Shuswap regional round-up for 2016

A look at what went on from Chase to Sicamous between January and June.

  • Jan. 1, 2017 5:00 p.m.
A spectacular sunset at the wharf in Salmon Arm.

A spectacular sunset at the wharf in Salmon Arm.

January

• Dec. 25, 2015 is a date one Scotch Creek family will never forget.

Their waterfront property on Webb Road was destroyed in a fire that was estimated to be a $2.3 million loss. Kenn Mount, regional fire chief with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, said the alarm was raised at 6:02 p.m. Christmas Day.

When Scotch Creek Fire Chief Art Stoll arrived on scene soon after, a chimney fire had already expanded into the attic.

“He arrived on scene to find heavy black smoke along the roof ridge line and he allowed the occupants to retrieve what they could,” sais Mount, noting flames were clearly visible within three minutes. “He (Stoll) set up an interior attack crew of two firefighters but within five minutes the roof line started to sag and the firefighters were called out.”

Mount said Stoll told him 78,000 gallons of water and 50 gallons of firefighting foam were used to quell the blaze.

• Poor weather has kept emergency crews busy with a number of collisions in the area. Salmon Arm RCMP have responded to seven motor vehicle collisions since Jan. 4.

At 6:20 p.m. on Jan. 4, a semi truck rolled over on the Trans-Canada Highway near 60th Ave NE and, within minutes of police and emergency crew arrival, a second semi truck jackknifed into the ditch blocking part of the highway.

• The assessed value of Shuswap residential properties was on the rise, owed in part to strong sales activity and, in some cases, limited inventory.

Most British Columbians had received their annual property assessments last week from BC Assessment. In general, property values across the province are up by an average of 11 per cent, with the Lower Mainland seeing some of the highest increases, in some cases as high as 28 per cent.

• Columbia Shuswap Regional District Fire Chief Kenn Mount keeps meticulous records – statistics that show the workload for the 13 firehalls from the North Shuswap to Golden continues to increase. Firehalls across the CSRD responded to 337 call-outs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2015.

“It was a record year for CSRD Fire Services, the highest call volume since I’ve been keeping stats, since 2012,” said Mount. “I started tracking closely on a daily basis to determine trends, costs to justify needs and growth in departments, and 2015 was the busiest.”

• For the second time in a week, volunteer members of Shuswap Search and Rescue (SAR) were out in the cold all night instead of in their beds.

SAR search manager John Schut says the report of two missing sledders in the Sicamous backcountry near Owl Head was received at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26.

• At the Columbia Shuswap Regional District December 2015 board meeting, approval was given to fund the development of a new Parks Master Plan for Area C from gas tax funds.

A draft request for a proposal has been prepared for review by members of the Area C Parks Commission, who will be intimately involved in this planning process through 2016.

 

February

• RCMP continue to investigate a crash that led to the death of a motorcyclist.

The motorcyclist died Saturday, Feb. 6 on the Trans-Canada Highway near Chase after his vehicle crossed the centreline into the path of an oncoming transport truck.

• After weeding out a host of options, School District #83 trustees agreed to consider a number of changes to its schools. The proposed changes were in response to budget pressures on the school district in light of decreasing enrolment and dwindling funding from the Ministry of Education.

The following week, trustees voted to consider the closure of two elementary schools in the region before the start of school in September.

As it was last year, Silver Creek Elementary was again being considered for a shutdown, with its students being amalgamated with those at Salmon Arm West. There is sufficient capacity at Salmon Arm West for all the students, with about 20 student spaces still left over.

• For Junior Hockey in Chase, the brain trust of the Heat, led by Brad Fox, has developed an on- and off-ice program that inspires the players to achieve success.

• The Arts Council for the South Shuswap has been awarded $9,700 by the BC Arts Council to put towards a community engagement piece in their new home.

Shuswap artists Melissa Nasby and Lynn Erin will spearhead “A Journey Begins,” a project that will become a permanent installation in the Arts Council space on the lower level of Carlin Hall, which was recently renovated.

• In local rivers, the numbers told a tragic story. The return of late-run Adams River sockeye in 2015 was only six per cent of its cycle average. And spawning success for the Adams River sockeye population was just under 66 per cent, the third lowest on record, reported Keri Benner, program head of Fraser Sockeye Stock Assessment at Fisheries and Oceans Canada in Kamloops.

