Vernon tax hike reduced following new rec services agreement

Tax increase trimmed

The coming property tax hike in Vernon has been trimmed, thanks to a fee-for-service agreement being reached between the city, Coldstream and RDNO.

The city had planned to introduce two-tired recreation fees after talks broke down earlier in the year.

While Vernon budget talks continue tomorrow, as of mid-morning, a proposed 7.85 per cent tax hike had been scaled back to 6.39 per cent due to the $1,456,949 in revenue the recreation agreement will bring in.

Coldstream will contribute $722,103 for 2024, RDNO Area B $369,547, and Area C $365,299, as their shares of the $4,247,665 Vernon Recreation Services budget.

Three budget scenarios remain on the table, but the tax hike implications have been lowered.

Under the highest of those (6.39 per cent), spending increases would include two new RCMP officers, four additional firefighters, and a financial analyst.

The second scenario would use reserve funds for the two new RCMP officers, for a tax increase of 5.49 per cent.

The third would use reserve funds for the officers as well as to cover a transit contract increase, resulting in a 5.11 per cent increase.

Meanwhile, the Active Living Centre debt obligation means taxes will increase by 3.5 per cent each year from 2025 onward until the new recreation facility is paid off.

Budget deliberations are still ongoing, which means the final taxation amount could still change.

Public input is happening at council chambers until 3 p.m. Monday, and a final budget meeting is slotted for Tuesday at 9 a.m., if needed.


Vernon couple wins shotgun wedding contest at O'Keefe Ranch

'Shotgun' wedding winners

It's a 'shotgun wedding' – but there's no angry dads anticipated at these nuptials.

Diane and Corey of Vernon have won the New Year's Eve Shotgun Wedding Extravaganza Contest at Historic O’Keefe Ranch.

Their wedding ceremony will start at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 30 at the ranch north of Vernon, in Spallumcheen.

And you are invited to be a wedding crasher at the New Year's party.

Tickets cost $80 per person and are on sale here.

Total value of the free wedding is estimated at $6,500.

The wedding includes venue, decor, wedding planner, rehearsal, marriage commissioner services, and a complimentary wedding party table for eight.

The couple also receives a wedding cake, DJ and dance, bouquet toss, late night Italian wedding slice and a Historic O’Keefe Ranch keepsake.

“Wedding crashers are all invited to take part in the wedding celebrations,” says wedding director Dee Cristante.

“Eat, drink, dance and be merry without getting arrested.”

Vernon football program takes home two provincial titles

Provincial champs - twice

Vernon VSS Panthers are provincial high school football champions – two times over.

Both the junior and senior Panthers won title games at the 2023 Football Championships at BC Place on Saturday.

The Junior Panthers walked away as AA junior varsity champions with a 61-22 victory over the Ballenas Whalers from Parksville-Qualicum.

The Senior Panthers beat out Nanaimo's Barsby Bulldogs in a close 23-22 victory to be named the AA provincial champions.

A post on the Vernon Panthers Football Facebook page says the senior team had its dynasty interrupted by COVID when the provincial playoffs were cancelled in 2020-21.

"This will otherwise be their third final in four eligible seasons and fourth in six eligible seasons dating back to 2016," said the post leading up to the championship game.

"The juniors will play in their third final since 2017 and second in a row.

Following the double win, this is the third senior title and the second junior title in program history.


Report to Armstrong council highlights high cost of road repairs

High cost of road repairs

It would cost the City of Armstrong a theoretical $5.5-$10.9 million to rehabilitate all of its road segments.

A report to council following a road condition assessment highlights the cost of rehabilitation.

“While this is an unreasonable expectation for service and funding, it highlights the asset value of the city’s road network,” says the report.

The city has 34,640 m of paved road, and overall, the city's road network is considered in fair condition. The report found roadways to be in the following conditions:

  • 15 per cent in excellent condition
  • 6 per cent in very good condition
  • 22 per cent in good condition
  • 30 per cent in fair condition
  • 19 per cent in poor condition
  • 8 per cent in very poor condition

The city’s previous road condition assessment was completed in 2011, the latest assessment was conducted in 2023 by the same company, Gentech Engineering.

New roads are typically designed for a 25 year life span and pavement will deteriorate over time until its condition becomes “unacceptable”.

Conditions deteriorate more rapidly when they hit a certain threshold, but if rehabilitation can be performed the pavement's service life can be prolonged.

The report to council shows that the worse the pavement condition the more expensive it becomes to rehabilitate the pavement. It highlights the importance of preventative maintenance and proper treatment to ensure cost-effectiveness.

