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Local Okanagan BC Community Comments

Index for Kelowna BC

LAST UPDATE February 14, 2015

Click on your refresh button in the top menu, to be sure you see any updates.

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The left side of this section lists each subject with a form the community can fill out to comment on a subject, and on the right side of this section lists the subject with comments the community has made.

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Castanet.net poll Dec 14, 2010

Kelowna`s tax hike for next year is just under 2%. Is it reasonable to expect municipal tax increases every year?

Yes 265
No 634
Total votes: 899

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City of Kelowna owed over $500,000 it will never get, say staff
Kelowna Daily Courier - Sunday, 02 February 2014 - by Ron Seymour

Unpaid debts totalling more than half a million dollars could be written off Monday by the City of Kelowna.
City staff say there is no reasonable prospect of collecting on the debts - some of which date back several decades - and that it is a prudent accounting move to drop the accounts from the books.
Almost $400,000 of the debts relate to unpaid fees for various city services, while the rest is made up of never-paid property taxes.
"The periodic purging of delinquent, uncollectible general receivables is a fiscally responsible method to ensure an accurate position of the city's expected revenues," finance department official George King writes in a report to be considered at Monday's city council meeting.
Virtually all of the unpaid property taxes proposed to be written off are associated with a failed development on a portion of the Okanagan Indian band's reserve that's within the city's far northern boundary.
Under provincial law, property tax exemptions are granted for a property owner who has native status.
"As a result, staff are recommending that 10 properties totalling $94,889 be written off, as these properties were occupied by a person of native status and/or the company leasing the property went bankrupt or had no assets to collect on," King says.
Of the $390,000 in unpaid fees, about $30,000 of them relate to events before 1996. Since then, the annual amount of unpaid fees has averaged $20,000.
However, there was a dramatic spike in unpaid fees in 2009, the year after the onset of the recession, when the total jumped to more than $100,000.
About half of all the unpaid fees relate to real estate transactions, most of which are deemed to be uncollectible because those involved declared bankruptcy.
There are also $59,000 in uncollectible revenues associated with the Glenmore dump, many racked up by haulers that have gone out of business, and $67,000 that relate to the operation of Kelowna International Airport, some of which are unpaid landing fees owed by owners of private planes not based in Canada.

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FourChange.org is a non-profit, broad group of regular citizens who are concerned about the current direction of city council.

http://fourchange.org/

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City to get tough on noise
Castanet.net - by Wayne Moore - Story: 62905 - Jun 28, 2011

The City of Kelowna is finished listening about noise complaints - specifically loud motorcycles, boats and car stereos. Now they are going to act.

RCMP Superintendent, Bill McKinnon, told Councillors Monday current rules at the provincial level concerning excessive noise are woefully inadequate.

McKinnon points to a new bylaw in Edmonton as the answer.

"I am asking council to consider drafting a new bylaw similar to one put in place in Edmonton last August," says McKinnon.

"The Edmonton bylaw means police can issue a $250 fine to anyone with a motorcycle louder than 92 decibels at idle or 96 decibels when the engine is revving. The same would apply to boats and motorists with loud stereos."

The bylaw would also work for car stereos of parked vehicles as well.

McKinnon says the RCMP receives several complaints on a daily basis about excessive noise.

He says it's time a new, more effective, bylaw were put in place.

If such a bylaw were introduced, McKinnon says police would need to purchase decibel meters and train members on their use.

He says it would be worth the cost.

Councillor Robert Hobson, who lives on Okanagan Lake, says some boats are so loud that even when a boat is on the other side of the lake and his windows are closed it's hard to carry on a conversation.

"This is something that has been on the agenda for a long time and there has been some confusion as to how this could best be tackled," added Councillor Luke Stack.

"You're bringing forward a practical solution to give it a whirl and I'm very supportive of it."

Council voted unanimously to have staff draft an amendment to the current noise bylaw to include specific decibel reading and also report back on the effectiveness of the Edmonton bylaw.

