University says camp-style housing plan denied by city was safe

TRU 'disappointed' with city

Thompson Rivers University says it is “disappointed” that the City of Kamloops turned down its request to erect on an emergency basis temporary student housing that did not meet B.C.’s building codes.

The city sent the university a letter this week outlining why the request had been denied.

TRU sourced camp-style temporary accommodations that were made in Alberta and built to that province’s building codes. The university had asked the city to allow the units to rise despite the code deficiencies.

“We believe we put forward a solution that provides a full commitment to the health and safety of students and addressed a critical need due to a sudden and unforeseen shortage of affordable housing in the city,” the university said in a statement.

“The need for affordable student housing developed in August due to sudden and unforeseen factors and we quickly developed a temporary emergency solution on our campus. … We regret the challenges that a lack of affordable housing spaces for students in Kamloops is creating. We will continue to explore immediate affordable housing options for students.”

Spread over a number of on- and off-campus properties, the university owns 1,366 residence spaces for students — all of which are spoken for.

“The situation experienced today is the result of a number of factors that have strained the city’s affordable housing supply, including the influx of out-of-town workers to support pipeline and other construction activity, wildfire evacuees and the loss of spaces to social housing and future developments,” the statement reads.

In its letter denying the proposal, the city pointed to a number of “life-safety” issues in TRU’s plan — including poor fire safety and shared ventilation.

The city said it would be willing to fast-track any TRU housing proposals provided they meet code.


Man who led police on dangerous January chase that caused schools to lock down avoids jail

No jail for wild police chase

A man who led Kamloops Mounties on a wild and dangerous chase in January that saw a number of downtown schools placed on lockdown has avoided jail.

Charles Mathew Luttman will instead spend eight months on house arrest, followed by a lengthy probation term, after being sentenced in Kamloops provincial court on Thursday.

The 35-year-old pleaded guilty to charges of theft of a motor vehicle, dangerous driving, theft under $5,000 and two counts of break-and-enter.

Court heard Luttman was in the midst of a heroin and crystal meth binge on Jan. 18 when he stole a large pickup truck from a North Shore auto dealer. The next day, the distinct truck was spotted on surveillance at Bed Bath & Beyond in Sahali, where Luttman entered the back of the store and later came out with $700 worth of blankets.

He sped off in the truck and happened upon Mounties a short time later conducting radar on the Summit Connector. The officers recognized the stolen truck and tried to get Luttman out of the vehicle.

“Mr. Luttman accelerated, nearly hitting [one of the Mounties], and then veered over an island on the road, struck a road sign and then headed south on Hillside Drive in the northbound lanes — so driving against traffic,” Crown prosecutor Brendan Ward said.

Luttman nearly ran another driver off the road, court heard, and eventually made his way to Notre Dame Drive and then onto the Summit Drive off-ramp of the Trans-Canada Highway, once again driving against the flow of traffic.

On the highway, Luttman nearly struck an ambulance and then hit another pickup truck. He then fled on foot, prompting the Kamloops-Thompson school district to place Sagebrush schools on hold and secure.

A police dog found Luttman hiding in a compost bin in someone’s back yard.

Luttman also pleaded guilty to an unrelated break-and-enter charge stemming from an April 29 incident at Surplus Herby’s on Tranquille Road. Court heard a passerby called Mounties after seeing someone breaking out of the store with an injured leg.

Police determined Luttman broke in through a vent in the ceiling and dropped 25 feet onto the store's concrete floor, breaking his leg.

He pleaded guilty to a second unrelated break-and-enter charge, as well, at the Praxair building on Dalhousie Drive on Dec. 29, 2020.

Luttman, a father of two, has no prior criminal record. Defence lawyer Marcel LaFlamme said the COVID-19 pandemic sent Luttman into a “downward spiral” that landed him in court.

“Because of this monster of COVID, he lost his employment and it’s been downhill ever since,” he said.

“Things went to hell. He started using drugs and he had no money. … It is mind-boggling that somebody would have two children and commit this kind of offence. You cannot understand it. It’s just tragic.”

Luttman will spend eight months on 22-hour house arrest and then a year on probation. The Crown had been seeking a three-year driving prohibition, but court records do not indicate how long Luttman will be banned from driving.

“Lives were put at risk,” provincial court Judge Kenneth Skilnick said in handing down his sentence, noting most offenders in Luttman’s shoes would be going to jail.

