City council approves new netting for Edith Gay Park

Council 'bat'-ty over netting

The one-liners were flying as readily as home runs and foul balls at Edith Gay Park on a cloudless summer afternoon.

The topic was flying baseballs and the need to protect adjoining residential properties and infrastructures from well struck projectiles.

Apparently netting, and not smaller bats as Coun. Ryan Donn playfully suggested, is the answer.

Sport and event services manager Doug Nicholas explained Field 3 at the Rutland park is one of three performance baseball fields, accommodating the highest levels of baseball in the city.

Nicholas says as communities grow around some of these fields, and as technology and athletic performance evolve, the need is greater for safety measures to protect those properties in the the line of fire.

Work to install netting at one of the other performance fields, Lombardy Park Field 5, is scheduled for this year.

"During preliminary budget in December, council directed staff to report back on the Edith Gay Park netting requirement costs," he said.

The overall cost, Nicholas says, is estimated at about $250,000,.

"To address the safety concerns related to errand balls on the site, a full replacement of the netting system in left field is required, and further netting is needed in right field to protect adjacent properties."

Approximately $77,000 could come from the city's sport field reserve fund.

City manager Doug Gilchrist suggested the additional funds should not have a significant impact on the city's 2021 budget.

Those final numbers are expected to come to the table in a few weeks.

If the numbers don't break the bank, then balls likely won't break neighbouring windows either.

Kelowna's top cop promises sweeping changes as she unveils the Kelowna RCMP's three-year strategic plan

Cops will serve with dignity

Kelowna's new top cop says officers within her detachment will serve residents of the community with dignity and compassion.

Five months into the job, Supt. Kara Triance stood before city council with her vision for the next three years.

"The Kelowna detachment is proud to be a detachment of the RCMP. You can see in this (3-year strategic) plan one of the guiding principles is the mission, vision and values of the RCMP - taking us back to our core values," said Triance.

"The core values of honesty, integrity, professionalism, compassion, accountability, respect must be throughout all that we do as we serve this community."

The plan, says Triance, includes bringing trust back to the force, acknowledging only a small portion of crime is reported to the police.

"The goals and objectives in this plan are committed to the learning we had that suggest we had work to do in our communities to build that relationship and those important connections.

"Our goal is to increase the awareness and options of what to expect when reporting persons crimes. We are going to work to ensure that 70 per cent of our detachment is trained in and has adopted the "Start By Believing" campaign, which is to improve our response to sexual violence."

Triance says the detachment will strive to 'show up at our best for every citizen,' by investing in leadership training and internal wellness reviews.

"When internally we are well, we are resourced and when we are clear in our leadership, our supervision and accountability, our officers are going to show up at the best for our community," said Triance.

"I have spent the last five months listening, implementing changes, understanding that we cannot move forward without psychological resilience for all police professionals.

"If our internal health is prioritized and our training is exact and we are showing up with compassion for our citizens, I believe we will make a difference for those experiencing victimization for every citizen. For those with personal loss, mental health and substance abuse issues, our officers will be there and serving with dignity."

As for specifics, Triance says the detachment will prioritize downtown, Central Kelowna and Central Rutland as areas of priority.

She says the detachment will work with residents, businesses and the courts to to deter property crime theft and prolific offenders, and also create safety and security plans with five supportive housing units or shelters within the next three years.

The plan comes as the detachment continues to try and improve its image and regain the public's trust following a number of embarrassing incidents involving some officers over the past 24 months.

Mayor Colin Basran called the plan probably the best he has seen put forth by the RCMP during his time on council, saying it hits all the key points.

Forest keeper overcome by community support in Kelowna

'It brought me to tears'

Madison Erhardt

The founder of the Okanagan Forest Task Force was brought to tears earlier this week after an outpouring of community support.

Blake has run OFTF since its inception in 2016, working to keep the Central Okanagan backcountry clean and free of dumping.

The task force — a non-for-profit run solely by volunteers — had their efforts sidelined this week after Blake’s F-350 stopped working.

After Blake shared the news on Facebook, a GoFundMe was started with a goal of raising $2,500 to help cover the costs of the repairs.

Today the GoFundMe has over $3,700 donated.

"I didn't even know it was started until one of our members Robin had messaged me and said 'I'm starting up a donation spot and we will see if we can get you some help'. And I was excited that he did, but I wasn't even thinking about it at the time.”

Touched by what Blake does for the community, Ken Hiles, with Kelowna Ford Lincoln wanted to help as well.

“The fact that Kane does all of this on his own time, and with my understanding, with his own money puts him in kind of a spot,” he said.

