Okanagan Falls resident happy to see large group of Bighorn sheep return after disease outbreak last fall

Bighorns butting heads

Contributed Ken Oszinski

A group of Bighorn Sheep came down from the mountainside into Heritage Hills near Okanagan Falls on Wednesday morning, taking time to butt heads and enjoy the grass peaking through the snow.

Ken Oszinski said he is often visited by wild animals in the area, since their residence is right at the edge near the hills.

"This is the biggest gang of these guys we've seen this year, in the past we've seen about 12 at a time so we were quite worried that we would lost a bunch with that illness that they have going out there," he said.

A dozen wild bighorn sheep were found dead near Grand Forks in August, after an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, also known as blue tongue, spread through the population.

Oszinski said it was nice to see them sheep return, and to catch them in action.

"They come right to the bedroom window where there's not so much snow and they dig around in there...To get it on video was pretty neat."

Have an interesting photo or video? Send it in to [email protected]


Penticton job site frustrated by ongoing theft and vandalism

Upset over porta-potty pyro

A porta-potty was set ablaze on Wednesday night on the construction site of Penticton Toyota’s new building, an area that has seen repeated theft and vandalism lately.

Scott Mayhew, the president of Scott Mayhew Contracting Ltd, who is working on the project, explained that this is the fifth time their porta-potty has been damaged in the past year.

“They have destroyed the porta-potty, they took batteries out of the excavator, broke the lock on a tool shed,” he explained. “For us, it's frustrating to see. We've come into work and they've torn up our porta-potty at night, they’ve ripped the whole lock mechanism off or they'll torch the door handle off.”

“We've had night security, we've had cameras, it doesn't matter. They'll still come in and they still try to bust down.”

Penticton fire crews responded to the incident, finding flames pouring out of the porta-potty, impinging on a small work trailer and cedar fence nearby, according to Fire Chief Larry Watkinson.

“I am glad this didn't spread to the neighbouring property,” Mayhew added.

Drug paraphernalia and needles are left behind in the evening, leaving the cost of cleaning up and repairing the damage in the hands of the companies.

“We've always had all kinds of issues with theft and vandalism,” Penticton Toyota dealer principal Larry Pidperyhora Sr. shared. “I used to have catalytic converters stolen, parts off trucks stolen...four or five trucks damaged in one night and it's a couple $1,000 a truck to repair them."

"And then last August thereabouts, we actually changed up and really beefed up our camera system.”

Since adding a live monitoring security system to the main property at Penticton Toyota, which has security tracking the live feed and an immediate connection to RCMP, the business hasn’t seen any issues.

“That was quite a big investment, but it's going to certainly pay for itself through money. I don't have to spend money every week repairing cars.”

There are plans on adding the same security system to the new building on 2475 Skaha Lake Road once it's completed in March.

But until then, there’s still the ongoing concern of repeated property crime.

This time the costs of replacing the porta-potty, replacing fence posts and panels, removal and re-patching the asphalt, will cost about $5,000, Mayhew shared.

“It's just not a cost that just doesn't ever factor that into jobs. But now it's like we almost have to.”

And the ongoing vandalism and theft has the business owners feeling like there’s no use in reporting it to the RCMP.

“Most of the stuff that happens now, I don't even call the RCMP anymore, to be honest,” Pidperyhora Sr said. “I think there's a lot more crime that's going on than what anyone knows about. I usually just like to report it for an FYI. But I'd be phoning two-three times a week.”

South Okanagan RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter urged how important it is to continue to report to the police.

“I understand that business owners and community members are upset about property crime and vandalism occurring in the community - the police are frustrated as well,” he said in a statement over email.

“While we may not be able to immediately attend to the call due to competing priority calls, it is important that we are made aware of all crimes in the community. There may be an opportunity to gather useful evidence at any given crime scene to solve the crime in question or link the crime to other similar crimes in the community.”

There’s also the option to make use of Online Crime Reporting tool with the Penticton RCMP.

“I also encourage businesses to contact our Community Policing Unit who can guide them through a Security Self-Assessment Tool. This tool will assist business owners with ensuring their businesses are set up in a manner to mitigate the opportunity for a crime to take place. Upon request, we also conduct onsite visits to go through the assessment process with the business owners.”

