Two Vernon city councillors make motions to secure areas for homeless campers and those living in RVs

Seeking land for homeless

A pair of Vernon city councillors have banded together in a quest to find places for people without safe and secure housing to sleep at night.

At the regular city council meeting Monday, councillors Kelly Fehr and Teresa Durning brought forward two notices of motion: one proposing an emergency overnight camping site and another proposing an emergency overnight RV site.

It was requested administration consult with City of Kelowna to obtain information regarding costing and resource requirements to operate their designated emergency camping site for the homeless population.

The camping motion also requested administration identify specific lands in Vernon which could be designated as an emergency camping site for the homeless population.

The motion outlined the rationale for both requests.

“BC currently has a .7 percent vacancy rate which makes housing extremely difficult to secure regardless of income. The Province of BC has seen housing and rental costs skyrocket over the last year which makes securing housing in Vernon within a .7 vacancy rate market out of reach for most people making minimum wage or on a fixed income. As a result, emergency measures must be put in place to provide a safe environment for people who do not have safe and secure housing to sleep in at night,” the motion read.

“When people who are housing insecure and do not have washroom facilities to access at night, they are required to find less-than-humane locations. Providing outhouses will provide the housing insecure with a humane place to go to the washroom.

“When people who are housing insecure do not have washroom facilities to access at night, they are required to find less than humane locations.”

The motion regarding RV parking would have administration consult with communities that operate similar sites and learn about the costs and resources required.

“When people who are housing insecure do not have a safe space to set up their RV, they will seek out different locations that provide environments which include lighting, electricity, community/safe people to be around. Providing a designated location will reduce the need to park on the side of a road at night.”

According to Fehr and Durning providing such facilities would reduce the number of abandoned camps, litter would be reduced by providing garbage bins and other benefits to the city.


Vernon city council endorses report giving councillors and mayor a raise based on population and cost of living

Pay hike for civic leaders

Vernon's next mayor and council are in for a raise.

Following the Oct. 15 election, mayor and councillors can expect to be paid more to lead the city.

At their regular meeting Monday, city council received, and endorsed, a report to establish a remuneration schedule for the 2022-26 council, which will be sworn in on Nov. 7.

The mayor currently has a remuneration base rate at $2.44 per capita and with the population increasing, that means more money for the city's top elected official.

The most recent Statistics Canada census profile shows Vernon’s population increased by almost 5,000 residents from approximately 40,000 in 2016.

The mayor’s position was paid $96,292 in 2021 according to the city’s website. Councillor salaries would be set at 37 per cent of the mayor’s pay, approximately $39,000.

A city spokesperson said the exact increase depends on the COLA and number of residents in the city.

Vernon city councillors defer decision on Behind the Mask project to next council meeting, but approve a different mural

Mural project on hold

The resolution of a controversial Vernon mural project has been pushed back to September.

When it was first proposed, the Behind the Mask program that would see numerous murals installed across the city centre was met with opposition and support.

Petitions for and against the murals showing area residents wearing masks that reflect their struggles with mental illness were launched, along with much debate about the project.

Vernon city council was supposed to address the issue at their regular council meeting Monday, but the proceedings hit a snag.

Before the project could move forward at council, a complete list of all the addresses where the proposed murals would go was requested.

So, the fate of the project will be unknown until at least the next council meeting Sept. 6.

However, council did sign off on another mural project.

The Roster Sports Club Bar & Grill sought, and received, permission to paint a mural of a scoreboard and a Great Blue Heron on the side of the Anderson Subdivision business at 2319 53 Ave.

The Roster will also raise money to help protect Vernon's beloved herons.

Two dollars from each Blue Heron cocktail sold will go to the Vernon Herony Protection Society to support the sanctuary.

Rita Bos, senior director of the society, said she’s thrilled about the idea and welcomes the impact the mural will bring to the society’s cause.

“These beautiful birds are blue listed in B.C., which means they are an indigenous species considered to be vulnerable in their locale. The mural will be a stunning work of art, and I think will help remind people of the importance of protecting these vulnerable birds,” Bos said.

“Of course, I am also very appreciative of the fundraiser and thankful to The Roster for their continued support with past donations to the society and helping with rescue efforts of the herons during the heat wave in June 2021.”


Former Vernon area teacher convicted of sex crimes will never be in front of a classroom again

Sex offender banned for life

A former Vernon-area elementary school teacher who was found guilty of sex crimes against children will never teach again.

Anoop Klair, 40, was sentenced to three and a half years in jail for sex crimes involving young boys dating back some 20 years.

Klair was sentenced on four counts of sexual interference, three counts sexual assault and one count of sexual assault with a weapon during four separate assaults against minors.