This is the second year in a row Adams/Shuswap sockeye had far fewer spawners than what were expected pre-season and, more importantly, what the Pacific Salmon Commission estimated in-season. Only 9,700 sockeye returned to the Adams/Shuswap area (and only 3,183 females spawned).

• Shuswap Hospital Foundation director of development Fiona Harris was happy to make a trip to the Sorrento Health Centre in mid-February.

“The foundation was honoured to have received a donation of $10,000 from the late Frank Barnard,” says Harris. “This donation was specifically requested to be used to assist the Sorrento & Area Community Health Centre.”

The funds will assist in completing the second stage of the renovation to its exam rooms.

• Chase RCMP called out Shuswap Search & Rescue on Saturday night, Feb. 20, to assist the Crowfoot Snowmobile Club with a missing snowmobiler in their area. The man had been separated from his friends for more than 10 hours before he was located by members of the Crowfoot sled club.

• The new School District #83 education support centre cost taxpayers a total of $9.3 million. A final total was produced by secretary-treasurer Nicole Bittante, who noted the final bill was higher than original estimates due to increases in professional fees, changes and unexpected site-related issues. It is located on Shuswap Street adjacent to the Downtown Activity centre.

• A Salmon Arm student received some unexpected drama when police caught him carrying a prop sword for a school performance. On Tuesday morning, Feb. 16, Salmon Arm RCMP received two reports of a suspicious occurrence. Staff Sgt. Scott West said two individuals reported seeing a male on Okanagan Avenue carrying something suspicious beneath a camouflage cover.

• When it comes to the Trans-Canada Highway, the City of Salmon Arm and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District are on the same page. Appearing as Mayor Nancy Cooper’s alternate at the regional district board meeting last Thursday, Coun. Kevin Flynn said the mayor had requested a regional letter be sent to Ottawa asking that funding for TCH improvements be included in the 2016 federal budget.

 

March

• An avalanche had taken the life of a yet another snowmobiler – the second in one week. Chase RCMP  confirmed a 38-year-old male sledder from Celista died as a result of an avalanche in the Crowfoot Mountain recreational area on Sunday, March 13.

• The latest provincial budget contained more than $200 million in spending over the next three years on four-laning the Trans-Canada Highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border.

Twinning six kilometres of highway through western Salmon Arm was in the planning and design phase. No cost estimate was available.

• The North Shuswap Health Care Society posted a $5,000 cash reward to anyone from the public who could provide them with information that leads to the relocation of a doctor to work in the Scotch Creek clinic.The board, comprised of 10 community directors, decided to offer the reward last year, putting $1,000 on the table.

“Last year we offered that $1,000 for information that leads to the capture of a doctor for our community and we ended up with six or eight leads,” says Jay Simpson, society vice-president. “None of them panned out, but it was the best response we’d had so far, so we thought let’s up the ante.”

• There won’t be any school closures in the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District for 2016. Trustees took the unexpected step of voting to extend the consultation period for the proposed closure of Silver Creek Elementary and Armstrong Elementary by one year until April 2017.

A majority of trustees said they did not think they had adequate information to make the decision on closing the elementary schools by April 26, which was the target date if the schools were going to be closed by September 2016.

• The search for an overdue snowmobiler on Owl’s Head came to an end, with police confirming the missing man was killed in an avalanche.

• A Blind Bay man was honoured for putting the life of another before his own.

On Dec. 19, 2012, Donald St. Pierre was one of six people who attempted to rescue 58-year-old Salmon Arm resident Elly Collins from her vehicle, a Jeep TJ, after she lost control along Highway 97 and veered into Wood Lake near Kelowna.

Canada’s Governor General David Johnston presented St. Pierre with a Medal of Bravery at a ceremony  held Friday, March 4 in Vancouver.

• Volunteers stepping away from maintaining the foreshore trail could result in new costs to the city.

Salmon Arm municipal council received a letter from Salmon Arm Bay Nature Enhancement Society president Janet Aitken, informing the city that longtime SABNES volunteers Mike and Pam Saul would no longer be maintaining the trail outhouse or emptying garbage cans. Aitken says the Saul’s made this decision in light of the decision by city council to allow dogs on the trail.

• It had to end at some point, and it did at a record-achieving home game.

In Series 2, Doug Birks Division Championship Game 6, the Heat ran out of healthy players and dropped a 2-1 series-ending game to the 100 Mile House Wranglers.