The Community Policing Unit can be reached through the detachment general phone number at 250-492-4300.

CFUZ Peach City Radio celebrating three years on air

3 years for Peach City Radio

A full day of live programming will be hitting the radio waves on Feb. 5 to celebrate CFUZ Peach City Radio's three years on the air at 92.9 FM.

Volunteers at the Penticton-based station will be showcasing their diverse schedule of locally created and curated radio programs on the Saturday.

During the event, Peach City Radio hosts will be asking listeners to make donations of any amount to keep 92.9 FM operating, which the not-for-profit society need to continue operating. Funds raised during the funding drive (dubbed ONAIRversary) will also help the Peach City Community Radio Society in maintaining annual station and technical costs.

"This funding drive format is a popular form of on-air fundraising for campus and community stations across the country," CFUZ shared in their news release.

Volunteers host the programs for the station, provide free broadcast skills-training to others, plan annual fundraising and manage the radio schedule.

Although CFUZ is celebrating three years on the FM dial, it has been a productive non-profit society since 2010 and running 24/7 online radio programming since 2014.

CFUZ serves up an alternative from the mainstream, giving listeners locally focused spoken-word content as well as a wide variety of music genres to explore. CFUZ supports local organizations, artists, writers, and businesses in an effort to promote local initiatives that benefit the whole community.

“The station is here to give radio access to the public. It’s a community tool that should be used to help share messages, ideas and culture,” Peach City Community Radio Society president Jackie Del Rizzo shared. “In particular, we are proud of the expanding list of musical genres that can be heard on the station from day to day.”

Styles ranging from psychedelic, heavy metal, synthwave, old country, folk, jazz and avant garde, classical, blues & bluegrass, acoustic, easy listening and rock will play throughout the week.

Special emphasis is made to introduce local and independent music and Canadian content in general.

Working to promote and showcase local musicians, this past year CFUZ hosted and produced 20 live virtual performances through the Caught in the Act Program, which was funded by a Community Radio Fund of Canada grant.

“The responses from local musicians and listeners were fantastic! Performers have suffered through a long dearth of gigs since early 2020. Caught in the Act provided a supportive performance space and a paid gig for the artists taking part, and many of those people were emotional after their performance on our live video stream” said music coordinator Melissa McWilliams.

Donations for the ONAIRversary can be made online at www.cfuz.ca, by phone at 236-422-0929 or in person at the CFUZ studio – 121-1475 Fairview Road, Penticton, outside the northeast corner of the Cannery Trade Centre.

A full list of programs and the weekly broadcast schedule can be found at www.cfuz.ca/programs. Direct any questions or comments to [email protected]


RDOS budget videos available online, estimated to be given final reading in March

Take a look at RDOS budget

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has been diving into the 2022 draft budget for electoral areas, municipalities and the Penticton Indian Band.

The first reading has been completed and video presentations have been posted on the RDOS YouTube channel, which can be found here.

Second readings are scheduled for the Feb. 17, 2022

The budget public engagement process will continue until Feb. 10, 2022. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, in-person presentations are not currently scheduled.

2022 marks the first year capital and operating expenses are divided into two separate budgets for the district. This step creates a baseline budget to ensure operating expenses are consistent.

The RDOS shared that their Manager of Finance, Jim Zaffino, introduced a recommendation to the Board that no capital projects are to be funded directly from taxes. In addition, non-market growth (additional new properties and improvements) increases the overall assessment role.

"This allows the Board to either reduce the tax requisition, increase services, or increase transfer to reserves," their press release states.

RDOS managers are now required to complete a detailed request form including information about why capital expenditures are required for 2022. RDOS staff are also required to produce up to a five-year capital plan with funding information.

The 2022 draft budget is subject to change prior to being adopted, which is scheduled for the beginning of March.

Copies of the financial statements or the annual budget can be obtained through contacting the finance department at [email protected]

SOS Volunteer Centre gets two new leaders at the helm

New leaders for volunteers

Contributed SOS Volunteer Centre

The South Okanagan Similkameen Volunteer Centre has some new leaders at the helm who are passionate about giving back to the community.