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Is Kelowna 'Snoozeville'?
Castanet.net - Feb 20, 2011 - Story #60283

To the editor:

On Wednesday February 16, one of our staff on their day off received a warning from the City of Kelowna that they had broken a bylaw by parking on the same block twice in one day.

Their car was not parked all day on the same block, but rather on two separate occasions.

This person was doing business around 11am then left downtown completely. She returned at 3pm and parked on the same block (since that’s where the business she wanted to visit was) and much to her surprise received a warning telling her that she had broken a bylaw.

The meters are our only clues to the parking restrictions and they say there is a 2 hour maximum in the meter but this bylaw is not mentioned anywhere.

This bylaw is not shopper-friendly at all and does not support the downtown businesses.

I was curious why so many merchants were choosing to leave the downtown core, now I understand it. Why would shoppers want to support these businesses if they are going to get a ticket for doing so?

If the City of Kelowna is this desperate for revenue (with a property taxes already higher than many similar size Canadian cities) and this is how they want to generate it, the current Mayor and Council needs a shake up and some refocusing.

Instead of this type of petty money grab by the City they should work on changing the city into a fun place again by welcoming and encouraging festivals, gatherings and concerts downtown.

Wake Fest was awesome and is sorely missed. Festival goers and partiers spend money and inject revenue into downtown businesses. We should be encouraging these type of events rather than chasing them away.

Cancun, Munich, Fort Lauderdale, Leavenworth, Whistler and others don’t! They encourage fun seekers and so should we.

Many of our international students already think Kelowna is boring compared with similar sized or smaller cities around the world so let’s ramp things up and really make this into a world class fun destination instead of ‘snoozeville’.

Dale Lockhart

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Kelowna set to expand fire protection
Castanet.net - by Wayne Moore - Story: 60269 - Feb 20, 2011

The City of Kelowna's fire protection zone is set to get a little bigger.

City Council is expected to agree to enter into an agreement with the Regional District to expand both the June Springs and Lakeshore Road protection areas.

The Regional District board approved the arrangement February 11.

Fire departments are not allowed to fight house fires in areas outside of its fire protection area.

If the agreement goes through, the city would receive additional revenue of approximately $25,000 per year based on a levy rate not to exceed $1.35 per $1,000 of the assessed value of land and property improvements.

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Outdoor rink set for December opening
Castanet.net - by Wayne Moore - Story: 58341 - Nov 19, 2010

Get your ice skates ready - Kelowna's only public outdoor skating rink is scheduled to open next month.

The rink constructed at the new Stuart Park across from City Hall is expected to open in early December.

Park and Public Space Projects Manager, Andrew Gibbs, says they are scheduled to put the ice in during the first week of December with an opening date sometime around December 10.

It takes about a week to make the ice.

The forecast through much of next week calls for sub-zero temperatures, however, Gibbs says things aren't quite ready yet.

"This week we put the header boards in and we still have some mechanical and electrical work to do inside the Zamboni building. That won't be ready in time to make the ice next week," says Gibbs.

He says the plan all along was for the rink to have ice during the months of December and January and possibly longer if both weather and budget allow.

"Weather dependent and money dependent. Have to pay somebody to drive the Zamboni and stuff like that. There is an operating cost to it."

Gibbs says creating and maintaining outdoor ice is always weather dependent.

He says temperatures don't have to be at or below freezing, however, there is a threshold.

"Worst case is probably five above, but not for a long time. If we have a day that's five above it won't be a problem but it we get multiple days of five above it would be a problem."

You're reminded that the outdoor rink is a skating rink only.

Because the rink is not regulation size and there are no boards, hockey is prohibited.

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Changes to Noise Bylaw
AM1150 - Mon, 2010-07-26 - Local News

Fines for excessive noise in Kelowna are going up.

City Council gave the first three readings yesterday to a by-law that would increase the fine to a maximum of one thousand dollars.

