Kelowna aims to find ‘meaningful work’ for employees, avoid layoffs

  • Basran
    The City of Kelowna hopes to avoid laying off any full-time employees during the coronavirus pandemic and will instead try to find meaningful work for them. Mayor Colin Basran gave an update Monday on the city’s response to COVID-19 outbreak.

    Cost-cutting at Kelowna City Hall triggered by the novel coronavirus pandemic isn’t currently expected to include the layoff of any full-time employees.

    “At this point in time we’re doing our best to keep everyone employed with meaningful work and not to have layoffs,” city manager Doug Gilchrist said Monday.

    “However, if this persists and there are cost-cutting measures needed, we may have to take a further look as part of being fiscally responsible,” he said.

    For now, the city is determined to reduce expenses wherever it can and is already taking a number of steps to do so, Mayor Colin Basran said.

    “Our immediate focus is on costs reductions considering revenue is projected to decrease,” he said.

    Examples of steps already taken, he said, include:

    — a hiring freeze, except for critical positions, that will affect 90 job vacancies

    — reviewing millions of dollars worth of capital projects to see which ones might be delayed

    — curtailing expansion at the airport in recognition of a dramatic fall-off in passenger numbers

    — reducing base budgets for city departments with cuts in spending for consulting, purchasing and contract services, materials and supplies.

    City council has given preliminary approval to a municipal tax hike of 4.1%, but final approval is not necessary until April 27.

    As a result of cost-cutting measures, Basran said he expected the final budget would be different than the one given provisional approval. But he said it was too soon to suggest what the final taxation demand would prove to be.

    “We’ve given our directions to staff (to cut costs), and we’ll wait for staff to come and report back to council in regards to things that can be cut or put on hold,” Basran said.

    Since rules against public gatherings and the requirement to maintain physical distancing came into effect earlier this month, the city has seen no change to its overall crime rate, Gilchrist said.

    “I think at this point the stats that we’ve seen have indicated normal activity,” he said.

    The province has appealed for people and businesses to donate whatever personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, they might have to health authorities for use by front-line workers.

    Lance Kayfish, the city’s risk manager, said the municipality would provide what it could in response to the call.

    “We are looking at our inventories to see what supplies we might have to help the health-care workers overcome any supply shortages they might have,” Kayfish said.

    Although the city, like other municipalities, has closed many municipal buildings and recreation complexes, a closure of parks is not currently under consideration.

    “We haven’t found a need to close parks,” Kayfish said. “Right now, the instructions from the provincial health officer is for people to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, but just observe those social and physical distancing rules.”

Hiking and Biking around Osoyoos

Hiking the hills around Osoyoos is a major pastime for locals and visitors alike. Around Osoyoos, for example, you’ll find a terrain that varies from easy strolls along the shoreline and along the Okanagan River to more strenuous climbs on nearby Mount Kobau where you’ll find yourself atop a rampart that separates two ancient river valleys.

It’s worth the hike to find yourself among wildflowers that bloom on the slopes between the sage and pine, looking down on orchards, vineyards, wetlands, and grasslands. And at night, stargazers are in their element. Drive up the mountain, set up your telescope (if you have one) and be dazzled by the brilliance of the stars.

Several trails throughout the area provide interpretive signage or guided tours with opportunities for bird watching and wildlife watching, with panoramic views. And, if you’re a birder, bring your binoculars for seeing some of the 300 species found throughout the Okanagan – two-thirds of which breed in our area. The best hot spot to viewing is at South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area around Kilpoola and Blue Lakes, the Osoyoos Oxbows wetlands and the Golden Mile Trail north of Osoyoos. Among the species, depending on which habitat you’re at, are great blue herons, woodpeckers, raptors, warblers, white tailed ptarmigan and the boreal chickadee.

Cyclists come to us for high road, back road, off road, mountain and BMX biking adventures. Many top-end athletes come to us for endurance biking, which you’ll find in several locations. One of the most popular – and difficult – is the road up Anarchist Mountain, a straight up the mountain test that puts the heart rate up and muscles straining. Once you get to the top, you’ll have one of the most spectacular views in the entire region.

More gentle cycle tours can be found on Black Sage Road and the International Hike and Bike Trail. Take the Black Sage Road, north of Osoyoos, and pass dozens of small and large wineries including Desert Hills Estate, Burrowing Owl, Black Hills Estate and Church and State Winery, among others. Stop in at one or two, have lunch and experience this exceptional industry. The 18 km (10mi) and generally flat International Hike and Bike Trail borders the Okanagan River Channel and like the Black Sage Road route, passes wineries and fruit stands.

