West Kelowna  

West Kelowna councillor warns of higher taxes as road maintenance budget set to double

Roads a drain on city budget

"As a community, we have really benefited up to this date from low, low (tax) increases."

"I'm concerned how long we can keep that going."

Those comments from came from West Kelowna Coun. Jason Friesen as council deliberated expenditures around its 2023 municipal budget.

Friesen spoke specifically about the city's road rehabilitation program which, up until this year, has had a budget of $1.2 million.

Based on the pavement management plan, that budget is expected to increase to $2.4 million beginning in 2024.

"This figure alone the pavement management plan next year...it's a three per cent tax increase just for that alone next year," said Friesen.

"As a municipality, we will continue to dwindle on these reserves and eventually have nothing left. We will have no choice but to tax.

"Three per cent just to maintain our road system. It is something we have to be cognizant of."

"This year may be a safety budget, but it looks like next year is going to be a road budget."

While agreeing with the point, Coun. Stephen Johnston hopes growth strategies such as infill development set to be implemented by the city will bring with it some additional tax revenue to help pay for the program.

"Our new [Official Community Plan] will speak to a lot of density in a town centre where we currently don't have high density," said Johnston.

"When you are not expanding the road network and the service network, but you are expanding the density is that core area, you have the opportunity to create a new tax revenue stream that has residential as well as commercial opportunities which will help to offset these costs hopefully."

The 2023 road rehab program will include paving work on a number of roads including McIvor, Webber, Bear Creek, Dougmac, Bartley and Bering roads.

Council has spent the the last two days deliberating the budget. Talks started with a proposal for a five per cent property tax increase.


Okanagan Beach Club exits tiki bar lease at Lake Okanagan Resort after two years

Tiki bar seeks new operator

Lake Okanagan Resort is going to have to find someone else to throw its beach parties this summer.

Okanagan Beach Club, which had a 10-year lease to operate most of the resort’s amenities, is walking away after just two years.

“We just decided to shut it down,” Okanagan Beach Club co-owner Ryan Hargreaves said Tuesday. “It just wasn’t a good fit anymore.”

Hargreaves and two partners took control of most of the resort's amenities in 2020, with accommodations the notable exception. Okanagan Beach Club’s main attraction was the Tiki & Taco Bar, which proved to be a popular beach spot for the valley’s summer party crowd. Okanagan Beach Club also hosted weddings, operated a bistro and co-ordinated water rentals for guests.

Hargreaves, however, said too many concerns popped up for his business to continue at the resort, which was once a jewel on the shores of Okanagan Lake and is trying to find its way back to that stature.

Okanagan Beach Club officials were not willing to wait for that to happen. Hargreaves cited insurance issues, liability fears and facility problems as the primary reasons for opting out of the lease.

A three- to five-year lease for the tiki bar is currently being offered for $10,000 a month, from May to September, through a Facebook Marketplace listing.

West Kelowna RCMP ask for help in locating man missing more than three months

Man missing 3 months

Police in West Kelowna are again appealing to the public for assistance in locating a man reported missing more than three months ago.

Brett Moore, 34, was initially reported missing Oct. 23, 2022. His family is extremely concerned as they have not heard from him since that time.

He is described as Caucasian, 5' 7" and about 130 pounds. He has blue eyes and brown hair.

The RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating Mr. Moore.

If you are Brett Moore or have information which may help to locate him, please contact the West Kelowna RCMP Detachment at (250) 768-2880 and reference the file number 2022-66676.

Rogers seeking to expand cell network on North Westside

New cell tower proposed

Rogers wireless customers could soon be getting better reception on the North Westside.

The telecom is proposed to install a new 15.9-metre-tall cell tower on private land next to the firehall in Wilson's Landing. There is already a Telus tower located on the property, but it is unsuitable for Rogers equipment.

The tower would expand the Rogers network on both the west and east side of the lake.