Subrina Monteith and Michael Magnusson have joined the team as executive director and general manager, respectively.

Monteith, who is also the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen director for Area I Kaleden/Apex, jumped at the chance when it arose.

"I have always been a community volunteer and strong advocate for volunteerism. With my Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen director position, I believe I can bring a regional approach to the Volunteer Centre as I understand rural communities needs,” said Monteith.

Volunteering goes way back for Monteith, who has spent her life in the area between Oliver and Penticton.

Her resume includes previously being vice-chair of Penticton Peach Fest and a sponsorship director of Peach Festival as well as many years as a Parent Advisory Committee Chair.

“I believe in giving back to a community and investing my time into making a community vibrant,” she said. “I see many growth opportunities for the organization (SOSVC) to expand programs and can’t wait to see how things develop over the coming years.”

For Magnusson, working with non-profits has also long been a passion. He feels the role of general manager will be a good fit because he loves the purpose behind the organization.

"When you really buy into a vision, the question isn’t if the position would be a good fit for me, but if I would be a good fit for the SOS Volunteer Centre," Magnusson said.

Over the years Magnusson has worked on developing strong financial controls, HR skills - including training and development, and most importantly, effective communication with individuals and groups.

“I am thrilled the board saw value in what I could bring,” he said.

Magnusson's goals include attracting more volunteer members and non-profit members to benefit in what the Volunteer Centre can provide as a volunteer hub for organizations, making it “a one-stop-shop.”

“I want people who are interested in volunteering to know that if they register with us, they will be provided with opportunities and training, and likewise for those looking for volunteers," Magnusson said.

The SOS Volunteer Centre is a registered non-profit society that has operated since 2011, providing resources and support services for volunteers, volunteer managers and volunteer-based community organizations.

Find out more about how to get involved, including entering their current 50/50 raffle raising funds for the organization, here.

Timeline of reopening for Summerland outpatient laboratory still undetermined

Lab reopening still uncertain

After low staffing levels caused Interior Health to temporarily close the Summerland Health Centre Outpatient Laboratory in November, the outlook for a timeline on reopening remains up in the air.

Summerland Mayor Toni Boot explained that she's been working alongside MLA Dan Ashton in talks with IH and the Ministry on what is happening for the centre.

“They did say that they're looking at a temporary site or perhaps even more than one site to accommodate people in the meantime,” Boot said, with a target date hoping to have the centre reopen by mid-February.

A petition was submitted to the District expressing concern regarding the closure in mid-December with signatures from 968 people, with over 600 being Summerland residents

“The concern and we've heard this from residents here as well, the concern that we expressed is, especially this time of year, it's hard for a lot of people to have the transportation to get from Summerland to Penticton Regional Hospital to attend the lab there,” Boot said, adding it's really a significant challenge for some people in the district.

IH explained in a statement to Castanet on Thursday that the temporary closure reduces unexpected service disruptions and appointment cancellations and helps to stabilize lab services at Penticton Regional Hospital.

“We are actively looking at ways to support clients who are not able to travel for appointments and will provide an update as soon as we have more information.”

IH did not confirm a timeline on reopening the lab or setting up temporary services in the district.

“Staffing shortages for lab professionals is not new – and remains a challenge both provincially and nationally. We are continuing to actively recruit new lab professionals across Interior Health, including in the Summerland area.”

Access for lab services remains at PRH by walk-in or appointment, or at three private clinics in Penticton or Peachland through Valley Medical Labs and Okanagan Clinical Labs.

RDOS offers condolences after residential school grave findings near Williams Lake

Condolences for the 93

The following story contain details some readers might find distressing.

After an announcement on Tuesday revealed the discovery of 93 potential graves of children buried around the site of a former residential school near Williams Lake, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen Board of Directors and staff, shared condolences with the Indigenous community.

“The discovery of the remains highlights the damaging and lasting impacts of the residential school system and its intergenerational impacts on Indigenous families and communities,” the RDOS wrote in their statement.

The former Residential School was operational from 1891 to 1981.