Walkways & Trails

Walkways

Pioneer Walkway & Cottonwood Park
The first of these two public lake shore parks is along Main Street, the second on Cottonwood Drive. Beautiful gardens change with the seasons. Easy short strolls with benches, picnic tables, public washrooms. Wheelchair accessible.

Lakeshore Drive Pathway
This paved pathway starts at the public beach access where the road makes a sharp left turn, then runs parallel to the roadway and next to the waterfront. This is an easy familiy biking route for those staying in RV campgrounds along Lakeshore Drive.

Irrigation Canal Walkway
This popular 12 kilometer round trip trail is accessed on 62nd Avenue just north of Osoyoos Secondary School. Parking is available around the corner adjacent to the trail sign. The walkway can also be accessed from the Visitor Centre parking lot. This trail follows an abandoned section of the irrigation canal, once the lifeline of Osoyoos that opened up the area for the fruit industry. Flat with hard surfaces, ideal for easy strolls and strollers.

Trails

Swiws Wetlands Trail
Located within Swiws (formerly Haynes Point) Provincial Park, this easy 1.5 kilometer gravel trail is designed for bird watchers and other nature lovers. Pathways, a spotting tower, boardwalks and interpretive signs will heighten appreciation for this precious wetlands area.

International Bike and Hike Trail
Located at the north end of Osoyoos Lake and running parallel to the Okanagan River channel, this 18.4 kilometer trail is perfect for biking between wineries, fruit stands and farms. The parking lot is accessed on Road 22 off Highway 97, eight kilometers north of Osoyoos.

Osoyoos Lake Oxbows
Recently restored, the oxbows at the north end of Osoyoos Lake are ideal for watching both migratory and resident birds. Access at the same parking area as for the International Hiking and Biking Trail but head south instead of north. Located next to and as part of the Haynes Lease Ecological Reserve.

Mount Kobau Trail Network
The five kilometer Testalinden Trail has oustanding views of the Similkameen and Okanagan Valleys. Access via Highway 3 approximately 11 kilometers west of Osoyoos, then 11 kilometers along the gravel/dirt access road (not suitable for low clearance vehicles) which takes you within one kilometer of Mt. Kobau’s summit. Follow the trail to the forestry lookout for a great view of the valleys and mountains.

Unmarked Trails
Please note that the Kruger Ridge and Strawberry Creek trails are unmarked.  Please see the map above for locations.

Conveyancing in the Time of COVID-19 – So Far

Over the past week, both the Law Society of BC (which regulates lawyers) and the Land Title and Survey Authority (LTSA) have published information about land transfer processes. Bottom line: so far, an in-person meeting with a lawyer or notary is still required.

The Land Title Act requires buyers and sellers to appear before an officer to execute the documents. There are a couple of options to accommodate social distancing:

  1. The LTSA will accept an affidavit of execution (written statement sworn under oath) – speak with a lawyer to learn more about how to make that happen.
  2. The witness and the party to the transaction can sign identical copies of the same document at the same time to allow them to avoid having to handle the same physical pages when meeting.

At this time, remote or videoconference witnessing isn’t allowed. BCREA is in contact with the legal community and other stakeholders to look for options that provide more flexibility.

Temperatures in Kelowna to hit double digits by the weekend

Sunshine in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)

Kelowna is expected to hit a high 13 degrees on Friday, April 3

While the province of British Columbia has essentially shut down, apart from essential services in an effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, many can feel deflated, bored or even depressed.

Fortunately, there is some good news to smile about.

Kelowna is heating up and there is no better excuse than to get outside and get some fresh air, while of course practicing social distancing.

According to Environment Canada, Kelowna is expected to hit highs of 9 degrees throughout the week and 13 degrees by the weekend.

Sure, today’s forecast could be better, but here’s a look at the rest of the week.

New tax planned for West Kelowna’s water treatment plant

Mayor Gord Milsom
West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom, shown here in a file photo, and the rest of council will hear Tuesday that a parcel tax of $150 should be introduced to help pay for the city’s new water treatment plant.

Thousands of West Kelowna residents face a new $150 annual property tax to help pay for the city’s water treatment plant.

The charge should be added to regular property taxes beginning in 2023, city administrator Paul Gipps says.

