is looking to enter into a long-term lease for the existing land set aside for an affordable rental housing complex. The city will require the developer to enter into a servicing agreement for these works. All on-site works, including parking, storm drainage, landscaping, etc. are the responsibility of the developer. Access to the site will be from Adair Street, through property owned by the City of Armstrong.”

The project has been a battle ground from Day 1, with opponents launching petitions and making claims of wrongdoing by city staff.

Vernon MLA Harwinder Sandhu recognized in legislature for National Nurses Week

Nod to nurses in legislature

Vernon's MLA Harwinder Sandhu was recognized in the provincial legislature this week, for National Nurses Week.

Sandhu, first-time MLA for Vernon-Monashee is a registered nurse and was a patient care co-ordinator at Vernon Jubilee Hospital prior to her election last fall.

She is Vernon's first NDP MLA in 36 years.

"Nurses in the House! I am pleased to sit with Harwinder Sandhu, MLA for Vernon-Monashee as the two nurses in the B.C. Legislature for National Nurses Week," North Vancouver Seymour MLA Susie Chant posted on her Facebook page, Wednesday.

"The amount of supportive statements from every member and every party was inspiring to hear. To all the nurses working tirelessly to keep us safe and healthy, to my current and former colleagues in the field, thank you."

Sandhu responded: "Nurses are our superheroes in scrubs, and we are so grateful for their compassion, sacrifices, strength and resiliency...

"Susie, thank you so much for your years of service as a nurse. I am grateful we can be the voices of nurses and all health-care workers in the legislature."


Spray park at Vernon's Polson Park has now been removed

Spray park a pile of debris

Vernon kids will have to find another way to cool down this summer, as the Polson Park spray park is no more.

The splash park was a popular summer hangout for families, but the city was forced to rip the structure out due to ongoing groundwater and health concerns.

All that is left of the spray park is a pile of debris left from its removal.

Flooding in the park has been an ongoing problem for the past few years.

In January, administration conducted a study to understand why surface-water ponding has been occurring since 2017, which has created a variety of maintenance problems in the park, and forced the closure of the playground and water park for all of 2019-20.

A report to Vernon city council earlier this year stated: “The most significant concern is the spray park, which requires upgrades to address the infiltration of ground water into the holding tank, which impacts the ability to have clean water in the spray equipment. The asphalt under the rubberized material is deteriorating and creating sink holes. The rubberized material continuously grows algae and needs to be removed to conform to Interior Health standards.”

The city has plans to hold pop-up spray parks using fire trucks this summer.

Inspection closures of Enderby's Baxter Bridge to end Friday

Bridge closure ends early

A closure of the Baxter Bridge near Enderby will end earlier than expected.

Following emergency repairs to the bridge last fall, closures were scheduled this week to allow for a detailed inspection.

Chad Marsh, bridge area manager with the Ministry of Transportation, says work has gone well, and a closure on Saturday will not be necessary.

"The inspection is going well and will be completed on Friday," Marsh said in an email update.

The Shuswap River bridge is located one kilometre south of the junction of Enderby Mabel Lake Road on Trinity Valley Road.

The inspection required daily closures to allow for inspection vehicles and equipment, with arrangements so school buses and emergency vehicles aren't impacted.

Former Vernon man has retrial set for May 2022 in killing of Natsumi Kogawa

Schneider retrial set

A retrial date has been set for a former Vernon man previously convicted in the death of a Japanese exchange student in Vancouver.

William Victor Schneider will face charges of second-degree murder and interference with human remains in a trial set to commence on May 24, 2022.

He appeared in BC Supreme Court in Vancouver via video on Wednesday.

Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel with the BC Prosecution Service, says jury selection will occur on April 28, 2022, and a pretrial conference has been set for Jan. 25.

Schneider won an appeal in February of his 2018 conviction in the high-profile case in which Natsumi Kogawa's decomposed body was found stuffed into a suitcase on the grounds of a vacant Vancouver mansion in 2016.

Schneider fled to his hometown of Vernon, where he allegedly confessed to his brother, Warren, and was later arrested in Polson Park, where he had set up a makeshift camp.

Schneider successfully appealed the conviction on grounds the trial judge erred in admitting an overheard telephone conversation in which he was heard by his brother to have said "I did it."

The Crown is mounting an appeal of that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. But, pending the Crown's efforts to avoid a retrial, court proceedings continue as if the trial will go ahead.

Schneider was granted the retrial in a split decision by the B.C. Court of Appeal.

The Crown is challenging that decision under provisions of the Criminal Code that grant the right to appeal when there is a dissenting judgment in the court of appeal.

Schneider remains in custody on a guilty plea to indignity to a human body – but also due to a "provincial remand of detention" pending the new trial.

On April 29, he was denied parole on that conviction as the Parole Board of Canada he is a high risk to reoffend and "if released, to commit an offence causing the death of or serious harm to another person."

Venture Training looking for home share families for adults with disabilities

A rewarding experience

It's a rewarding experience that can also generate a little added income.

The Vernon and District Association for Community Living is looking for homes to take in special needs adults.