Mayor Sharon Shepherd says the idea is to discourage people from hosting loud parties.

The by-law will come into effect once it receives final reading.

The move would bring Kelowna's by-law in-line with the noise by-law currently in place in West Kelowna.

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Mayor, councillors high risers
Kelowna Daily Courier - Ron Seymour - 2010-06-28

Salaries for Kelowna‘s mayor and councillors have risen twice as fast as the average British Columbian‘s earnings over the past decade.

The city‘s elected representatives have had a 50 per cent pay increase since 2000, while average wages across the province have risen 25 per cent.

"I think I get fairly paid for the work I do, in comparison to other communities of similar size," Mayor Sharon Shepherd said Sunday.

"Actually, if you looked at it on an hourly basis, I‘m probably down to a very minimum wage," she said.

Shepherd earned $87,422 last year, one-third of it tax-free. In 1999, then-mayor Walter Grey drew $59,038, also with one-third of it tax-free.

Since 1999, the pay for councillors has increased from $19,500 to just over $30,000. Again, one third of their salaries are also not subject to taxation.

In 2000, the average weekly wage in British Columbia was $639, according to Statistics Canada. By last year, that had increased to $800.

For the mayoral and councillor salary increases to outstrip those of average people by a two-to-one ratio is "way out of line", said Maureen Bader of the BC Taxpayer‘s Federation.

"It‘s wrong for them to be giving themselves these outrageous salary increases when they‘re helping to create an economic climate in which working people are seeing their incomes stagnate, or only rising very slowly," Bader said.

Recent practice in Kelowna has been for a three-person citizen committee to be created by council every three years to examine the pay for elected representatives.

The most recent adjustment was made in 2008, when a committee chaired by retired military officer Jack Dangerfield suggested pay increases for the mayor and councillors be linked to changes in the Consumer Price Index.

Council accepted those recommendations and received pay increases on Jan. 1 in 2009 and again this year. A similar salary review committee will likely be created before the 2011 civic election, Shepherd said.

"I think there has been a fair analysis done every few years on the salaries paid to mayor and council," said Shepherd, mayor since 2005. "Serving on council is a lot of hard work."

But she doesn‘t expect pay for herself or her councillors will change significantly as a result of the next salary review. "There would likely be a recommendation coming forward based on these economic conditions to not change the amount," Shepherd said.

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Mayor defends city payroll
Castanet.net - by Wayne Moore - Story: 55395 - Jun 25, 2010

Kelowna's mayor says its citizens are getting a good bang for their buck in terms of staff salaries.

Sharon Shepherd made the comments as City Council gets ready to accept the city's 2009 Annual Report on salaries and expenditures.

The report which will be tabled Monday shows staff salaries reached $54.1 million in 2009, an increase of 10% over 2008 staff salaries of $49.2 million.

"Our city has a staff of over 800," says Shepherd.

"Things have slowed down in the economy and we have had to hold the line on staff vacancies. We have been working with less people when times are tough."

Shepherd says the were no management salary increases in 2009 and there will be none in 2010.

She says several salaries went up in 2009 after increases were agreed to late in 2008.

The mayor adds that union negotiated contracts for firefighters and CUPE employees also increased significantly because of contracts negotiated several years ago.

The city is currently into negotiations with CUPE on a new contract. Negotiations with firefighters will begin after the CUPE deal is hammered out.

The city is obligated through the municipal act to publicly report all salaries over $75,000.

The number of staff earning $75,000 or more reached 209 in 2009, up from 153 the previous year.

That number includes 93 members of the Kelowna Fire Department.

"Any firefighter who works over four years will make over $75,000 and that's a fact," adds Shepherd.

"That was part of the collectively bargained agreement."

A portion of the salaries for Kelowna firefighters represents overtime as a result of wildfires in West Kelowna. Those monies will be reimbursed by the Provincial Emergency Program.

