Outdoor drinking at plazas

Outdoor drinking at plazas

Residents will soon have four new outdoor locations in Vancouver to enjoy a beer or glass of wine.

Vancouver council has approved a pilot project allowing alcohol consumption in four city plazas.

The project is slated to begin August 10 and continue until mid-October.

The plazas include three in the downtown core and one in the city’s Cambie Village neighbourhood.

A report on the proposal says city staff worked to resolve concerns raised by police and health officials who were opposed to the project.

The report says concerns included “enabling public intoxication and supporting public gatherings during the COVID pandemic,” and staff will monitor the project and make adjustments as required.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart released a social media message following the vote approving the outdoor drinking plazas.

“Here’s to helping people safely distance while enjoying a drink outside,” Stewart wrote on Twitter, adding “enjoy responsibly.”

Park Board commissioners in Vancouver voted Monday in favour of allowing alcohol consumption in 22 parks around the city but the project likely won’t begin until next year.

The delay is due to a board request that the provincial government update the Liquor Control and Licensing Act to recognize the board as a governing body under specific sections of the legislation.

It’s expected that the legislature will not have time to immediately deal with the request, delaying the sale of beer, cider or coolers in certain city parks until 2021.

The cities of Port Coquitlam and North Vancouver voted earlier this year to allow liquor consumption in several parks, but their pilot programs started immediately and didn’t need provincial approval.

LIBRARIES REOPEN DOORS

Okanagan Regional Library branches reopen for browsing

The Okanagan Regional Library has reopened most of its branches.

People can now browse the library’s collection and self-checkout books, DVDs, and other materials, the library says.

Staff are closely following recommendations from the public health authority and WorkSafe BC.

Safety measures include:

  • Risk assessments have been completed by each library to determine mitigation strategies to minimize risks where possible.
  • Signage to advise on safety protocols for staff and public.
  • Public computers in the libraries have been moved to ensure physical distancing.
  • Acrylic barriers have been installed at the desks.
  • Hand sanitizing stations have been set up in each branch for patron use as they enter the buildings.
  • Books are to be returned at the external book return areas only and will be quarantined for 72 hours.
  • All libraries have set occupancy limits. These limits are posted at the library entrance.
  • Visitors to the library are encouraged to wear a mask.

Meeting rooms, meeting spaces, study rooms, public seating, and other gathering areas in the library will remain closed to the public, however.

“While our curbside delivery service which has been running since early June has proven to be very popular (over the first couple of weeks we checked in over 75,000 physical items and re-loaned almost 80,000 new ones), we know that the public is anxious to enter library space once again, browse for their favourite materials, and use our computers to access the web and other needed online services. We ask that visitors follow the outlined process and rules so that everybody stays healthy and safe,” says CEO Don Nettleton.

Customers are encouraged to select materials quickly, check them out using the self-checkouts if possible, and leave to allow others to enter. Online programming – including the ever-popular children’s summer reading club – will continue.

The Okanagan Regional Library serves over 400,000 residents through 31 branches from Golden to Osoyoos.

MOSQUITO TEAMS BACK AT IT

The Regional District of Central Okanagan is reminding residents that a second round of curbside mosquito control treatment will be hitting the streets next week.

The catch basin mosquito control will be administered in many neighbourhoods starting August 3 through until August 7.

The regional district mosquito control crews will be wearing high visibility vests as they drive around on scooters or vehicles with signage. The crew will be dropping water soluble pouches into the catch basins which contain environmentally approved mosquito larvicide.

As part of the program approximately 11,000 catch basins will be treated.

Nuisance mosquito control services is provided by the RDCO in the City of Kelowna, District of Lake Country, District of Peachland, the Sunset Ranch community in the Central Okanagan East Electoral Area and a small section of West Kelowna Estates in the City of West Kelowna.

SALMONELLA SCARE HITS HOME

Forty-three cases of salmonella have been reported in British Columbia since mid-June, and health officials have traced the outbreak to red onions imported from the United States.