Rogers undertook public consultation for the surrounding area and received just one letter in opposition to the proposal.

The issue goes before the Regional District of Central Okanagan board on Feb. 2 where the board will have to sign off on the public consultation process

Final approval for the tower rests with the federal government.

Greater Westside Board of Trade announced finalists for its annual business awards

Key Award finalists named

Greater Westside Board of Trade on Thursday revealed the finalists for its 21st annual Key Business Awards.

The chamber of commerce received more than 200 nominations from businesses, non-profits and individuals, and now the field has been trimmed to two, three or four finalists in each of the 12 categories.

“As president for the Greater Westside Board of Trade, I am filled with gratitude everyday to be able to elevate and celebrate our business community,” Greater Westside president Amber Hall said in a press release. “Each nominee brings value to the community that sets us apart, and demonstrates ingenuity, dedication and collaboration.

“Demonstrating the commitment to delivering excellence in every interaction that each of you make, is one of the many reasons I love the opportunity to celebrate you all each year. Each nominee should be proud to have been recognized in their field.”

The winners will be announced when the organization conducts its awards celebration on Thursday, Feb. 23, at The Cove Lakeside Resort.

Tickets for that event are available for purchase here.

The finalists, with the award sponsors in parentheses, are:

Arts & Entertainment (Hergott Law)
Klick Entertainment, Westside Celebration Society, Blackfoot Nation Films, Sncewips Heritage Museum

Community & Public Service (City of West Kelowna)
Westside Health Network Society, Childhood Connections, Beacon’s Furry FUNdation

Young Entrepreneur (Creative Trophies & Gifts)
House of Berries, Jeff Hayes/Edwards Jones, Okanagan Integrative Health

Environmentally Sustainable Business (Gorman’s)
Scott Contracting & Excavating, Off the Grid Organic Winery

Home Based Business (Snap Commercial Photography)
Kelowna Esthetics Studio, Michelle Brow & Skin, 1st Choice Steel Structures

Large Business (Pushor Mitchell)
Northside Industries, Norsteel Building System, Paynter’s Fruit Market

New Business (WK Group LLP)
Salish Bed & Breakfast, COBS Bakery, Bodacious Artisan Breadz (BABz)

Platinum Service Provider (Kelowna International Airport)
Paynter’s Fruit Market, JK Schmidt Jewellers, The Medicine Shoppe, Environmetal Towing

Small Business Award (Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance Plan administered by TD Benefits)
Kelowna Electroplating, Integrated Power Systems, Rad Jamz, Nutri-Lawn Okanagan

Technology & Innovation (Hero Security)
Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, Infuse I.T Inc, Project Pi Consulting

Indigenous Business (Westbank First Nation)
Rad Relish, First Nations Finance Authority, The Carmichael’s & Associates, Blackfoot Nation Films

Tourism & Hospitality (Kelly O’Bryan’s)
PopUP Events, The Landing Kitchen + Bar, Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery, Shannon Lake Golf Course

West Kelowna council will debate a 5% budget next week

5% tax hike proposed

West Kelowna residents face the potential for the largest tax increase in the city's brief history.

City council will debate a 2023 budget next week which includes a five per cent tax hike.

The previous high, 4.05 per cent was adopted in 2021. In fact, if adopted as is, the 2023 budget would be just the third in history at four per cent or higher.

Council passed a four per cent budget in 2022 and were prepared to adopt a 4.8 per cent budget in 2020, but rolled it back to 2.8 per cent as residents and businesses were dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2023 tax demand of $41.565 million is actually 6.75 per cent higher than a year ago, however, the increase was softened by projected growth of 1.75 per cent.

The increase also includes a one per cent infrastructure levy which will be applied in each of the next three years. It will account for $389,000 in revenue.

The overall budget includes operating expenses of $41.5 million and $33.9 million in capital expenditures.

The operating budget includes a projected 14 per cent increase in policing costs accounting for 1.7 per cent of the proposed increase. Two additional RCMP officers are envisioned as part of the policing increase.