After beating the Kamloops Storm in five games in Series 1, the Chase squad left it all on the ice in a losing effort in six games to the Wranglers.

• A planned $1.6 million renovation to Carlin Elementary-Middle School was scheduled to begin immediately, despite concerns it may leave the school district without funds available to renovate Eagle River Secondary.

Trustees voted to proceed with building renovations that will create a learning commons area, as well as make needed repairs.

• SASCU Indoor Memorial Arena has been closed indefinitely due to exposed asbestos.

The complete closure of the building took place March 22 after Interior Health reviewed the situation with the executive of the Salmon Arm and Shuswap Lake Agricultural Association, who own and operate the facility. The association is also commonly known as the fall fair association.

Following consultation with Interior Health, the indoor arena building was closed to public access and all the user groups, including spring break soccer camps, had to be re-located.

 

April

• Increasing concerns with previous budgeting practices of School District #83 and the need for the school district to trim its upcoming budget by $1.1 million spurred parents to action.

The District Parents Advisory Council (DPAC) hosted a meeting to address local education priorities on Thursday, April 7 at Ranchero Elementary School.

• A student pilot surprised his rescuers by walking away from a plane crash on Mount Ida on the night of Friday, April 1.

The Kelowna student was doing his night rating in a rented aircraft, said Shuswap Search and Rescue (SAR) search manager John Schut, who noted that shortly after takeoff from Salmon Arm Airport, the Cessna 152 went down into heavily treed, rocky terrain.

• Despite Armstrong trustee Kelly Rowe’s suggestion for a mass resignation, the School District #83 board instead voted in favour of a motion to apply to the Ministry of Education to have a special advisor appointed, “to undertake a review and provide recommendations in a report with respect to the board’s current governance practices.”

• Members of the North Okanagan Shuswap Teachers’ Association walked out of an employee group budget meeting in protest and the group president will no longer be participating in the school district’s budget process.

“Given what’s happened in this district in regard to its budget, we have lost confidence in these processes to effect change,” said Brenda O’Dell, president of NOSTA, referencing the public calls for the board to resign over the transfer of $10.5 million in the past five years from the operational budget into the capital fund.

• Liz Watson, a lawyer and government and corporate consultant, had been appointed as the special advisor to the board of School District #83.

• School District #83 Secretary-Treasurer Nicole Bittante threw the board a life preserver during the April 27 budget meeting and trustees breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Two budget options were reviewed at the meeting, both of which included reducing a planned transfer of money to the local capital fund. This would balance the budget with few reductions to student programs or services.

• In his report to constituents, Area C director Paul Demenok said he was very pleased to see that development of a regional economic strategy had been included in the 2016 Columbia Shuswap Regional District budget. A component of this strategic plan will be to develop tactics to help stimulate the economies within the Shuswap electoral areas.

• On March 28, after a lengthy investigation, Chase RCMP executed a search warrant on a residence in the 500 block of First Avenue. Seized from the residence were illegal loaded firearms, firearm parts, and improperly stored ammunition. As a result of the investigation, Joshua Timothy Reese, age 33, was indicted on three firearms charges.

 

May

• The 10,000 hectare wildfire burning through Fort McMurray, Alta. had prompted the evacuation of the entire city, including some former Shuswap residents who were forced to flee from the flames.

Robynn Scutt, who grew up in the Salmon Arm area, recounted a stressful night trying to evacuate the city, when the Market News reached her by phone Wednesday. Scutt and her fiancé Nathan Clack attempted to leave their neighbourhood in the Timberlea area, on the north end of Fort McMurray, at approximately 7 p.m. Tuesday night but did not get out of the city until about midnight.

“The smoke was so thick you couldn’t see more than a few vehicles ahead of us,” Scutt said.

• Police officers were called to Silver Creek Friday for reports of shots and explosions.

When police arrived they discovered some people had been shooting at Tannerite targets in the gravel pit. These targets explode when impacted by a bullet.

• A former Salmon Arm couple who were convicted of assaulting their 14-year-old daughter by spanking her with a skipping rope and mini hockey stick in 2015, were issued a conditional discharge in provincial court in Salmon Arm.

The couple had been found guilty of assault following a February 2015 incident in which the father found nude photos his daughter had sent to her boyfriend via the mobile app Snapchat.

The couple were to serve 12 months of probation and, if they adhere to all provisions of the probation will have no criminal record.