It will apply mainly to property owners in the Lakeview Heights, West Kelowna Estates and Shannon Lake neighbourhoods, as well as the city’s industrial area.

In addition to the new property tax surcharge, formally called a parcel tax, the city has already approved a plan to significantly increase water usage rates. They will have risen from about $400 a year for the typical household in 2017 to almost $1,000 by next year.

In a report going to council Tuesday, Gipps also advises that the coronavirus pandemic will change the way the city communicates to residents about construction of the new water treatment plant.

“Due to the COVID-19 social distancing requirements, the non-statutory communications and engagement for the Rose Valley water treatment plant will change,” Gipps says.

“This means staff are looking at using more digital tools to inform and seek input from our community instead of holding public meetings, open houses and events,” he says.

However, Gipps also says firms that provide internet support are “extremely busy” trying to expand their clients’ network capacity.

“(So) it may take a bit of time to increase our digital engagement platforms to accommodate more virtual engagement in the weeks and months ahead,” he says.

“Although our community can expect that changing our services will take some time, daily information and engagement remain through our existing channels,” he says.

These include the city’s main telephone line, 778-787-1000, as well as its website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

In 2017, the city received federal and provincial grants totalling $41 million for the new water treatment plant. The city’s share of the project, to be completed by spring 2022, was originally estimated to be $12.5 million.

The first of two major tenders associated with the project has been awarded, and Gipps’ report says it was for an amount lower than anticipated by city officials. However, he does not indicate the amount of the tender.

West Kelowna, Peachland businesses reduce hours, services while others close completely

Closed till further notice
The Westside HomeSense store is closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

West Kelowna, the Central Okanagan regional district, Peachland and the Central Okanagan School District have closed playgrounds.

West Kelowna’s sports fields, tennis and pickle ball courts also remain closed until further notice; however parks and trails remain open with reminders to use social distancing.

Peachland is also asking the public not to use public benches, picnic tables and other hardscape surfaces.

Two Eagles Golf Course is closed to the public.

Shannon Lake Golf Course is closed until further notice.

The COIVD-19 pandemic is causing more stores to close as people are urged to stay at home.

EB Games Canada has closed its stores; however, people can order online at EBGames.ca.

Winners, HomeSense and Mark’s have closed.

Home Depot remains open with reduced hours, now closing at 6 p.m.

London Drugs stores will be open only to seniors and people with disabilities from 8 to 9 a.m. Monday to Friday and will closed weekdays at 9 p.m.

For now, it will be regular store hours on the weekends. London Drugs has set up a dedicated resource to help seniors on a one-on-one basis. Caregivers and family members can email SupportSeniors@LondonDrugs.com if they know of a family member who might be isolated and in desperate need of any essential items or medications.

Value Village retail locations are closed until April 6.

Home Hardware in West Kelowna has introduced no-touch shopping. Customers can order online at homehardware.ca and drive to the store when contacted. Call the store from the parking lot and staff will place the items in their trunk.

The Westside Canadian Tire store is open with reduced hours, now 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the auto centre is closed.

Byland’s Garden Centre has closed to the public until the end of March, but will be processing orders by phone or email which can be picked up outside the store.

TD Bank has closed some branches during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the branch at 501 – 2330 Highway 97 is open with limited hours — Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed Sunday.

Residents who missed getting an Okanagan Regional Library card to access materials online before branches closed can register for a ecard at orl.bc.ca/using-the-library/E-card-station. New member signup only.

Personal service establishments such as barbershops, nail estheticians, health spas and tattoo shops are closed by order of the provincial health officer.

Dr. Bonnie Henry also ordered restaurants to close to dine-in guests and move to take-out and delivery service only.

The order has seen some restaurants close entirely, including Wings West Kelowna, the Lost Horn Mediterranean Grill, Blu Saffron Bistro, 19 Okanagan Grill at Two Eagles Golf Course and Courses at Shannon Lake Golf Course

Other restaurants have adapted to pickup and delivery.

Kelly O’Bryan’s is offering discounts for curbside pick-up or delivery noon to 8 p.m People can also add singles of beer ,coolers and ciders to their order.

Il Mercato Social Kitchen offers takeout and delivery from 4 to 8 p.m. and can also deliver wine with orders.

Bamboo Chopsticks, Kojo Sushi, Original Joe’s, Everest Indian and Nepalese Restaurant, Ginza Sushi, Sammy J’s Grill and Bar, West Sakura Teriyaki, Mr. Mozzarella Pizza and Wings and Murray’s Pizza offer pickup and delivery.

