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Kelowna  

Feb. 1 marks RCMP appreciation day across B.C.

RCMP appreciation day

Wednesday is RCMP appreciation day in BC.

The day recognizes all the officers within the province, serving their communities.

At the Kelowna Regional Detachment there are currently 296 officers and civilian members from across Canada with more to come this year.

The regional detachment includes the Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland and Lake Country detachments.

Feb. 1 has been specifically selected to recognize the RCMP as it was on this date in 1920 when the Government of Canada officially created the Royal Canadian Mounted Police by merging the Dominion Police and the Royal North-West Mounted Police.

This year’s RCMP Appreciation Day marks the 150th anniversary of service in Canada.



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Dogs in the Central Okanagan must be licensed by Feb. 28

Time ticking to license Fido

Central Okanagan dog owners have just four weeks to save on 2023 dog licenses.

Until the end of February a license is $20 if they are spayed or neutered and $60 if they are not. On March 1, the rate jumps to $40 and $80 respectively.

Aggressive and dangerous dogs have specific license fees.

All dogs three months or older within the Central Okanagan are required to have a valid license. According to the bylaw, a maximum of three dogs are allowed within a single family dwelling.

"Having a valid license tag on the pet's collar or harness helps dog control officers to quickly reunite a found dog with its owner," an RDCO news release stated.

"And, a license provides a one-time free trip home for any accidental escape.

"License fees also contribute to the care of lost dogs in addition to public safety and awareness initiatives that support responsible dog ownership."

The RDCO reminds dog owners there is a zero tolerance, and a hefty fine can be levied for unlicensed dogs.



Central Okanagan Food Bank asking for helping hands as volunteer numbers drop

Food bank needs help

The Central Okanagan Food Bank needs a helping hand. Several, in fact.

“Right now, we could use more volunteers. We had a good amount of volunteers in the month of December but January, maybe with people travelling or the colder weather, we are down,” says COFB CEO Trevor Moss.

Moss says some of their regular volunteers are snowbirds. So, he’s encouraging others in the community to lend a hand, even for one day a week or one day a month.

“If people want to give back, we would gladly love to have them. We will give them an orientation, and they can pick a time and day they want at any time.

“We’re also encouraging corporations and groups to actually sign up during this time of year, because this is usually our lowest time for volunteers,” says Moss.

He points out that donations have been tapering off over the past six months but couldn’t say for sure if it’s because donors are being pinched by inflation.

At the same time, demand has jumped.

“Overall, right across the board, our numbers are just as high or higher in January as what they were in December. So inflation is doing a real number of people right now.”

Moss admits that the variety of fresh produce at the COFB is limited currently, but there’s still enough of the staples of potatoes, onions and carrots to go around.

A local philanthropic family foundation, which wishes to remain anonymous, has offered to match donations through the month of February to the Tiny Bundles Program for pregnant women and new mothers.

The Central Okanagan Food Bank’s Kelowna location serves between 4,500 and 5,000 people monthly. The West Kelowna location serves approximately 800 clients a month.

You can find more information about donating on the COFB website.



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City work temporarily cuts water to 200 Dilworth homes

Repairs cut water service

The City of Kelowna says about 200 homes in the Dilworth Mountain neighbourhood are without water.

A brief news release from the city says crews were required to repair a valve today that was found to be inoperable during maintenance work in the Summit service area of Dilworth.

“Approximately 200 homes may have experienced limited or no water service starting around 1 p.m.,” said the city.

“It was necessary to repair the valve immediately and is expected to be completed within a couple of hours.”



Flair will fly between Kelowna and Winnipeg twice a week, starting in June

Flair to add Winnipeg route

Flair Airlines on Wednesday announced it will be starting a route between Kelowna and Winnipeg later this year.

The ultra low cost carrier in June will begin non-stop flights between Kelowna and Winnipeg. One-way fares to Kelowna and Victoria will be as low as $49, taxes included.

“The addition of these new routes out of Winnipeg is important for our growing network as we work to connect the dots,” Flair chief commercial officer Garth Lund said in a press release.

“Winnipeg is an important part of our network, and the launch of our new routes to Victoria, Kelowna, and London is a testament to our commitment to connecting Winnipeg to even more destinations across the country.”

Flair will fly non-stop between Winnipeg and Kelowna twice a week, starting on June 10. It will also fly twice a week between Winnipeg and Victoria, beginning on June 9.



Crews at rollover crash on Hwy 97 in Oyama

Rollover on Highway 97

Emergency crews are at the scene of a rollover on Highway 97 in Oyama.

A vehicle has crashed off the southbound lanes of the highway near the Gatzke Road underpass.

One lane is closed while police and fire crews deal with the scene.

Traffic is still getting by on the highway, but motorists may encounter delays while the crash is cleared.



January was a warm, dry month across the Thompson-Okanagan

Warm and dry January

Madison Erhardt

It was an abnormally dry and warm January across the Thompson-Okanagan.

"It was warm right across the board. The numbers don't lie we were 1.1 degrees warmer than your typical January at the Kelowna UBCO station," said Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan.

Penticton was 1.4 degrees warmer than the seasonal average, sitting at the 20th warmest January on record.

In Vernon, January was 3.8 degrees warmer than normal.

"Looking at the dry conditions that are also fairly ubiquitous across much of the Southern Interior, we saw only 15.4 millimetres fall in Kelowna and 12.9 millimetres in Penticton. So that is just shy of 50 per cent of the normal amount," Castellan added.