Chief Willie Sellars of the Williams Lake First Nation said Tuesday that only excavation would confirm the presence of human remains. So far, 14 of 470 hectares around the former school have been examined as part of a process to discover what happened to children who did not return home.

“This is another painful reminder of the trauma caused by the residential school system,” RDOS Chair Mark Pendergraft said in the release. “The RDOS extends its support to our Indigenous neighbours as they mourn and honour those lost.”

Support is available for anyone affected by residential schools. You can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour Indian Residential School Survivors Society crisis support line at 1-800-721-0066.

Prolific offender with 28 outstanding charges caught by Oliver RCMP granted bail

'Problem' criminal released

After the Oliver and Osoyoos RCMP apprehended an offender who had numerous warrants out for his arrest after compiling 28 charges in the past 10 months, a judge granted a release order in Penticton courts without financial obligation on Tuesday.

Oliver Sgt. Don Wrigglesworth stated that this male has been a 'huge problem in Oliver, Willowbrook and Keremeos' last week, after sharing that the officers and the people of the community would be 'much safer knowing that this criminal has finally been locked up.'

Arjen Jessy Alexander Huber, spent just nine days before his Jan. 25 court date, being released with conditions.

RCMP apprehended the property offender with a 'strong propensity toward violence', with charges including willfully resisting or obstructing a peace officer, possessing a firearm without a licence or registration, flight from police while operating a motor vehicle, uttering threats and possession of a controlled substance, among others.

Now that Huber is out on bail again, the sergeant noted that the RCMP in the South Okanagan will continue to monitor this individual to ensure that he is abiding by the court imposed conditions.

"If he is found in violation of his curfew or any other conditions the appropriate charges will be forwarded to Crown Counsel for their approval. Our officers are in regular communication with local Crown prosecutors and Probation officers regarding Arjen Huber and other chronic offenders in our community," he stated over email.

"It is important for our citizens to remain diligent in securing their valuables and property from thieves and to contact their local RCMP with information that will assist in our investigations."

Huber will be back before the court on Feb. 16 for an arraignment hearing.

Ministry of Transportation plans for more safety reviews along Hwy 97 in Kaleden

Hwy safety study continues

While the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure gave the green light to review options for a protected turning lane last week for the Highway 97 and Highway 3A intersection near Kaleden, their work on reviewing that stretch of roadway isn't through yet.

In a statement from MOTI, it was explained that Ministry staff will be doing a traffic analysis of Highway 97 in the Kaleden area, which is north of the 3A junction, in the summer to collect data on volumes and movements during peak traffic.

Subrina Monteith, area director for Kaleden, previously expressed that the section of road has not seen improvements in years.

Residents started a petition hoping to see changes, including the southbound fast lane changed into a left turn only lane along the stretch of highway. There are limited options to turn into Kaleden businesses heading southbound without going over a double yellow line.

"The traffic has been getting worse and worse over the years,” Heather King, the petition spokesperson previously told Castanet. “Particularly we’ve had a lot of trucks coming through that do not know how to drive this section of road. It's a narrow road. The speed is way too high and we've got people barreling along, coming north and south."

Last week, three major crashes snarled traffic along the highway.

The ministry will also be review the crash history for the area during their study.

"The information collected through this analysis will be used to generate options for future safety improvements to Highway 97 in the Kaleden area. That work is expected to happen this fall," MOTI shared.

The review work will be focused on generating different options for future improvements later this year before deciding what construction may follow.

Unsure of what's next, Twin Lakes water management left with uncertainty on how to best protect their area

Lake solution left in 'limbo'

Casey Richardson

Multiple questions remain for the best way to manage the Twin Lakes water system, after the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen turned down a proposal to take ownership of the water infrastructure last Thursday.

The Lower Nipit Improvement District (LNID), which manages the water levels in the upper and lower lakes, has been seeking help in upgrading their water system, due to recent years of flooding, including an especially devastating 2018.

LNID Chair Glenda Stewart-Smith said that the decision from the board was not unexpected.