“The fact the vehicle was driven in the manner it was driven on one of the most well-travelled highways in this country, that’s obviously aggravating. It is a circumstance where, in the majority of cases, a custodial sentence in an institution would be called for.”

Luttman, who lives near Chase, said he plans to undergo residential treatment for his drug addiction.

He was ordered to submit a sample of his DNA to a national criminal database and to pay restitution to Praxair and Surplus Herby’s for damage caused in the break-ins — more than $1,000 in all.

Increase in local film production has city considering bylaw, fee structure

City considering film bylaw

Following an uptick in film production activity in the Tournament Capital, the city is looking at establishing a film permitting bylaw.

City staff will present a report next week asking council to authorize a bylaw that would create standardized fee structures and allow municipal officials to issue film permits.

“Kamloops’ film production industry has been growing steadily, with more productions being hosted in 2021 than ever before,” the report reads.

“The city provides co-ordination, parking, locations and other support services to film productions on a cost-recovery basis. The city does not currently have a film bylaw, which is required to create the process for obtaining film permits and charging associated fees.”

According to the draft bylaw, film permits would go for $125 for commercial operations and $25 for any charity, non-profit or student production.

Commercial productions would also be required to pay a refundable $5,000 deposit.


Local birdwatcher turns passion into business, opens storefront

Birding business taking off?

Feeding the birds is for everyone, according to the owner of a new Kamloops birding shop — himself an avid avian enthusiast.

Kurtis Huston opened Wild Birds Unlimited at 760 Tranquille Rd. earlier this month, after two years of COVID-19-related setbacks.

“Typically, a process to do something like this, start to finish, you're going to be looking at six months to a year,” Huston said.

“But COVID got in in the way of that.”

Huston said he got into bird feeding a few years ago and it quickly took over his life.

“I was not only passionate about it and thought about it pretty much 24 hours a day, my life quickly became obsessed with the hobby of bird feeding and the joy that birds bring me and the entertainment they bring me,” he said.

“When I started getting involved in the hobby, I realized that Kamloops was really lacking on the product — but most importantly the education.”

Huston found a community of other bird enthusiasts with Wild Birds Unlimited, he said, and felt compelled to share his knowledge with his hometown.

“I became incredibly inspired to provide that [product and expertise] to this community,” Huston told Castanet Kamloops.

Huston was slated to open his store early last year, but the pandemic spoiled those plans. With COVID-19 at play, he said it was difficult securing a storefront and getting his operation off the ground.

The business owner was originally worried all the setbacks might cost the company customers.

“Considering how long we took to open, the patience [of the community] and just the overwhelming support from the community has just been touching in a way that's hard to describe with words,” Huston said.

100 Mile House RCMP are investigating an armed robbery at theCariboo Husky Service Station on Highway 97

Search for armed robber

RCMP in 100 Mile House were called to an armed robbery at the Cariboo Husky Service Station on Thursday afternoon.

Police responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at 315 Highway 97. The suspect entered the store holding a weapon and demanded all of the cash from the register. Nothing else was confiscated and no one was hurt during the incident.

The investigation is ongoing and police are asking anyone who may have been in the area of Birch Avenue between First Street and Horse Lake Road, between the hours of 1:15 and 1:45 p.m. on September 23, and witnessed any suspicious people, vehicles or has access to dashboard camera footage, to contact the 100 Mile House RCMP at 250-395-2456.

City residents encouraged to hop on bikes for two-week cycling event

GoByBike week ahead

The City of Kamloops is encouraging residents to get cycling for this fall’s two back-to-back GoByBike weeks.

According to the city, the event promotes riding as a way to get active, lower stress and improve mental health.

Dewi Evans, the city’s community and wellness event coordinator, said the fall event offers an additional week of cycling compared to the one week GoByBike event in the spring.

“People enjoy riding for so many reasons beyond biking to work and school, and we’re excited that riders have an extended opportunity to participate,” Evans said.

“The event is focused on promoting any kind of riding, whether you replace a motor vehicle trip for an environmentally friendly journey, active transportation or simple enjoyment.”

From Sept. 27 to Oct. 10, participants can log their kilometres on GoByBike’s website, and enter to win prizes including a cycling adventure for two in France.

