New admin at Pen High

There will be a new vice-principal at Penticton Secondary School when students return at the end of summer.

Marci Butler, previously the principal of John A. Hutton Elementary School in School District 51 (Boundary), has been appointed to the job effective Aug. 1.

This follows Shaune Gowe’s move from the position at Pen High to district principal of student support services.

Butler has experience working all around the Okanagan and Kootenay-Boundary country, from Osoyoos to Big White to Grand Forks.

Mannequin beheaded, left

It wasn't a discarded dead body — it was a beheaded mannequin. 

Princeton RCMP responded to reports of a possible body dumped underneath a tarp in Manning Park on July 10, near the highway. 

Turns out, it was something even more bizarre. 

"The officer arrived and found what appeared to be a life-sized mannequin lying underneath a blue tarp," said Const. James Grandy. "The lower legs had been removed along with the head. Metal joints were visible, and it was immediately confirmed to be a plastic doll." 

Further foot patrols in the area found several other plastic body parts. 

The motive is unknown. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Princeton RCMP at 250-295-6911.

City gives gallery thousands

The Penticton Art Gallery has been granted relief from the costs associated with four separate break-ins in recent months. 

City council heard their request for financial help Tuesday, requesting close to $29,000. Currently, the gallery operates on city-owned land through a lease which expires in October 2019. Under the lease terms, the gallery is responsible for maintenance to the building, and is not required to step in with financial aid. 

Options before council included a denial of funding, a small portion of funding, 50 per cent of funding and full funding.

“I’m just curious, why does insurance not pay for the break-in problems?” asked councillor Katie Robinson.

“We had four break-in attempts at the gallery. The deductible was far higher than the original theft, the other expenses all incurred on upgrading security measures on the gallery, the doors, the roof, every time they got in it was through different means,” gallery director and curator Paul Crawford explained.

Councillor Jake Kimberley spoke up to support full funding. 

“I don’t think it’s appropriate that penalties should be put on them for the break-ins that have occurred,” he said. 

Mayor John Vassilaki agreed. 

"It’s very, very important for the city culturally, for one thing,” Vassilaki said. “It’s one of our facilities, and if we allow it to go to disrepair and not improve on what’s happening al over British Columbia and Canada where there’s a lot of bad people around who cause damages to municipalities and non-profit groups, I think the onus is on us to take care of it as we do all our other facilities.”

Some members of council worried that paying the full amount would set a bad precedent for other organizations operating in city-owned facilities to come knocking for cash. Robinson pointed out their lease agreement with the gallery is up for review in September. 

"Right now, I’m looking for a bandaid to get us to where we need to be so we can review this properly, and I don’t feel comfortable with 100 per cent,” Robinson said. “It sets a really bad precedent, we have so many other facilities that all need the same kind of attention.”

Councillor Julius Bloomfield pointed out that the nearly $29,000 funding request actually included $5,500 for a new boiler, which was unrelated to the thefts. He suggested a compromise, that council fund the cost of the break-ins and security upgrades, but not the boiler, which falls under maintenance and is therefore the gallery's responsibility. 

That brought the total proposed contribution from the city to $23,463.94. The motion passed unanimously. 


Brittain's wife vandalized

The ex-wife of accused quadruple murderer John Brittain has had her house vandalized to the tune of $10,000 in damages, Penticton court heard Wednesday morning. 

Brittain's counsel, Paul McMurray, was arguing against a continued order of no-contact between John Brittain and his ex Katherine Brittain, calling her "isolated," "emotionally fragile," " a prisoner in her own home" and a target in the community. 

He said that a few weeks ago, Katherine's home was vandalized, and that both an insurance claim and criminal charges are pending. He said John is aware of the incident, he explained, and wants to reach out to his ex with whom he was still close at the time of the killings. 

"A phone call to offer words of support is not out of order," McMurray said. 

Crown counsel disagreed, reiterating the claim they have been making at each of John Brittain's last three court dates: Katherine may be called as a witness, and therefore any contact could taint her testimony. 

"Once the communication happens it's too late, even if it's monitored," said Crown lawyer Andrew Vandersluys. 

The judge agreed and the no-contact order was upheld, and will continue until John Brittain's next court appearance Aug. 14. 

Crown said that between now and that time, another considerable chunk of discovery will be turned over to the defence. They may be presenting a statement of issues and witnesses on that date as well. 

Brittain is accused in the shooting deaths of Susan and Barry Wonch, Rudi Winter and Darlene Knippelberg on April 15.

Search for missing kayaker

Penticton RCMP are asking for the public's help to find 41-year-old Colin Palmer.

Palmer, a Penticton resident, was reported missing by his family, who has not heard from him since Saturday evening.

He is believed to have taken his kayak out on Okanagan Lake. The last contact his family had with him was near Sunoka Beach in his kayak, and reports indicate the water was choppy at the time.

Palmer is described as Caucasian, 41-years -old, dyed green hair, green eyes, 6 feet tall, and approximately 160 lbs. The kayak is described as baby blue, with a white hull.

The Penticton Fire Department and RCMP have been searching for Palmer from the air but so far have come up empty-handed.

The search is expected to resume today.

Anyone with information are asked to please call 911 or Penticton RCMP, 250-492-4300.

City will study 'sharps'

The City of Penticton is embarking on what is expected to be a four-month-long study on how it can regulate the distribution of needles in the city.

The wide-reaching review by city staff will explore options to reduce discarded syringes in the community, an issue thrust into the spotlight by reports of a young girl being poked by a needle last month at Skaha Lake Park.

Coun. Katie Robinson brought the motion to the floor.

“It’s meant to provide a path forward, to research all options. Not just one or two, but all options for the distribution and collection of sharps in our community,” she said. “This may include some new legislation, might include new bylaws, possibly even overdose prevention sites.”

It’s not clear at this point if Penticton even has the authority to regulate local needle distribution, a program delivered by the provincial government and managed by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. 

South Okanagan Women in Need Society executive director Debbie Scarborough urged city staff to examine best practices when it comes to harm reduction.

“I think when we are talking about harm reduction, if we make it safe for those that are using, we are actually making it safer for everyone,” she said, referring to reducing the rates of HIV and hepatitis in the general population.

She shared an anecdote about a young Penticton man who died of a drug overdose.

“Because he didn’t have Hep C or HIV, his organs were used to save four individuals lives,” she said.

Director of development services Anthony Haddad said the review will likely involve work or multiple city departments and a legal opinion. 

Council voted unanimously to approve the study.

Another life for SOPAC

New life is being breathed into the dream that is the South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre. 

Penticton city council voted Tuesday to grant the SOPAC society $5,000 to host a “workshop” in the fall to explore the idea, involving meetings between arts groups in the South Okanagan and Similkameen.

SOPAC Society board member Cal Meiklejohn told council they are “starting from scratch” on the long-talked about idea. The SOPAC society has been around since 1997.

“The South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre people have an image. I would ask everybody... To totally ignore any images. This is a ground work operation, we don’t know what kind of facility, if any, will come out of this process,” Meiklejohn said.

The workshop, slated for October, will cost $15,000 to host. The group will be approaching the RDOS later in the week for an additional $5,000, while the society covers the rest. 

City council voted 6-1 in favour of providing the funding. Coun. Campbell Watt was opposed, saying he could not support funding something at such a conceptual stage. Other councillors also indicated this was the last chance for the SOPAC group and voiced a desire to put the issue to bed one way or another. 

The empty lot at the corner of Ellis and Nanaimo has long been earmarked for a performing arts centre. The city agreed earlier this year to hold onto the site pending the creation of an area development plan for the whole Ellis corridor.

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