“Preventive maintenance programs require long-term commitment, ongoing improvements, documentation and reported program benefits,” reads the report.

The assessment will be used to develop a pavement management strategy which will build upon the invention and condition assessment findings by setting preventive maintenance priorities and treatments.

The full report can be viewed here.

Failed rent to own agreement leaves Vernon family homeless for Christmas

Rent to own goes sour

A Vernon family says it has been left homeless after rent-to-own agreement went sour.

Tim Boruch says he entered into the deal in January 2021.

He paid $10,000 up front and continued to pay $545.61 a month towards the purchase – over and above the usual rent of $2,700.

"We were to take over all responsibilities of the home for the two-year term," says Boruch.

"The home has a basement suite. We managed the tenants and made it our home. We did considerable renovations worth over $12,000 knowing the house was to be ours at the end of the term."

Boruch says he completed the contract and by January 2023 had paid the property management company $23,094.63.

It was to be held in trust for a 5% downpayment upon purchase of the home. However, Boruch says the company has ceased contact.

After seeking a mortgage broker and "exercising our option to purchase" the day before the end of the contract, Boruch says that left 45 days to close the sale.

That's when things went sideways.

Boruch claims the company doesn't own the home and is not actually partners with an undisclosed party that does.

"He just has a similar contact with them as he had with us."

The homeowners claim in court documents that the partner did not exercise the option to purchase in time, voiding the contract.

Boruch believes the deal fell apart because the assessed value of the home grew more than anticipated in the agreement.

A five per cent year increase was calculated in, with a closing price of $461,892.38, but "because of the booming housing market over the two years of the contract, the value taken from the city assessment in 2023 was $632,000, which left $170,107.62 on the table in home equity above the contracted selling price," he says.

In March, the mortgage broker said the deal had fallen through.

A further $87,392 for a downpayment was suggested.

"We secured the extra money and had a new lender," says Boruch.

However the other parties' lawyer "never showed up" and they were told the owners "had no idea we wanted to purchase their home."

In April, the Boruchs launched a civil lawsuit and continued to pay rent.

In August, an eviction letter was posted on their front door stating that the contract partnership was being terminated immediately.

"Doesn't a tenant have to do something wrong to be evicted?" asks Boruch. "We had never been late on the rent or caused damage or anything. Furthermore, they continued to accept rent from us for months after the contract ended. We didn't think of ourselves as tenants, we made the home ours, we managed the downstairs tenants, and much more.

"From our point of view, at this point the home was supposed to be ours, and we were going to court to prove that."

The letter from Sandhill Properties states that it would no longer be the landlord as its tenancy agreement with the titled owners had ended.

"As a result, you are required to move out of 3501 24th Ave. immediately."

A counter claim was issued in October, claiming trespass and property damage.

"It must be the new garage door, or the new flower beds, or the professional tree work," says Boruch.

On Nov. 23, there was pounding at the door, and Boruch says two "extremely aggressive" men tried to force their way into the home.

"They were contracted bailiffs, and they stated we were being moved 'now'. There was also five men and a moving truck in our yard, as well as a locksmith."

Boruch says he pleaded for them to calm down as he explained the situation.

He called 911, and while police calmed the situation, they allowed the move-out to take place.

"This was happening while my crying wife and teenage daughter grabbed for priceless family artifacts and medicines," Boruch says of the traumatizing incident.

A writ of possession dated Nov. 20 on behalf of Jessi and Aaron Brown states the bailiffs "are commanded promptly to seize and sell at public auction or tender for the best price available sufficient of the goods and chattels of Sandhill Properties" at the address.

A Residential Tenancy Branch dispute resolution document dated Nov. 16 also orders Sandhill out.

Boruch says the court order for removal was between the owners and management company – "We are not named in this document."

He called it "one of the most disrespectful, brutal, hurtful, and unethical things I've ever experienced."

"As of today, we are a homeless family, without day-to-day belongings," he says of the family of four.

"We will be in survival mode for some time."

Meanwhile, the family is split between a relative's home and a hotel room.

Boruch says he's glad for support the family has in the community during the transition, but that "things are getting done."

Before it was Vernon's Towne Theatre, facility was The National Ballroom

Theatre had mezzanines

Did you know there used to be mezzanines in what is now the Towne Theatre?

Back when Vernon's historic theatre was The National Ballroom, it had mezzanines running the length of the ballroom.

The mezzanines were boarded over when the ballroom was renovated to a cinema in 1938.