"We knew that there was a GoFundMe page and that there was money being raised there, but gave it the thought that we wanted to actually do the repairs so Kane and his group could use the GoFundMe money to fund what they are doing,” Hiles added.

The repairs on the truck will total over $3,000.

“It means the world. It’s a very emotional time. I never ask for anything in return, I don’t ask for help and then when Ford wanted to step up and do what they did it brought me to tears,” Blake said.

Blake tells Castanet he will use the donation money to purchase new supplies for the group.

“We are going to be updating our rakes and shovels. Some of them are missing handles,” he said,

The truck is expected to be back on the road by the end of this week.

Raccoon filmed riding through the air as workers remove trees

Amazing flying raccoon

Rob Gibson

You may have heard the old saying, "when pigs fly, but what about raccoons?

If you were in the Ethel Street area in Kelowna on Monday morning you would have received a front seat to the flying raccoon show.

For those of you who didn't see it, Max McLaughlin shared a video he took as workers were taking down some of the trees at Lindon House on Ethel Street.

"I saw a raccoon sitting on a branch of one of the trees they were taking down and I started filming. I don't know what their protocol would be for dealing with raccoons."

The work was being done by Action Tree Service and when contacted by Castanet, owner Tony Wilkinson said he was actually on another site at the moment "dealing with the exact same problem."

He said raccoons can be a pesky problem, especially in the spring.

"We try and motivate them to leave and we relocate them when that doesn't work."

Wilkinson says raccoons typically leave on their own but when they don't, "the next move is to literally cut it (the tree) down and bring it slowly to the ground, so it can happily live another day."

This is the exact same technique the crane operator appears to be using in the video as we can see the branch being slowly lowered behind the house.

"I saw them lower it behind the house slowly enough for him to hop off and run back to the forest," says McLaughlin.

Raccoons, like most wild animals, are busy in the spring and can adapt, even prosper, living near people.

Raccoons are considered one of the most charismatic species of animals in North America and are carnivores but will eat almost anything

In addition to eating wild foods, raccoons are also known for raiding gardens, garbage cans, bird feeders, fish ponds—even kitchen cabinets.

Wilkinson says, "we're not trying to hurt them, but we have to be careful, they are ferocious."

Large network of Montessori schools buys Kelowna's FreshGrade

FreshGrade has new owners

Kelowna’s FreshGrade has been sold to the California company behind the world’s largest network of Montessori schools.

Higher Ground Education acquired the digital portfolio and assessment platform for an undisclosed sum last week. FreshGrade was co-founded in 2011 by Lane Merrifield and Steve Wandler, and Higher Ground Education has assumed control of both the company’s tech product and team.

“FreshGrade was always built as the answer for people looking for more than what traditional education can offer,” Merrifield, who is FreshGrade’s CEO, said in a press release. “Part of its charm and success is due to its ease of use, but it’s FreshGrade’s ability to capture both qualitative and quantitative learning outcomes that make it a natural fit with a Montessori curriculum.

“We’re excited to grow the team within Higher Ground and to allow even more families to see the benefits of FreshGrade across North America and the world.”

More than 18 million FreshGrade portfolios have been created since 2011, and there 85,000 teachers and 1.8 million parents using the platform, which offers a more transparent view of student progress.

“Our philosophical commitment is to be both pedagogically uncompromising in the programming we offer to children, and to find ways to fully include parents in the education of their children,” Higher Ground CEO Ray Girn said. “FreshGrade is an expression of that commitment. Excellent communication with parents and parent-school relationships are inextricably linked to quality education—especially given that we believe quality in education is driven by doing something quite different.”

Exposures to COVID-19 has been reported in seven Central Okanagan schools.

More virus school exposure

Seven more schools within the Central Okanagan have been hit with confirmed exposures to COVID-19.

These include six schools within the Central Okanagan School District and one private school.

Among those within SD23, Interior Health has confirmed exposures at the following schools;

  • Dr. Knox Middle
  • Ellison Elementary
  • George Elliot Secondary
  • Kelowna Secondary
  • Raymer Elementary
  • Rose Valley Elementary

School district officials say the individuals are self-isolating at home with the support of local public health teams.

Anyone potentially exposed to a confirmed case will be contacted by Interior Health.

A potential exposure event has also been reported at Ecole de L'Anse Au Sable. The Kelowna French language school is part of School District 93.

RCMP finished with investigation into death of Kelowna toddler who was run over last year

Probe into child's death over

The Kelowna RCMP has finished its investigation into the death of a toddler who was killed by a vehicle in the driveway of a Rutland home nearly one year ago.