Jo Hansen runs the home share program through Venture Training, and they are having a hard time finding homes for people for the same reasons everyone else is – a tight and expensive rental market.

Hansen said host homes are paid between $2,000 to $3,000 a month tax free to provide for the resident.

“It's similar to the foster program, but it is for adults with disabilities,” said Hansen. “We have quite a variety of abilities and disabilities that we work with.”
Homeowners are expected to provide a “safe, comfortable and inclusive environment.

“We do have single folks who do this as well. They just become a part of your family. We have people who have been doing it for more than 30 years.”

Hansen said they try to find a long-term placement because it provides more stability for the resident and moving is stressful.

“It's a very rewarding experience in many ways,” said Hansen. “We have such a wide variety of folks that are doing this. The folks that do provide home share are fabulous people.”

Hansen said they get referrals monthly for people looking for a home share.

There is a process to become a home share host, including a criminal record check and other requirements.

The residents are as closely matched to the host family as possible as each will have different needs.

Home owners can apply to the home share program by calling 250-503-1108.

Enderby vaccination clinic not being used to its full potential

Room at Enderby clinic

It would seem there is plenty of room at an Enderby vaccination clinic.

Last month, the North Okanagan community was found to have a high number of COVID cases, so Interior Health set up a clinic for all area residents regardless of age in an effort to slow the spread.

But one woman found the clinic is not being used to its full potential.

When Sarah received notification she was eligible for a COVID vaccination, she jumped at the opportunity, but clinics where she lived were extremely busy.

Sarah, who asked to remain anonymous, said it would be two weeks before she could get the vaccination in Kelowna.

She searched other clinics and found an abundance of openings at the Enderby clinic, so she and her husband booked their appointments and made the 90-minute drive to get their vaccinations.

“I just started looking in the surrounding communities and all of them were busy, and then I looked at Enderby and there are hundreds of appointments every single day,” she said. “People were walking in without appointments.”

Sarah said the Enderby clinic is administering Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

Staff at the clinic told Sarah there is room for 300 people a day at the clinic, but only 36 had registered for the shot in the arm the day she was there.

Sarah said more people should know about the abundance of space at the Enderby clinic.

Once a person is registered for the shot, they will receive a text asking them to enter the name of a city.

“Most people probably don't even know Enderby has a site,” she said, adding she found it odd that the clinic with a full compliment of nurses, was virtually empty.

Castanet has reached out to Interior Health for comment.

Gabriel Newman wins award for video series at Historic O'Keefe Ranch

Award for being lonely

Gabriel Newman is being rewarded for being lonely.

Newman was hired at Historic O'Keefe Ranch just before the pandemic began last year.

He watched as the ranch on Highway 97, 10 minutes from Vernon, became a virtual ghost town.

It was out of this emptiness Newman created The Loneliest Interpreter, a YouTube series that earned him the Inspiration Award from the BC Historical Federation.

"I had been hired to do educational programming, but right away the school tours had to be cancelled, there were layoffs and we didn't know what was going to happen.

"Walking around the empty ranch was in fact lonely and a bit absurd, so I was inspired to share that feeling with our visitors," he said.

"I figured there was no point in pretending the pandemic wasn't happening, and we are all doing things that we hadn't expected."

The first video gained a following, so Newman continued to make them, "sometimes as a way to introduce how we were starting to open up, but also to share stories. Like so much of the summer, I was inventing things as I went.

"I am thankful that O'Keefe gave me the space to be creative and trust this silly idea."

Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre B Sides starts Thursday

Lots to see on B Sides

There is still plenty of entertainment on the B Side.

The Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre continues its Focus online series “B-Sides” with Episode 3 this week, featuring Celtic party band Maritime Kitchen Party, producer and looper Jodie B., and a beautiful performance of Leonard Cohen’s iconic “Hallelujah” by 13-year-old Scotty Berg with Vernon singing sensation Justin Moore.

B-Sides launched April 15, with recorded performances by local and emerging artists featured in Episodes 1-6 of the earlier Focus series.

“We had so many great recordings that we just had to release more episodes,” said artistic director Erin Kennedy.

Moore went viral singing with his father, opera singer Paul Moore, and more recently is getting nods for his vocal harmony TikTok videos. His TikTok cover of Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” has almost four million views.

Berg, who recorded the original song “I Wouldn’t Know What to Do,” is just 13 years old and has already performed in front of thousands, singing at Wentworth Music rock shows and performing the national anthem at numerous sporting events, including for the Vancouver Canucks.

Berg was a finalist in Okanagan’s Got Talent and also won the Armstrong Fair youth talent competition.

Maritime Kitchen Party is named for the longstanding East Coast tradition. The band brings that feeling to their live performance, with foot-stomping music heavily influenced with Canadiana such as Great Big Sea, Stompin’ Tom, Blue Rodeo and more.

Jodie B. opened Episode 1 of Focus and quickly became a series favourite. The live loop performer, multi-instrumentalist and producer performs as both a solo artist and as a duo with her sister, Nique Bruce.

B-Sides Episode 3 streams for four days, 12:01 a.m., Thursday, May 13 to midnight May 16. Viewing is free, but donations are gratefully accepted.

For links and streaming details, click here.

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