“It appears that at some point, the one mezzanine area used to be a religious coffee house called 'The Ark,' and by the date on the materials found up there it would have been operational in the 1970s,” said a post on the Towne Theatre's Facebook page.

“The door that leads to the old mezzanine states it's a prayer room and there is a bible verse in the small entry way. It's not as grand as it once was, but nevertheless a cool space to discover.”

The theatre is hoping some local history buffs – or longtime residents – can help fill in some of the blanks of the theatres history.

“We would love to hear your stories about 'The Ark' if you have any,” the post said.

The history of the downtown theatre dates back to 1929 when it was a ballroom and the social hub of the growing North Okanagan community.

The venue struggled for many years and in 2020 the Okanagan Screen Arts Society (OSAS) took over operation of the facility.

Since then, the non-profit has upgraded the lobby, added a stage and brought in numerous live acts as well as movies.

The Towne also hosts a variety of social events.

It was also named the top Independent Theatre in Canada.

Group opposes planned wetland work in Armstrong

Strata opposes wetland work

The proposed wetland enhancement project in downtown Armstrong is being opposed by a nearby strata.

In a report submitted to council, residents of 2716 Wolfenden Terrace signed their name opposing the Armstrong Wetland Association Pond Enhancement Project on Okanagan Street.

A delegation from the Strata will present its concerns and complaints to council at Monday’s meeting.

Concerns outlined in the report include inefficiency project documentation, drowning, parking, odor, mosquitos and flooding.

The wetland project plans to create a small pond in the centre of the existing city-owned wetland. AWA president Jill de la Salle previously said the open pond will encourage other species to enjoy the wetland.

Native trees and bushes will be planted in the green space and a boardwalk, viewing platform and signage are also planned.

Work is expected to take several years and is estimated to cost about $50,000.

The Strata report to council shows 20 signatures opposing the project.

Armstrong market is seeking the owner of a lost wallet

Lost wallet, seeking owner

Is this your wallet?

The Armstrong Farmers' Market is asking for help from the public in finding the rightful owner of a wallet.

Marni Niles is a market organizer and says a brown leather wallet was found at the Christmas market.

"It looks to be a young man's wallet, and it's old, it looks like it's been handed down," said Niles.

Niles says the wallet is older and smaller, but has cash inside. She’s hoping to find the owner and get them their Christmas money back.

She’s asking for the rightful owner to be able to identify one of the business cards in the wallet. Anyone who believes the item to be theirs should message the Armstrong Farmers' Market on Facebook.

Niles will hold onto the wallet for a few more days, but if no owner is found she’ll be bringing it to the RCMP.

Fire at homeless camp doused north of Vernon, caused slippery roads

Slippery road after fire

Fire crews responded to a fire at a homeless encampment near Highway 97 and Stickle Road Saturday morning caused slippery conditions in the area.

BX-Swan Lake Fire Chief Bill Wacey confirmed crews responded to a fire alongside the overpass north of Vernon at a homeless encampment.

“We did spread some water that came out from the suppression actions, and so I did call for having AIM road maintenance people to come in and sand that area for us,” said Wacey.

Wacey said the fire was about the size of a couple tents, and an individual woke up to find his tent on fire. Crews were able to quickly douse the blaze.

“A lot of garbage and junk that burned up with it again, like we've experienced in the past,” said Wacey.

DriveBC put out an alert at about 6 a.m. cautioning drivers of extra slippery conditions in the area.

Vernon Community Arts Centre hosting biggest artisan show of the year

Artsolutely amazing

For anyone looking for unique Christmas gifts, look no further than the Vernon Community Arts Centre.

The 18th annual Artsolutely Artisan Market and Fundraiser is happening through Dec. 23 and it features thousands of works of art by local artists.

“There is a lot of stuff,” says Patricia Doyle, who has been involved with Artsolutely since day one.

“There is a lot of beautiful work. We've added a new gallery to the back hallway, we have some fine art back there that is just amazing.”

Sheri Kunzli, VCAC marketing and events co-ordinator, says this year's event is one of the largest ever, featuring 42 artists.

“It is our biggest fundraiser of the year and 20 per cent of all the sales go directly back into the arts centre,” Kunzli said.

Funds raised help support the numerous programs offered by the VCAC as well has helping to maintain the building in Polson Park.

“For getting new equipment and programming we rely a lot on grants but we can't get grants for everything so fundraising like this is a really important way for us to give back to the community and continue providing art education like the classes that we do,” said Kunzli.

For more information on the VCAC, visit their website.

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