The detachment confirmed Monday that the file has been turned over to the BC Prosecution Service. Prosecutors, however, have not approved any charges directly related to the death of 15-month-old Gaige Banman.

A single count of impaired driving was approved in February against John Pyziak, who allegedly attended the gathering where Gaige was run over, but the indictment makes no claims tying him to the toddler’s death.

It is not known what type of charges RCMP may have recommended to Crown, but in B.C., prosecutors have the final say on charge approval and only lay charges that they believe carry a likelihood of conviction and are in society’s best interest.

Pyziak was scheduled for a first court appearance Monday on the DUI charge and will appear again to consult legal counsel on May 12. None of the allegations against him have been proven.

The City of Kelowna announced the first of nine Civic and Community award winners Monday

Arts, sports honoured

Despite seeing many of their traditional activities and events scrapped throughout most of 2020 because of COVID-19, many within Kelowna's arts and sports communities still found a way to make a difference.

Those accomplishments were recognized as the city kicked off a three week campaign to honour its volunteers and corporate leaders in a very different looking Civic and Community Awards presentation.

The first three awards, unveiled at the top of Monday's city council meeting, focused on those who made a difference in the arts and sports world.

Okanagan Mission Secondary student Julius Brooker was named Teen Honour in the Arts recipient.

Brooker performs in the schools concert band and jazz band. He also volunteers teaching private lessons and mentoring younger students.

He also performs at events around the community.

Along with the award, Brooker will also receive a $500 entrance scholarship at UBC Okanagan.

Karma Lacoff Nieoczym is the honour in the Arts winner.

Lacoff Nieoczym took on a leadership role last year, developing the Central Okanagan music strategy while also juggling her positions with the Rotary Centre for the Arts and Creative Okanagan.

She also helped secure multiple grants to keep these arts organizations running during an unprecedented year.

Meghan Faust is the recipient of the Bob Giordano Memorial Award.

Faust is a basketball, and coach at Okanagan Mission Secondary.

She has dedicated thousands of volunteer hours to help inspire confident, responsible, and respectful young athletes.

Due to the of many sporting activities in 2020, the city's athletes and team of the year are not being handed out this year. The Central Okanagan School District has also decided against handing out the Augie Ciancone Memorial Award this year for high school male and female athletes of the year.

Next week, the city will unveil winners in three more categories, Champion for the Environment, Corporate Community of the Year and the Central Okanagan Foundation's Volunteer Organization of the Year.

City planners support new-look Revelry Food + Music Hub on Ellis

Food, music spot supported

The design of Revelry Food + Music Hub has undergone a few adjustments since hitting City of Kelowna planning desks last summer, and now it is ready for the next step.

The proposed food and music venue, which would be located on Ellis Street across from Okanagan Regional Library, is seeking a form and character development permit and a development variance permit for three variances.

City planning staff has recommended that all of those be approved, as it says Revelry Food + Music Hub will “advance arts and culture in Kelowna.” Council will review the file at its council meeting on Tuesday, April 20.

The three-storey building will operate as a restaurant, music hall or urban ballroom, and it will be available for private events. The plans call for three food and beverage locations throughout the venue, which will feature seating on the main floor and an open second level that will allow for vantage points of the stage.

Original plans called for a marquee sign on the front of the building to keep locals and tourists abreast of upcoming events, but that has been removed from the updated design.

“Revelry Food + Music Hub is poised to attract locals and visitors to the downtown core, especially during early evening hours, helping to promote economic vibrancy and create spillover benefit for adjacent businesses,” the application reads. “While various events may occur during both the day and night periods, evening events will be earlier with most performances targeting a start time of 8 p.m.

“This will result in patrons exiting out in time to support other businesses open in the evenings and help support more businesses staying open in Kelowna at night.”

The developers have also agreed to make a $132,000 cash-in-lieu payment for parking, since it is adding a third storey to the building.

Crews continue to work on hazardous crane in Glenmore

Crane concern remains

A large crane remains the centre of attention at Glenmore Road and Union Avenue after a fire broke out at a construction site last week.

After the inferno was doused an evacuation order was issued for homes in the immediate vicinity due to structural concerns of the crane.

The emergency order remains in place along with several road closures.

Glenmore Road remains closed between Cross and Scenic Road, and Union Road remains closed between Wyndham Crescent and Valley Road.

According to City of Kelowna's risk manager Lance Kayfish it is very likely the crane will have to be dismantled, but could not offer a timeline.

Kayfish says structural engineers were on site all day assessing and planning the next steps.

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