Kamloops was 3.4 degrees above normal, the 11th warmest January on record for the city, which also only received 33 per cent of its normal precipitation with seven millimetres.

Vernon had 21.6 millimetres of precipitation fall. The city's average is 40.2 millimetres of precipitation.

The only area above 100 percent for the monthly precipitation average was at the SilverStar lodge. It saw 131 millimetres of rain and snow fall.

Despite a snowy start to the month, February is forecasted to be mild as well.

"It is climbing slowly through the next seven days and we expect that to continue probably the weekend following."

"We are starting to see that kind of Spring feel to the temperatures as the sun increases in altitude in the sky, so I don't want to say winter is over by any stretch, because we really don't have a clear signal for I would say beyond next weekend," Castellan added



Kelowna municipal candidate fined for sign violation

Election candidate fined

A candidate in last year's Kelowna civic election has come in contravention on the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act.

Daniel Joseph, who finished 27th out of 32 candidates seeking election, has been slapped with a $100 fine by Elections BC.

According to the enforcement notice an investigation was launched after a complaint was filed alleging lawn signs promoting Joseph's candidacy did not include a complete authorization statement as required by the act.

As a result of the complaint, an investigation was launched by Elections BC

"The Elections BC investigator reached out to you and requested copies of the invoices for the ads, copies of the original ads and images of the ads that had been revised and brought into compliance," the enforcement notice stated.

"Your response indicated that you purchased 500 lawn signs at a cost of $4,201.37. You indicated that you had amended the signs using a sticker that contained an appropriate authorization statement."

Fines of up to $5,000 can be levied for such infractions, however, the notice indicated the error was inadvertent and corrected once it was brought to Joseph's attention.

More than a dozen fines have been handed out to candidates and third party sponsors as a result of infractions during the campaign leading up to the Oct. 15 elections.

Jospeh is the first Okanagan candidate to be issued a fine.

Financial statements for candidates participating in the election are expected to be posted on the Elections BC website in the coming days.



Trial for woman charged with killing husband postponed to May

Murder trial pushed to May

The trial for a Kelowna woman who's charged with killing her husband in 2021 has been postponed to the spring, but she remains behind bars.

Police responded to a “suspicious death” at Kelowna's 661 Bechard Road on Oct. 18, 2021, where they arrested 54-year-old Billie Jo Bennett in connection to the death of her husband, James Wesley Bennett,

But Bennett was released from custody without charge or release conditions shortly after her initial arrest. Charges weren't laid against her for more than seven weeks, until she was arrested again and charged with second-degree murder in December 2021.

Last February, Bennett's murder trial was scheduled to begin in January 2023 as a jury trial. But the trial has been since postponed to May of this year, and it will now run as a judge-alone trial, with no jury involved.

Bennett has remained in custody since the murder charge was laid. Curiously, she hasn't applied for bail since her December 2021 arrest.

Back in October 2021 when the killing occurred, Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance expressed her frustration and concerns that Bennett wasn't immediately charged.

“I find that concerning, absolutely, because there are no conditions imposed on this individual. And yet I understand that my partners at the BC Prosecution Service are acting within the directives of their policies,” Supt. Triance said in October 2021.

“As police officers, this is a very frustrating situation to be in, as we look at the two systems that we must operate between, and increasingly deal with people at large in our society who have complex and concurrent mental health or criminal matters that are affecting the way that we can keep our community safe.”

The circumstances around the alleged killing remain unclear, but the details are expected to come out during the trial in May.



'Nobody is happy': Lake Country taxpayers faced with 17% increase this year

Property taxes to jump 17%

Lake Country taxpayers knew they would be faced with a large tax increase this year, now, they know the extent of that increase.

Faced with what new mayor Blair Ireland called three bad options, council Tuesday gave first reading to a 17.05 per cent property tax increase in the 2023 budget.

For the most part, the budget includes most of what was included in the preliminary report with the exception of adding an extra RCMP officer.

That new officer, required to get the municipality from 18 to 24 members by 2027, will be added down the road.

The budget includes 7.08 per cent to satisfy new RCMP requirements, 5.75 per cent in operations to keep the current level of service and 4.22 per cent for supplemental funding needed to move the district forward.

"We were choosing between a lot of bad choices. Nobody is happy we are doing this," Ireland told Castanet News.

"It's a difficult budget. We could have pushed the RCMP problem over several years and kicked the can down the road so to speak. We got the feedback of lets tackle the RCMP problem and get that done with so our community can move forward from there."

The RCMP increase came about after the municipality crossed the 15,000 population threshold during the last census, making it responsible for 90 per cent of policing costs as opposed to 70.

The municipality also faced a large increase in its road maintenance contract which it had to absorb just to maintain the present level of service.

"The options were few, either swallow that increase or you don't get your roads done."

Despite the projected increase, Ireland says the budget does not include an increase in the level of service.

Following first reading, council held a town hall forum to get feedback from the community.

Surprisingly, very few comments were aimed directly at council.

'We have tried to communicate these issues with the public and be as transparent as possible," said Ireland.

"We are not trying to hide behind this. We are all community members too, we pay taxes too."

A one per cent increase for the owner of an average home valued at $1.087 million works out to an extra $20 in tax.

At 17.05 per cent, that works out to approximately $340 more on the 2023 tax bill.

Council is expected to give final reading to the budget Feb. 23.



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