Pizzamoreh offers a drive-thru pickup window for takeout or delivery on dispatchninja.com. People can also order alcoholic beverages with their meal.

Bliss Bakery has closed its Peachland and Carrington locations, but its kitchen on Stevens Road remains open for take-out, including bread and desserts, frozen soups and entrees

According to the Peachland Chamber of Commerce, Ship’s Ahoy , Dragon Lotus, A & W and Subway offer take out. Peachland Sushi , Basil Leaf and Murray’s Pizza offer take-out and delivery. All other Peachland restaurants are closed.

COVID-19: Who’s still open for business in Penticton?

Numerous Penticton businesses have been forced to close their doors due to the COVID-19 crisis, making it increasingly difficult to know where to go. This is a running list of businesses that remain open. (File photo)

Your guide to restaurants that remain open in Penticton in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis

As people adapt to social distancing and businesses in Penticton shut their doors or alter the way they operate due the global COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly difficult to know what is still open and in what capacity.

Many restaurants and bars have closed for the foreseeable future, however a handful of others have stayed open for either take-out or delivery.

The following list is a compilation of restaurants and establishments in Penticton that remain open in some form despite the coronavirus crisis:

  • Villa Rosa Ristorante open for delivery and take-out
  • Upper Bench Winery open with regular hours
  • Time Winery open with altered hours
  • Tim Hortons open for take-out only
  • Ashoka Indian Cuisine open for take-out and delivery
  • Bad Tattoo Brewing open for delivery
  • Blenz Coffee open for take-out only
  • Brodo Kitchen open with altered hours for take-out and delivery
  • Cannery Brewing open for take-out only
  • Kojo Sushi open for take-out and delivery
  • Mykonos Pizza open for take-out and delivery
  • Poplar Grove Winery open with altered hours for take-out and delivery
  • Salty’s Beach House open for take-out and delivery
  • Salvation Army Food Bank open with regular hours
  • Shades on Main open for take-out only
  • Singletree Winery open with regular hours
  • Skaha Pizza open for take-out and delivery
  • Slackwater Brewing open for take-out only
  • Corleone’s Pizzaeria open with altered hours for take-out and delivery

All fast-food establishments in Penticton also remain open at this time, however dine-in service is not available.

All grocery stores remain open, with some offering special hours for seniors. London Drugs remains open and is dedicating an hour of opening time each day to healthcare workers.

Canadian Tire remains open.

Rona remains open.

Shoppers Drug Mart remains open.

All gas stations remain open.

Government liquor stores remain open.

As for medications, all Penticton pharmacies remain open with most offering a free delivery service. If you’re not sure if your pharmacy delivers, you are encouraged to call.

This list was comprised using data from the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce. The Western News recognizes that information is subject to change, and there may be other businesses who are continuing to serve the community and are not included in this list. If you wish to have your business added to an updated version of this list please email editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Okanagan writers support local charities with Virtual Reading Series

Okanagan-based writers will be giving virtual readings of their work during the COVID-19 pandemic with proceeds going to non-profits in the Okanagan. (Contributed)

Look out movie streaming sites, Read Local Okanagan is set to bring talented and local writers directly into Okanagan homes with its new virtual reading series.

Eleven artists will host interactive reading experiences starting March 31 which hope to supply new ways of reading and experiencing art during the COVID-19 pandemic.“Readings, and art in general, can be such a balm during tough times,” said Real Local Okanagan founder Natalie Appleton.“So we thought hosting a literary reading series online would be a way we could help uplift and connect our community in the only way we can right now. We’re so excited about the lineup of writers and the chance to support arts organizations that support us as writers.”

The webinar-type series will allow viewers an interactive way to communicate with the writers with questions, comments and reviews.Registration to all four dates, which includes 11 speakers reading and reviewing their work, is $10 with portions of the proceeds to be donated to various Okanagan non-profits including Kelowna Friends of the Library, Caetani Cultural Centre and others.

The series has a different theme each date and starts March 31 with the ‘survival’ theme and writers Alix Hawley, Shelly Wood, and Francie Greenslade. The three other dates are April 2, 7 and 9.

For registration and more detail, visit the website.

Parking meters plugged until May 30

 

Free parking
The city couldn’t give away free parking Wednesday in downtown Penticton.

In a bid to boost downtown businesses, the City of Penticton will be offering free parking through May 30.