Once again, City Manager, Ron Mattiussi is at the top of the pay scale, earning $254,904 in 2009.

The rest of the top 10 salaries includes:

•Community Services General Manager John Vos - $189,232

•Strategic Initiatives Director David Graham - $188,726

•Corporate Sustainability General Manager Paul Macklem - $188,557

•Corporate Development Director Rick Baker - $163,023

•Community Sustainability General Manager Jim Patterson - $162,332

•Fire Chief Rene Blanleil - $139,933

•Airport Director Sam Samaddar - $138,111

•Human Resources Director Charlene Covington - $137,374

•Civic Operations Director Joe Creron - $133,562
"We are a major corporation and we manage millions of dollar every year. We require scrutiny and have high expectations from our citizens," says Shepherd.

"We have a new management structure which is working very well, we have good people and we have to pay those people well."

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Rumours surround fire chief’s exit
Kelowna Capital News - By Jennifer Smith - May 27, 2010

Rene Blanleil Photo

Former fire chief Rene Blanleil’s surprise departure from the City of Kelowna’s employ has lips at city hall sealed.

Neither the mayor nor the city manager returned phone calls for comment Thursday, choosing to defer public statements to human resources staff.

A news advisory that Blanleil would be leaving after just four years as fire chief was released to the public at the close of business Wednesday and the decision was initially referred to as mutual.

“It’s not performance related,” Charlene Covington, director of human resources, said in the immediate aftermath of the press release.

But by Thursday morning, Mayor Sharon Shepherd confirmed for a local morning radio show that Blanleil had received a severance package as a result of the decision, and messages on local blogs and other news sites indicated the chief had been ousted due to extreme malcontent within the department.

The city will not release how much money the chief, who earned $140,000 annually, will receive, although local lawyer Keri Grenier, who works in employment law with Doak Shirreff, said Kelowna taxpayers can expect to see a substantial dollar figure, should the information come to light.

“One month per year of service does not apply. That’s sort of a myth, if you will. To know what he’s entitled to you would have to look at the case law,” she said.

With an 18-year service record, including the four as chief, Grenier would expect the settlement would exceed a year’s worth of pay and possibly even two.

She cautioned, however, that the presence of a severance itself does not automatically indicate someone has been fired.

For some, a severance may simply be written into an employment contract as an automatic payout should employment end, she said.

Covington confirmed this is not the case with the City of Kelowna as the municipality does not enter into contracts with severance terms laid out.

The other options typically include either a decision where there’s a mutual benefit to the parties, such as an agreement that an organization needs someone new timed with a decision from the individual to move on or retire.

Or, in cases where an organization has decided to fire someone without cause, the severance can be used to stave off a wrongful dismal lawsuit.

The former chief himself has yet to comment on exactly what brought on this parting of ways beyond a couple of sentences in the city’s statements. He did not return messages from the Capital News.

Meanwhile, Covington confirmed an independent contractor has been hired to assess the state of the department’s administrative affairs.

The contractor, she said, was hired after Blanleil began talking with the city about his departure. The work is said to include a routine look at how the department’s business operation is being handled with an eye to how it should be handled moving forward.

Rumours have also surfaced stating Blanleil’s management has caused some firefighters to jump ship, including assistant chiefs.

Covington put a portion of the rumour mill to rest stating there is only one assistant chief position vacant at the moment.

Assistant fire chief Bryan Collier left the department this spring to take a position on the Westside, although to the best of Covington’s knowledge it was due to “personal reasons.”

Assistant chief Lou Wilde has been with the department since 1987 and in his current position since June 2003, she said.

Jason Brolund became an assistant chief in October 2008 after a four year stint with the department while Tom Doherty joined the department in 2006, accepting a position as assistant fire chief in May 2009.

Covington says the full severance details will not be released unless a Freedom of Information Request is filed, forcing the city into a legal review of the file.