Operations and road maintenance expenditures are up 8.25 per cent, mainly due to wage increases, inflation, contracts and administration charges.

Capital projects will be funded mainly through reserves ($17.59M) and debt ($12.05M). The city also plans to use $4.27 million from DCC's for capital projects.

The city expects to spend $1.2 million on its yearly road rehabilitation program, $2.4 million on the Boucherie pathway and $750,000 on an emergency egress from Casa Loma.

Another $8 million is earmarked for replacement of fire hall 32.

Council will go over the budget Monday and Tuesday.

A public consultation on the budget is planned for February.

Police raid home on Old Okanagan Highway in Westbank

Search warrant to standoff

Madison Erhardt

UPDATE: 12:15 p.m.

West Kelowna RCMP have arrested multiple people after close to a two-hour standoff on Thursday morning.

Multiple people came out in handcuffs including two men and a woman.

Tactical police officers swarmed the home at 3335 Old Okanagan Highway just after 9 a.m.

Police were heard using a bullhorn to communicate with someone inside the home. Loud bangs were also heard from a police roadblock at Reece Road.

RCMP closed a portion of Old Okanagan Highway between Butt and Reece roads for close to two hours.

A few minutes later, the West Kelowna Fire Department arrived on the scene.

A front window of the home was broken and it appears someone either entered or exited the home via the window.

Police confirm they had planned to search the home that morning after receiving a warrant. The search warrant then turned into a standoff.

Details on the police operation and arrests have not been released yet.

UPDATE 10:55 a.m.

While the standoff has concluded, police are still at the scene of 3335 Old Okanagan Highway.

Fire crews are also there and the smell of smoke is hanging in the air. Fans have been set up to ventilate the home.

A front window of the home has been broken and it appears someone either entered or exited the home via the window.

UPDATE 10:50 a.m.

Police are now in the process of opening Old Okanagan Highway to traffic.

Tactical officers have now left the scene.

Details on the police operation and arrests have not been released yet.

UPDATE 10:30 a.m.

Police also have canine units at the scene and still have the home surrounded.

A total of three people have come out of the home and have been arrested.

A West Kelowna fire truck has also just arrived at the scene.

UPDATE 10 a.m.

Police have now made multiple arrests during a standoff Thursday morning in Westbank.

A Castanet reporter observed two men and a woman in handcuffs outside the home on Old Okanagan Highway.

UPDATE 9:55 a.m.

Tactical officers from the regional Emergency Response Team are at the scene of what appears to be a standoff.

Police have surrounded a home on Old Okanagan Highway and using a bullhorn to communicate with someone inside the home. Loud bangs can be heard from the police roadblock at Reece Road.

ORIGINAL 9:40 a.m.

Police in West Kelowna have closed part of Old Okanagan Highway.

The road is closed between Butt and Reece roads for a police incident.

Details are not known at this point.

An officer working one of the barricades says he hopes the road will be reopened within an hour.

Castanet will update as more information is known.

West Kelowna high school robotics team preparing for competition

Robot needs a sponsor

The Mount Boucherie Bears Robotics Team is getting ready to compete at the FIRST Robotics Competition, Charged Up.

At the Canadian Pacific regional event, the Mount Boucherie Bears will be taking on other top teams from around the province for a chance to build and operate the most functional robot possible.

"In this year’s game, two alliances of three teams compete to gather the game pieces, cones and cubes, and bring them back to score points. Every match starts with a 15 second autonomous period where every robot has to gather the game pieces based on pre-programmed code," explained Tyler, MBSS robotics team member.

"After 15 seconds the players take control. At the end of each match every robot races back to its charging station. Every team is graded based on the number of points they get during the game."

The ultimate goal is to walk away with a first place win, but in order to pull it off, the team is in search of a sponsorship deal that can help cover the costs.