The change applies only to metered spaces on streets, not lots, and time limits are still in effect.

“This decision supports shorter visits to businesses and access to essential services in our downtown through this difficult period,” Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki said in a press release.

“It also recognizes the current reduction in parking activity overall and the reduced requirement to empty meters, thereby allowing our bylaw officers to respond to more pressing needs across our community.”

Lynn Allin, president of the Downtown Penticton Association, is quoted in the release describing the move as a “first and timely step towards supporting those businesses that are currently operating during this challenging time.”

What you need to know about the Quarantine Act as isolation becomes mandatory for returning travellers

What you need to know about the Quarantine Act

Canada is making unprecedented use of the federal Quarantine Act in a bid to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The order, which went into effect early Wednesday, hours before it was announced, means all travellers returning to Canada are now legally required to go into self-isolation for 14 days rather than simply urged to do so. Here’s a closer look at the legislation:

Has Canada always had a Quarantine Act?

According to the federal government, a piece of legislation bearing the same name went into effect shortly after confederation in 1872, but was left largely unchanged for more than a century. After the deadly SARS outbreak of 2003, however, the government acted on a recommendation to beef up the legislation.

The act as we know it today received royal ascent in 2005.

What’s allowed under act?

The legislation gives the federal health minister sweeping powers to stop the spread of communicable diseases either in or out of Canada. Those measures include everything from routine screenings conducted by quarantine officers at airports to the sort of mandatory isolation orders issued on Wednesday.

“The Quarantine Act is always active. It’s being used all the time,” says Steven Hoffman, director of the Global Strategy Lab and a global health law professor at York University. “It’s just not always used in a very public way.”

The Act was invoked earlier this year when travellers returning to Canada from Wuhan, China and other global hotspots for the novel coronavirus were detained for two weeks at an eastern-Ontario military base. But Hoffman says the latest orders, issued by Health Minister Patty Hajdu, take the government into uncharted territory.

“We’ve never, ever seen a quarantine order this broad or affecting so many people at once in Canada,” he said. “

Why is the government taking this step?

Hajdu said the measure was necessary to send a message about the importance of limiting the spread of COVID-19,, which has sickened more than 3,000 Canadians and killed at least 30. The order comes after women in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador were arrested for violating provincial orders requiring to stay at home after travel abroad.

“People are not understanding that this 14 days is absolutely essential to protect the health of their fellow Canadians,” she said. “… So there is perfect clarity around the need to isolate when Canadians come back from abroad whether it’s from the USA or other international destinations we are implementing the Quarantine Act so there is no confusion about the need to do so whether you are symptomatic or not.”

Does the government have any obligations under the act?

The legislation gives the government a fair bit of latitude to do whatever they feel is necessary to stop the spread of a disease that could pose a public health risk, Hoffman says.

“They’re not in prison,” he says of the people under quarantine. “The government, under the act, is supposed to take steps to make it as least intrusive as possible, but what exactly that means, there is some discretion.”

Hajdu says returning travellers will be barred from taking public transit or placing vulnerable people at risk, but says the government will assist with transportation and accommodation arrangements as needed.

How will the new orders be enforced?

That’s the big question for Hoffman, who says the new edict will need to be implemented consistently across the country in order to ensure it does not run afoul of the Constitution. Hoffman says that while quarantine officers at the border have enforcement powers, local public health and law enforcement officials may be enlisted as the order takes effect. Health Canada did not immediately respond to request for comment, but Hajdu has said details about enforcement will be released before the order kicks in.

What happens if someone violates the Quarantine Act?

Hoffman says the legislation contains a wide range of penalties for those flouting the law. Someone violating direct instructions and potentially placing the public at risk of a communicable disease, he says, can face a fine of up to $1 million and as many as three years in prison.

Is the government within its rights to take this step?

Hoffman anticipates the new use of the Act will be challenged in court eventually, but says Ottawa is likely on solid legal ground.

He said the Act requires Hajdu to follow a “reasonableness requirement” and be able to demonstrate that the affected travellers pose a genuine risk to the public. The overtaxed health-care system and rapidly growing number of cases, he said, may well meet that threshold.

Additionally, Hoffman said the new measures likely fall within the bounds of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by containing a fixed, relatively short time limit and playing out against the backdrop of an unprecedented global crisis.

“It’s in a context of a constrained public health system that really needs everyone to comply,” he said. “Maybe it would pass that legal test. We’re going to find out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2020.

Source: Government of Canada, The Canadian Press