• The father of Ashley Simpson, who had been missing since April 28, confirmed RCMP were treating her disappearance as a possible homicide.

John Simpson told the Market News police informed family members of the change in the status of the investigation on Monday, May 16.

“Now that the police have gone down that route, it’s tough,” he said from his home in St. Catharines, Ont. “But we are not giving up. There still is a glimmer of hope, even if some of the threads have broken a bit.”

• Shuswap emergency personnel converged on the Waterway Houseboats site at Two Mile in Sicamous on Saturday, May 14, to attend a fire on the docks and a motor-vehicle incident involving a hazardous material spill into Mara Lake.

Arranged through the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s Shuswap Emergency Program, in collaboration with Waterway and the District of Sicamous, this training exercise brought together crews from several CSRD fire departments, BC Ambulance, the Eagle Valley Rescue Society, Sicamous and Salmon Arm RCMP, Shuswap Emergency Support Services, Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, Shuswap and Vernon Search and Rescue members, the Ministry of Environment, CSRD and District of Sicamous staff, Waterway Houseboats staff and others.

• A B.C. Supreme Court judge upheld the convictions of a man who recklessly drove his speedboat into a houseboat in July 2010, killing the houseboat’s driver, despite the fact it took nearly five years for the charges to get to trial.

Leon Reinbrecht’s lawyers argued his convictions should be tossed due to delay, but B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sheri Donegan dismissed that application on Wednesday.

It’s responsible for fully one-quarter of the municipal tax increase and there’s nothing the city could do about it.

• Policing costs will increase by about $6,400 per member in the 2017/18 policing budget for a per-member cost to $159,321.60. Budget projections indicate that by 2021, the cost per member will be $184,969.70.

• One young man died and another was injured following a single-vehicle rollover on Blind Bay Road early Friday, May 6. The BC Coroner’s office identified the victim as Brody Lane Richard Southwell, 19, of Blind Bay.

• Three years after a murder-suicide took place at an Anglemont residence, a report from the BC Coroner’s service has established the identity of the victim. Tracy Lynn Nichol, 45, of Anglemont was found dead April 30, 2013 in a home on Greenwich Close Road, along with the body of her 15-year-old stepson.

 

June

• R.F. Birnie and Associate’s Dan Bella gave City of Salmon Arm councillors an update on the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Trans-Canada Highway four-laning program.

Bella said the proposed schedules will depend on the outcome of efforts to get a cost-sharing agreement with the federal government and archeological impact assessments. He said it would be at least 2020 before the final phase of the project moves ahead.

The Salmon Arm West portion includes six kilometres of four-laning, frontage roads, a four-lane bridge and interchange and intersection improvements.

• A man, alleged to have hidden in a wooded area and killed a romantic rival at a staged meeting while he was a high school student in 2008, likely fired an additional fatal shot directly to the back of the victim’s head while standing over his body, a jury was  told.

The 24-year-old man was standing trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops on one count of first-degree murder in relation to the Nov. 21, 2008, death of Tyler Myers, 22, in a Salmon Arm schoolyard.

Also charged was a 25-year-old woman whose trial date had not yet been set.

Because both were under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged incident, neither could be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

• The entire North Okanagan-Shuswap school board was relieved of their duties and replaced by a single official trustee, who will exclusively manage the school district for at least one year.

Former Surrey School District superintendent Mike McKay was appointed by education minister Mike Bernier to replace the board.

The dismissal followed the release of special adviser Liz Watson’s report into the governance of the board in the wake of a financial scandal where more than $10 million was transferred from the school district’s operating fund to pay for the costs of the new $9 million school district administration building.

At the same time, the board was cutting educational programs and considering school closures, citing a lack of operational funds.

• The new Columbia Shuswap Regional District Mt. Tuam Community Bike Park opened in Blind Bay.

The pocket park, funded and built by CSRD Parks in collaboration with the Shuswap Trail Alliance, is a good play spot for novice mountain bikers to practise riding on trails with a short easy green loop and a slightly more challenging but still short blue loop, plus a trail to get you back to the start to try again.

• A controversial development in the North Shuswap had come under scrutiny from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board over their failure to post a rezoning notice on the property and their plan for sewage disposal.

The Gateway Lakeview Resort, which has been a contentious issue in the area for years, has had several other land-use and rezoning issues ruled on by the CSRD in the past.