"We are looking at all local businesses, particularly ones based around engineering and technology. Sponsors are our primary source of funding and cover our registration, robot building, travel costs, etc," continued Tyler.

"People should sponsor us because we are a team of youth who are taking an interest in STEM and business, and sponsors can help us achieve our goals and allow us to have this amazing experience."

The team is reaching the halfway point of the overall construction of the robot, planning to work for eight straight weeks at a pace of least four days a week.

"We're all spending a lot of time on it. We're into our third week of building now, and it’s probably going to take us right til the end to finish," said team member Nicole.

"We're working on the chassis now and we still need to add the arm and other stuff, so I'd guess we're maybe about 40 per cent done."

To help cover costs, the team has also set up a GoFundMe page ahead of the competition.

The Canadian Pacific Regional is set to take place on March 1.

West Kelowna seeking feedback on plans to shape the city's future

Shaping West Kelowna

The City of West Kelowna is looking for your input on two major planning initiatives designed to guide growth over the next 20 years.

Phase 2 of the Transportation Master Plan (TMP) and Phase 4 of the Official Community Plan (OCP) are both ready for review and public input.

The OCP’s new growth concept focuses most future growth in two urban centres, five neighbourhood centres and accommodates continued development beyond these centres with a focus on infill housing. It also enhances key economic opportunities in the city’s industrial and business park areas.

The TMP is being developed in conjunction with the OCP. This phase of the TMP recommends a future network for roads, transit and active transportation, based on how and where the City plans future growth.

“We are a fast-growing community and it’s important to hear from our residents as we update these guiding long-term plans,” said Mayor Gord Milsom.

“Input from the community will help shape our city now and into the future, building on the community vision to achieve a vibrant, walkable and connected West Kelowna.”

The present phase of consultation is open until Feb. 7.

Click here to provide feedback online.

A public information session will also be held Wednesday, Feb. 1 at Mount Boucherie Secondary from 4:30 until 8 p.m.

West Kelowna man captures video of rare green comet

Video captures rare sight

Rob Gibson

A West Kelowna man captured a rare celestial phenomenon on video from his home in Glenrosa.

Sean Perdue tells Castanet he took up photographing the stars a couple of years ago after being inspired by the NEOWISE comet which was visible in the Okanagan in 2020.

"I was never interested in photography. This comet (NEOWISE) kind of inspired me. I bought a little telescope and started taking shots with my cell phone just through the eyepiece of the telescope of Jupiter and Saturn. I thought it was the coolest thing ever," says Perdue.

In the past two years Perdue has expanded his photography skills and equipment to the point where he is capturing breathtaking shots and videos.

"I saw your story on the green comet passing by earth so I went out and got some shots of it through my telescope this past weekend. ... The video shows the comet's movement over a 2.5 hour period."

Perdue says his set-up is computerized and controlled remotely by his phone.

"It's a mini-computer which is connected to everything, the camera, and there's a tracking mount. That's all computerized so that it follows the stars as they move. I just program it through my phone to take [different] exposures," said Perdue.

The green comet currently passing by hasn't been seen in British Columbia for 50,000 years and is technically known as C/2022 E3 (ZTF). Tt was first spotted in March of 2022.

According to Marley Leacock, an astronomer at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver, this could also be the last chance to get a glimpse of this comet before it leaves our solar system.

"By definition, a hyperbolic orbit means that the object will only enter the solar system once, so comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) may leave our solar system entirely," Leacock said.

The comet is difficult to see with the naked eye but will be at its most visible the first days of February.

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) has a ghostly green glow as it works its way across the northeastern sky. "It comes up around 10:30 p.m. in the northeastern sky, and it's on its way up, it's going to pass between the Big Dipper and the North Star. It's going to be in that part of the sky until February 2," Perdue said.

Perdue says he got his shots and video between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.

"I want to get a lot better," Perdue says he's hooked on astrophotography and says he likes to focus on what he calls the star-forming regions of space, "they're basically big space clouds."

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