Steve Kinsey has been appointed acting chief effective June 10. Kinsey retired from the Kelowna Fire Department in 2004 after 30 years of service, the last 14 as assistant chief.

The search for a new chief will be national and is expected to take four to six months.

jsmith "at" kelownacapnews.com

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No full-body scanners at Kelowna Airport
Kelowna Capital News - By Jennifer Smith - January 05, 2010

Kelowna International Airport is out of the loop as the new full-body scanners roll out across Canada.

Tuesday afternoon Transport Minister John Baird and Minister of State Rob Merrifield announced the federal government will implement the controversial devices in eight major airports across the country.

As Kelowna is ranked 10th for passenger volume, the news means the city will miss out on the first phase-in of the technology despite hosting the pilot project to test the equipment last year.

“It’s the top eight airports included, which they are Level I airports,” said Jenelle Turpin, airport communications. “ So they’re passenger level is 3.4 million; we’re at 1.4 million.”

Kelowna is ranked just behind Victoria in passenger volume; although, even the capital city of this province will not receive one of the scanners.

Turpin said the number of times security issues crop up in Kelowna is very minimal compared with the larger facilities, so the decision to awarded the upgrades to Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax makes sense.

News reports on the results of the pilot project, suggest local passengers may not be missing out on much more than another headache, anyway.

Although the official report on the pilot project was not be released, Access to Information Requests conducted by the Ottawa Sun reveal the new system has several drawbacks.

Some 95 per cent of passengers who used the millimetre wave scanner in Kelowna reported they preferred the scan option to a full-body pat down, but the scanner did not actually meet the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority’s expectations for either speed or effectiveness, the Sun reported.

“CATSA’s 60-page report shows the scanner took much more time to process travellers than a regular pat-down or metal detector and left blind spots over the head and feet,” the article states.

Efforts made by the Capital News to obtain the pilot project results from Transport Canada last week went unanswered, but passenger reports quoted in the Sun show, many of Kelowna’s passengers walked away feeling the scan violated basic privacy rights despite the fact they had to volunteer to participate in the scan under the pilot projects guidelines.

“I call it Airport Strip and the guy behind the screen could be a Peeping Tom,” one passenger is reported to have commented in follow-up surveying conducted as part of the project.

The machines use a millimetre wave to scan passengers, producing a black and white line-diagram of the body. The image will detect anything with a line to it, revealing hidden objects the person may be carrying on their body; but groups like the B.C. Civil Liberties Association have voiced concerns the image reveals too much of a person’s naked form, becoming an invasion of personal privacy.

On the other end of the spectrum, the minister’s statement suggests the government believes it is responding appropriately to the level of threat which exists following the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day.

“Given the recent terrorist incident on December 25, our government is accelerating its actions to protect air travellers,” Baird said. “The new full body scanners are the next generation of technology and balance safety and security with safeguards to privacy. They will allow for additional flexibility and enhancement to the security screening process.”

The technology is in use in a dozen countries around the world at airports, border crossings, in prisons, courthouses, military checkpoints and commercial applications, information included with the minister’s statements to media said.

jsmith "at" kelownacapnews.com

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Rate hike for city electrical users
By Jennifer Smith - Kelowna Capital News - Published: January 27, 2009

Utility rates are on the rise for Kelowna electricity customers.

Kelowna city council approved a rate increase of 4.6 per cent for all residential, municipal, school and commercial customers under the city’s electrical utility on Monday.

“The city’s cost for purchasing bulk power has increased,” says Cindy McNeely, City of Kelowna infrastructure operations.

“The city supplier, FortisBC is seeing an increased demand for electricity and is investing in capital upgrades to ensure long-term reliable power for all customers,” she said.

With the increase, an average residential customer using approximately 730 kilowatt hours of electricity per month will see an increase of about $2.89 monthly.

Charges for new connections, upgrades and relocations will increase to $725 for overhead service, $750 for underground connections from the service box and $1675 for underground service from the pole. All residential service greater than 200 amps will be considered commercial and will pay 100 per cent of the actual cost.