The crimes took place against children between the ages of eight and 13 between 1999 and 2003, before Klair became a teacher.

In a Consent Resolution Agreement from the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation, Klair agreed to the cancellation of his certificate of qualification.

He will also never apply for another teaching position either in an independent school or within the Ministry of Education.

An agreed statement by Klair and Commissioner Howard Kushner stated, “In determining that cancellation and a lifetime ban on re-issuance are appropriate consequences, the commission considered: Klair engaged in repeated victimization of minors over an extended period of time and (his) conduct was extremely serious and undermined the integrity of the teaching profession.”

The report also states Klair acknowledged “he voluntarily entered into the agreement after being advised of his right to obtain independent legal advice and he fully understood the terms and conditions set out in the agreement.”

During his sentencing in a Vernon court room in September 2021, Supreme Court Justice Murray Blok called the assault “appalling.”

Vernon residents will decide in Oct. 15 referendum if city can borrow millions for proposed Active Living Centre

City wants to borrow money

This fall, residents of Vernon will grant or deny the city permission to borrow millions of dollars for one of the biggest projects the region has ever seen.

And to help people make an educated decision, the city has launched an information campaign.

On Oct. 15, eligible voters will be asked if they are in favour of borrowing funds for the purpose of developing the proposed Active Living Centre – a new multi-purpose indoor recreation facility.

The recreation centre, which would be built at the new park planned for the former Kin Racetrack site, is expected to cost in excess of $120 million.

At its regular meeting Aug. 15, council endorsed a comprehensive strategic communication plan intended to help citizens in Vernon become aware of the project, its details, financial implications for Vernon taxpayers, and how eligible voters can participate in the referendum process.

With council’s endorsement, the city has officially launched an information campaign that has been developed to share accurate, fact-based information about the project and the referendum process to help empower Vernon voters to make an informed decision on Oct. 15.

“The proposed Active Living Centre is a significant project for the Vernon area and there is a lot of detailed information to share with voters,” said Christy Poirier, communications and grants manager.

“Therefore, we are putting a big focus on getting out into the community so residents can talk directly with staff, review material together, ask questions, and receive answers in real time. If members of the public would prefer to review material online, we’ve also developed a webpage where they can find a list of frequently asked questions, relevant reports and conceptual drawings of the facility, among other things.”

Between now and Oct. 15, the city will be offering a number of ways for the public to easily access information and learn about the project and the referendum.

As more community events, open houses and pop-up information booths are confirmed, updates will be provided to the community.

Upcoming community events:

  • Aug. 18: 2900 Plaza Downtown Sounds (2900 block of 30th Avenue) @ 6pm
  • Sept. 23: BC Culture Days at Polson Park
  • Sept. 24: Vernon Vipers hockey game
  • Oct. 1 – 2: Vernon Fall Home Show at Kal Tire Place
  • Oct. 7: Vernon Vipers hockey game
  • Oct. 8: Vernon Vipers hockey game
  • Oct. 14: Vernon Vipers hockey game

Kari Gares will run for seat on Vernon city council

Gares seeks another term

Kari Gares is seeking another term as a Vernon city councillor.

Gares, who is a mortgage broker/business owner, said on a Facebook post, “It has been an honour to represent the citizens of Vernon these past four years. I have taken great care in putting in the time which includes engaging with residents on matters that are important to them, researching where necessary before rendering a decision on any subject matter and taking a strong leadership role in helping move Vernon forward.”

Her top priority will be addressing the housing crisis that is gripping the city.

“We must find solutions that will see a variety of housing options that will address a multitude of housing needs. We owe it to our community to find creative solutions that will meet the housing demands of today while preventing further erosion of our housing stock. We must follow through on a comprehensive plan to tackle the problem,” she said. “We have made great strides through collaboration with RDNO's Housing Needs Assessment, but we now must translate that work into a working document that provides an action plan with accountability metrics.”

In her online post, Gares said Vernon has a rich history that should be preserved “but we cannot do this at the expense of not being inclusive. We must embrace our differences and strive to be open, inclusive and respectful when developing policy. We must take great care in understanding how our decisions may impact those around us; but, we must not choose to sit idle. It takes a collective team of elected officials, stakeholders and voters to create a vibrant and sustainable community that fosters economic development; culturally inclusive neighbourhoods and encourages climate awareness and practices in order to protect the beauty of where we live.”

Current Vernon council members Kelly Fehr and Teresa Durning have also announced they are running for another term on council.

The nomination period for civic election candidates is from Aug. 30 to Sept. 9.

Vernon's Shanda Hill has dropped out of the Ultra Triathlon Association World Championship

Hill drops out of race

Vernon's ultimate athlete has had to pull out of her latest race.

