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 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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2020.