The rate increase follows a similar increase by FortisBC approved by British Columbia Utilities Commission in December 2008.

The city’s electrical utility boundary extends from Okanagan Lake north to Poplar Point Drive and Glenmeadows Road, east to Golfview Road and south along Highway 97 to Gordon Drive and K.L.O. Road.

The new rates take effect with the first billing cycle in March 2009.

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Covenant fight cost city $75,000
Kelowna Daily Courier - by J.P. SQUIRE - 2009-01-15

The city‘s legal battle against the Simpson covenant cost taxpayers more than $75,000.

In a news release Wednesday, city officials revealed the legal fees between 2004 and 2008 include $36,800 in court costs and $10,240 to appeal a B.C. Supreme Court decision. The appeal was abandoned in October.

The balance, about $18,000, was spent on obtaining ongoing legal advice from city solicitor Barry Williamson or having him attend some of the dozens of meetings over five years between Sharron Simpson, lawyer Tom Smithwick, city staff and city council members.

The city paid an additional $10,275 in costs to the Save the Heritage Simpson Covenant Society after losing a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit filed by the society to retain the covenant.

According to the news release, “council decided to release the costs as there will be no appeal and the court-awarded costs have been paid to the society.”

However, when The Daily Courier sought the release of the legal costs in late October, the newspaper was told to file a Freedom of Information request with city clerk Stephen Fleming.

The Nov. 3 request was denied by the city on Dec. 15 on the basis that legal costs are a matter of solicitor-client privilege. The Daily Courier then wrote directly to council members asking for the release while considering an appeal to the provincial Information and Privacy Commissioner.

“There was a lot of public interest in knowing (the legal costs). It had to come as a council decision. Council analyzed it and nobody had an issue with it being released,” said Mayor Sharon Shepherd.

“It is unfortunate whenever things have to go to court to try and be resolved.”

Council has accepted the reasons for judgment and is now focusing on the construction of Stuart Park between Queensway and Kelowna Yacht Club, she said.

“The City Hall block will be planned through a comprehensive public consultation process recognizing the charitable trust conditions (covenant).”

The rezoning of Stuart Park in 2007 and the creation of a future Civic Centre zone will help to ensure the goal of preserving public ownership and access to the City Hall site and to Okanagan Lake from City Park to Knox Mountain Park is achieved, she said.

“I‘m just glad it‘s over,” said Smithwick, a former alderman who donated his time to the society.

“I, too, am glad it‘s over,” said Simpson. “But I wish it was a figure that better represented the true costs of this. And that would have been to include the staff time that had been spent over the five-year period in discussing it.”

“The time costs over the five years have been considerable,” added Smithwick.

Stanley Simpson sold two parcels of land between the lake and Ellis Street containing his Kelowna Sawmill to the city in 1946 on the condition that the 12-acre properties not be sold, used for commercial or industrial purposes and be retained for public benefit.

The $55,000 price was essentially cleanup costs after the sawmill burned down, argued Sharron Simpson, his granddaughter.

However, the city got a legal opinion that the covenant was never properly registered and was not enforceable.

The city quietly got a Yukon company, the legal successor to Kelowna Sawmill, to discharge the covenant while discussions were underway with Sharron Simpson

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Call it Westbank
From Kelowna Capital News March 02, 2008

To the editor:

One often wonders how the editor of this newspaper chooses to publish stories and editorials submitted by writers.

Some lengthy articles are forever appearing with little interest pertaining to a name change for the new municipality across the lake.

Most of those persons do not realize that low and behold should a name change take place that would result in costs to hundreds of citizens to change their respective addresses and, especially costly to businesses to print new letter heads, business cards, etc.

As suggested before by numerous persons, leave the name we have known for years and are familiar with—namely, Westbank.

Peter Anutooshkin,

Westside

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