Following a two-year COVID-forced hiatus, Shanda Hill travelled to Europe to compete in the International Ultra Triathlon Association World Championship in Buchs, Switzerland.

The continuous 'deca' started Sunday with a 38-km swim, followed by an 1,800-km of cycling and ending with a 422-km run.

However, after the swimming portion of the event, Hill made the difficult decision to bow out of the competition that is the equivalent of 10 triathlons in a row.

“After getting out of the pool and onto the bike, she found that the chlorine had seriously affected her lungs. She was able to push through and do a few laps on the bike but discovered she was out of breath, and it felt like knives stabbing her to breathe,” said a post on her Facebook page.

“She thought a good sleep would help, but after getting up in the morning and pushing again, she had to make the unfortunate decision to pull out of the race for her health. It was such a hard decision for her because her mind wanted to race, but her body was not letting her do it.”

Hill was the first Canadian to complete a deca in 2019, when she finished the Double Deca Classic in Mexico.

Experts, industry insiders to gather in Vernon for mountain biking symposium

Mtn bike convergence

Silver Star Mountain Resort will host the Mountain Biking BC Tourism Symposium next month.

The conference is scheduled for Sept. 14-16 on the mountain.

Silver Star's bike park is one of the province's pioneers in the sport, having 25 years of history and 139 kilometres of trails.

The industry symposium aims to make mountain biking more accessible, more inclusive, and more sustainable while delivering key social and economic benefits to surrounding communities and destinations.

"British Columbia has long been a major contributor to the world of mountain biking. From its clandestine beginnings to its growth into the mainstream, mountain biking has become an established form of outdoor recreation and lifestyle that people enjoy in every corner of the province," organizers say.

"The diverse trails and inspiring landscapes that are cherished by so many British Columbians have caught the attention of riders from around the globe."

The symposium will feature presentations by visionaries, change makers and those who have been in the trenches advocating for trails and promoting B.C. as a world-class destination.

Topics will range from trail building to, business aspects, land management, government, and marketing.

There will be a pre-conference trail-building workshop as well as guided group rides.

Vernon city councillor wants to cut committee pay for council

Committee pay questioned

A Vernon city councillor brought forward a notice of motion at Monday’s meeting to remove the option for elected officials to be paid to attend committee meetings.

The notice of motion was tabled by Councillor Kari Gares on behalf of Councillor Scott Anderson.

A news release issued on behalf of Anderson claims that for several years elected officials at the City of Vernon have had the option of drawing between $130 and $140 for each committee meeting he or she attends on behalf of the city.

Anderson claims the origin of the policy is unknown but anecdotal information appears to suggest it was implemented to help an elected official at the time survive on council pay alone.

He argues that citizen volunteers are not paid, so why should councillors on committees get financially compensated.

“Councillors are now paid ~ $34,000 per year and the mayor ~$94,000 plus several thousand more in regional compensation,” said Scott Anderson. “These are not princely sums, but they are well over the median income in BC for part-time and full-time jobs respectively. They are certainly adequate for the amount of work reasonably expected, despite the fact that some members of council may do much more or less, by their own choice.”

“Only recently, on August 15, 2022, are we on Council belatedly offering committee volunteers a token gift certificate for their help. The $250 gift certificate is slightly less than the amount a member of council is presently allowed to claim for attending two meetings,” adds Anderson.

He notes that the change would be unlikely to affect any current members of council because most don’t claim these expenses based on principle.

Anderson further argues that it’s unfair and unreasonable for council members to be paid twice for attending the duties of a part or full-time position they are already being compensated for when volunteers receive a mere token for the work.

The motion is expected to be voted on at the Vernon city council meeting on September 6.

Potential candidates invited to pre-election session in North Okanagan

Running for office?

Thinking about running for city council in the North Okanagan?

A pre-election workshop is taking place Wednesday at the Vernon Recreation Centre Dogwood Gymnasium from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Interested candidates for council in Vernon Coldstream, Enderby, Lumby and Spallumcheen are invited to the free event.

“Local government is the most exciting level of government as it is the closest level to the people. It is designed to be a representative of your greater community where you get to be involved in making decisions that respond to local needs,” said a news release from the City of Vernon.

Mayors and councillors are not professional politicians, they are people who work in the community and want to make a difference.

But just caring about your community is not enough.

“Knowing how to govern is slightly more complicated than just having an opinion. Policy governance takes both understanding and practiced skills,” said the city news release.

If you are thinking of running for office in Vernon, Coldstream, Enderby, Lumby or Spallumcheen, come join two seasoned politicians with 20 plus years of experience for a workshop regarding community engagement and candidate readiness.

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