“But we were disappointed, but also kind of frustrated as well. I think the problem for us, and for improvement districts throughout the province, is that we can't apply for grants. We're not able to do it, it has to be done through regional districts,” she shared.

“So some regional districts will work with their improvement districts and help them attain those grants.”

Stewart-Smith was further disappointed because the district staff put time and funding into investigating liability, a detailed legal review, an engineering and financial assessment.

“They've done so many studies and poured so much money into the studies, and they have the answers, not just for us, but for downstream. They've mapped all the floodplains, and they've got this information. So it's just, I'm not sure what they plan to do with it all. What was the purpose in having all of those things done, if they have no plan moving forward.”

Grants currently available from the government for flood mitigation would have covered two thirds of the cost of the project if awarded, Stewart-Smith explained, which is frustrating for the board since the limits imposed by the provincial government do not give them the option to access those funds on their own.

“That's the reason that we applied for conversion, because the only way to get RDOS to help us with this is for RDOS to take us on as a service area,” she added. “There's people who had serious, serious property damage and who want to make sure that doesn't happen again.”

Area director Subrina Monteith was the lone voice petitioning for the board to take over the system, sharing that she fully understands the challenges the residents face that live along Twin Lakes face.

“The LNID is currently operated by a few but mighty volunteers who are doing the best they can with the limited resources and without grants due to the Provincial Government limiting infrastructure grants to local government not improvement or irrigation districts. The community is now left without access to grants and a project that will cost millions of dollars,” Monteith said in a statement.

An assessment completed by Ecora Engineering Ltd. for the best infrastructure upgrades in Twin Lakes would also need to consider the impacts downstream identified in the Dobson/Pomeroy Twin Lakes and Park Rill Flood Mitigation Reports.

“There are a number of risks in the downstream Willowbrook and Park Rill areas to consider. Those studies indicate that any redress would be in the $10M - $15M range,” the report shared.

Even the recommendation of just fulfilling required updates to culverts to protect against flooding would cost $1.6 million, which RDOS staff estimated that translates to around $1,385 per year for each of 68 properties over 25 years with no grant funding.

While board members sympathized with the problems facing the small community, they felt the fix fell to the provincial government to step in.

“I completely sympathize with Director Monteith and I totally understand how the improvement district doesn't have the capacity. But I'm not convinced at all that we have the capacity either,” Doug Holmes, one of two RDOS directors for Summerland stated during the meeting.

“We need to get the province involved in this because it's an issue that's bigger than all of us. If we just take this on then it's on us and the province washes his hands from it and that's probably exactly what they want. But I think the only way you get the help where we're all working together, which is what everybody wants, is by turning this down and forcing the province's hand. That's the sad reality I see.”

Currently, one of the options for the LNID would be to keep with their status quo in using their power pump, with the money set aside for operation.

“So it is still functional, but there's talk of replacing the pump and so we have done that. We have been pumping, not every year but when necessary,” Stewart-Smith said. “We do need to get permission from emergency services to pump, we just can't pump willy nilly without permission.”

During the floods of 2017 and 2018, the LNID needed help from emergency services since the pump wasn't enough.

The LNID could also choose to raise the money somehow either through assessments, loans or grants.

“The fact is that the provincial government is not going to apply for those funds for us, either. So it still leaves us in limbo.”

Or the group could follow what a few RDOS directors suggested, for the LNID to dissolve.

“Dissolution has to be voted on by members, that's not something that the board can decide. We have to [vote] at our annual general meeting, just like the members had to vote for conversion as a possible path, that's something that members have to vote for. But they have to understand that that is like going into receivership. The province will have to look at the liabilities, the assets and what can be done.”

The LNID annual meeting won’t take place until May.

“That would mean that in the meantime, there's no guarantee anyone will take on the project and it would mean that there's no one there to turn on the pump if there's a flood.”

The board will move forward in weighing their options, including storing water up top in Nature’s Trust area dam, dredging the lakes, adding a referendum to members on conversion at $1350 annual fee and pushing for grant help for the community.

“We don't know yet where we want to go with this or where we can go with this,” Stewart-Smith explained.

Discussion will continue at the LNID Board Trustee meeting Thursday at 10 a.m. over Zoom.

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