Bomb squad arrives

UPDATE: 10:50 a.m.

The RCMP bomb squad has arrived on scene in Armstrong, where Smith Drive is closed due to the discovery of a potential explosive device.

ORIGINAL: 9 a.m.

Smith Drive in Armstrong will be closed for several more hours while RCMP wait for the bomb squad to arrive and investigate a possible grenade.

Const. Kelly Brett said the unit from the Lower Mainland will likely not be in Armstrong until this afternoon.

The area has been cordoned off by police since Tuesday afternoon.

A possible hand grenade was found in a vacant lot across the road from One Stop Automotive, prompting an evacuation of the area.



Can't wait for pickleball

With the arrival of spring, members of the Vernon Pickleball Association can't wait to get back outdoors.

Club members took advantage of the warm weather on Tuesday to ready the outdoor courts at Marshall Fields for their spring opening.    

The Vernon organization has 370 members.

Game play will move from indoors by the end of April.

Big boost for Camp Winfield

Vernon realtors raised more than $28,000 for Easter Seals Camp Winfield in 2018, making the local Century 21 office one of the top fundraisers in the province.

Realtors from Century 21 Executives Realty raised a total of $28,629.50​ during several events throughout the year. Combined with efforts at 14 offices across B.C., more than $100,000 was raised for the camp, which since 1968 has provided camping experiences for children, teens and young adults with physical and intellectual disabilities.

More than 2,300 guests have enjoyed camping experiences in just the past 10 years.

"Easter Seals ... is a perfect fit for our company. Our donations stay local and help children that rarely get a chance to be like other children. I am so proud of the realtors in all four of our offices," says Bill Hubbard, owner of Executives Realty. "They all donate money from each deal, plus give their time and energy for various fundraising throughout the year. We have the honour of helping children with disabilities experience one week where they can feel like other kids and not be judged."

The camp provides safe, fun activities in an environment where the focus is on abilities, not disabilities, says Charlene Krepiakevich, president and CEO of Easter Seals BC/Yukon.

"Giving campers an opportunity to try activities like canoeing, wheelchair basketball, water polo or just having a simple water balloon war, we see their confidence, independence and interaction with their peers improve so much by the end of the week. Campers then bring these skills and confidence back home allowing them to have meaningful relationships and be active members of their communities."


True Leaf in 3,500 stores

Vernon-based pot for pets company True Leaf Medicine International has expanded its distribution to 3,500 stores worldwide with the addition of retailer Pet Planet.

The company, which has its main growing facility in Lumby, made the announcement Wednesday at the Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Florida.

True Leaf’s hemp-based pet supplements will be available in Pet Planet's 75 stores in Canada and the United States starting April 1.

“As cannabis and hemp products continue to gain mainstream market momentum, our fully legal hemp-based formulas have caught the attention of pet retailers in North America and Europe,” founder and CEO Darcy Bomford said in a press release.

True Leaf produces a range of wellness products anchored by hemp, to target specific pet health challenges.

“We were drawn to their products because they are fully legal, safe and effective," said Laura Leah English, CEO of Pet Planet.

Don't help fire starters

They are not only unsightly, but they are a fire waiting to happen.

Officials with the Safe Community Unit are urging businesses not to leave piles or cardboard or pallets next to their businesses.

Rachel Zubick, with the SCU, said there have been several pallet fires over the past few weeks and leaving a pile of debris is just inviting trouble.

“There was a series of them in different places throughout the city, but predominantly in what we would consider the BIA (business improvement area) area,” said Zubick.

“What we have seen is people are leaving out pallets and cardboard and those are excellent fuel,” she said, adding none of the suspicious fires have been too bad, so far.

Zubick recommends businesses secure all pallets and cardboard away from their buildings.

“If people can take away and secure those items then there is less chance of having an unfortunate incident.

Zubick said it looks unsightly, it does make a business look untidy and understandably it does happen, but things should be secured.

“We have noticed there is a little bit more left around, but it would great to see they are put away properly so we don't have a situation to deal with,” said Zubick.

“We've had pallet fires on and off over many years but it doesn't take much to thwart it.”

Castanet has reached out to Vernon Fire Rescue Services for comment.

Mtn biking power couple

A local pro mountain biking couple secured two podium finishes in New Zealand this week.

The first leg of the Crankworx World Tour kicked off in Rotorua, N.Z., Monday, and Coldstream resident Vaea Verbeeck took the top spot in the women's dual slalom event on Tuesday night, local time.

“I feel like with experience you learn to be super clean, so I know I have a lot of work still to do,” Verbeeck said following her win.

“I think I had a lot of luck behind me, along with a lot of work. I did work for this. It’s cool to see it come out as number one.”

The same day, Verbeeck's boyfriend, Bas van Steenbergen, snagged second place in the men's dual slalom.

“Quite the Okanagan mountain biking power couple,” said Julia Montague, communications manager with Crankworx.

The mountain bike festival series began in Whistler more than 15 years ago, and has since grown to include the New Zealand event, followed by one in Austria in June. The series wraps up with a 10-day event in Whistler in August.

Each leg of the tour involves five different biking disciplines, including downhill, pump track, dual speed and style, dual slalom, and slopestyle. Points are accumulated over the three legs, and the King and Queen of Crankworx are crowned in August.

The Okanagan is well represented on the tour, with Vernon's Brett Rheeder preparing to compete in the slopestyle competition this Saturday.

Rheeder took the top spot at the Whistler slopestyle event back in 2016, and he's coming off a first place finish last October at one of the biggest mountain biking competitions in the world, Utah's Red Bull Rampage.

Chamber mixed on budget

There are items in the federal budget the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce supports, and others not so much.

The chamber applauded the budget’s focus on bolstering the economy and easing pressure on young families and seniors, but there are still concerns about the country's overall financial condition.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s budget makes significant investments in the forestry, tourism and oil and gas sectors, while employees will be able to take paid leave for training at 55 per cent of weekly earnings.

“These measures will go a long way towards supporting sectors critical to the overall economy of the North Okanagan. As for paid leave for training, this will certainly help individuals switching careers, but the program doesn’t start until late 2020 and could escalate costs for employers,” said Dione Chambers, Greater Vernon Chamber general manager.

“We also welcome the $1.7 billion for high-speed internet in rural and remote areas, and the one-time transfer of $2.2 billion to address short-term priorities in municipalities, as infrastructure, whether it’s roads, water lines or the internet, provides the basic building blocks for business to succeed.”

Another positive aspect of the budget is removal of the federal requirement that alcohol moving from one province to another be sold or consigned to a provincial liquor authority.

The chamber is concerned about the $22.8 billion in new spending over the next five years coming at the same time the 2018-19 deficit is projected to be $14.9 billion and debt of $685.6 billion is expected to climb to $761.7 billion by 2023-24.

“We understand it takes a considerable investment to meet the needs and wants of Canadians, including business, but a home with a poor foundation puts the occupants at risk, and the same goes for a nation’s ability to function effectively if the financial foundation is fractured. We need the government to put its house in order,” said Chambers.

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