GoByBike is also setting up a social media scavenger hunt. Residents can take photos at specific landmarks and locations around the city, tagging GoByBike Kamloops on their social media posts for a chance to win prizes.

During the GoByBike event, the city is sponsoring free transit for cyclists.

The city said buses are equipped with easy-to-use bike racks, and transit fares will be complementary to cyclists with a helmet.

On Oct. 12, Vancouver-based Hub Cycling is also hosting a free webinar on cycling in fall and winter riding conditions, covering topics like advanced cycling safety, route planning and cold-weather care for bikes.

“The webinar is a great opportunity for Kamloopsians to learn how to tackle the winter riding conditions and extend their biking season in Kamloops,” Evans said.

Those wishing to participate in GoByBike week can get more details and register at GoByBike BC’s website.

High school students lead environmental protest at Riverside Park

Climate change walk out

UPDATE: 2:54 p.m.

A few dozen protesters gathered in Riverside Park on Friday hoping to catch the attention of local officials.

The group was organized by the Valleyview secondary Environmental Club, but participants spanned more than just the high school crowd.

Starting at Riverside, the group marched to Third Avenue and down Victoria Street to city hall, chanting that they wanted "climate justice."

ORIGINAL: 4:00 a.m.

Some local high school students will walk out of class Friday in hopes of making a difference.

An environmental club at Valleyview secondary has planned a walk out for Friday afternoon to raise awareness about climate change.

“I’m hoping to really bring attention to the matter and show people how urgent this is,” Tlell Schreiner, a spokesperson for the club, told Castanet Kamloops.

“This isn't something we can put off until later.”

Schreiner said the club has invited other high schools to join in the rally, and she hopes members of the public will come — fully masked — as well.

The students will be meeting at the bandshell at Riverside Park at 1:15 p.m. on Friday, Schreiner said.

TRU study recommends revamped communications for wildfire service

Changes needed at BCWS?

A Thompson Rivers University study of the 2017 and 2018 fire seasons has resulted in a number of suggestions to improve BC Wildfire Service communications.

TRU professor Michael Mehta led the investigation that started in 2019 and finished in June.

According to TRU, the study did not take into account the devastating 2021 fire season.

The 89-page document, titled "A life cycle based model to risk and crisis communication during wildfire events in British Columbia," was jointly funded by the BCWS, Canada Wildfire and TRU.

The study looks at existing risk communications and crisis communications models being used by wildfire organizations and offers six recommendations.

The university said it is working closely with BCWS to address and find solutions for challenges in emergency situations like wildfires.

“Over the last three years, we’ve made significant investments in research and innovation,” said Ian Meier, executive director of BCWS.

“We are committed to fostering a learning culture within our organization and it is exciting to begin to see results and recommendations for the future.”

The report highlights possible improvements in communications before, during and after wildfire events. It also looks at the impact of emergency events across agency jurisdictions.

In addition to the BCWS, researchers also consulted with Emergency Management BC, with First Nations’ Emergency Services Society, Simpcw First Nation, the City of Kamloops and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

Recommendations outlined include organizations making the distinction between risk and crisis communications, and putting a focus the safety and mental health of affected individuals and communities.

“We hope that this report provides useful information to emergency management organizations across B.C. and elsewhere to reduce the risk from wildfires and other disasters,” Mehta said.

Logs spilled on First Avenue after logging truck's load strikes rail overpass near city hall

Logging truck hits overpass

Traffic is snarled near city hall after a logging truck’s load struck the rail overpass at First Avenue.

Crews are working to clean up the spilled load.

There is no word yet on how long it will take to clean up the roadway.

Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian tweeted a photo of the incident just after 1 p.m. encouraging drivers to avoid First Avenue.

The truck is believed to have become wedged beneath the bridge sometime before 1 p.m. Emergency crews were called to the scene at about 1:15 p.m.

This story will be updated if more information becomes known.

Injured person taken away in ambulance after report of pedestrian struck on Tranquille Road

Tranquille pedestrian struck

Emergency crews were on scene near Surplus Herby’s in North Kamloops on Friday morning for a report of a pedestrian struck.

Firefighters, paramedics and police were called to the area at about 11:15 a.m.

Crews could be seen loading a patient into an ambulance. There is no word on their condition.

Two Kamloops Fire Rescue trucks, two ambulances and one police vehicle were on scene near the intersection of Palm Street and Tranquille Road.

This story will be updated if more information becomes known.

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