Thursday night, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency put out a notice advising of a recall of red onions imported through Sysco Food Service into Western Canada, including Kelowna.

Sysco is one of the major food suppliers to restaurants across Canada.

“Consumers should not consume the recalled products described below or foods containing these raw red onions,” the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a press release.

“Food service establishments, institutions, retailers, distributors and manufacturers should not serve, use, or sell the recalled products described below.”

The impacted products include 10 and 25 pound bags of jumbo red onions from the Imperial Fresh brand, that have been imported back to May 24.

The BC Centre for Disease Control says B.C. is currently one of five provinces experiencing an ongoing salmonella outbreak, and the recall also applies to Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan. The cause of the outbreaks have only just recently been identified.

“Retailers and restaurants in these locations are also advised not to use, sell or serve red onions imported from the U.S.,” the BC CDC says, adding that red onions grown in Canada are not impacted by the outbreak.

Salmonella infection can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps that develop six to 72 hours after exposure and usually lasts four to seven days.

“Most people recover without treatment,” the BC CDC says. “Children under five years of age and adults over 65 years of age, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.”

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the recalls are taking place at Sysco locations in Kelowna, Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Regina, but more importers may be affected in the future after further investigation.

LONG WEEKEND FIRE WARNING

Record-pushing heat in the Okanagan over the long weekend has Penticton’s fire chief urging locals and visitors alike to be smart, lest they inadvertently spark a wildfire.

Currently, campfires are still allowed in the Kamloops Fire Centre, which encompasses the Okanagan Valley, although in the City of Penticton a fire permit is required.

“If you are going to have a fire in your backyard you need to have a registered fire pit and you can do that at City Hall or the Penticton Fire Department,” fire chief Larry Watkinson said.

Other concerns include the extreme temperatures hitting the region, with both heat and wind.

“With those two things combined it creates very dry indices for wildfire conditions in the Okanagan Valley, and right now we’re seeing upwards of high to extreme fire danger ratings in the South Okanagan. In particular in Penticton, we’re at a high to extreme condition. What we’re seeing is the rate of spread of a fire develops very rapidly,” Watkinson explained.

His department is addressing that through updated staffing and response protocols, and working closely with the BC Wildfire Service.

“We’re not staffing up but we are changing our response protocols,” Watkinson said. “Right now the protocol is, we will respond to any smoke that is in or around the area, and then we will transfer authority to the particular agency that has authority for that area.”

Thankfully, it’s been so far, so good this week as temperatures have risen.

“We haven’t had [any major incidents] locally. So that’s good for us. I think the awareness, people understanding the conditions out there is certainly helping but as we have visitors and guests to our community, that awareness is not the same,” Watkinson said.

“Let’s be fire smart. If you’re going to be camping in the wild country, a non-registered campground, just be sure you put your campfires out securely. Be responsible, let’s keep them to a small size that is enjoyable, and make sure that if you go to sleep, your fire’s out completely and if you leave it unattended you need to make sure it’s cold to the touch.”

Council ‘united’ after racism

Photo: Colin Dacre

Summerland council has reiterated that it is “united” against racism in the community and committed to the ongoing fight following a tumultuous few weeks.

The community saw startling racist graffiti on July 13 followed by the discovery that confederate flag bandanas were being sold at a local dollar store, which Mayor Toni Boot collected and destroyed. The store owner demanded a public apology, which Boot refused to do at a Monday council meeting.

In a united statement issued Wednesday from the mayor and six councillors, they reiterated an earlier decision to look into ways that Summerland can “start a community conversation on racism.”

“These will be difficult conversations. We must acknowledge our differences. We must listen. We must learn. We must move forward together. We must continue to build a strong community — one that is healthy, inclusive and welcoming to all. One that we can be proud to call home,” the statement reads.

Council has directed staff to come up with options for that community conversation space, and for funding earmarked by the Lekhi family, who were the original racism victims, for such a community project.

Teachers pan school plan

The head of the BC Teachers’ Federation is not a fan of the province’s plan to send students and teachers back to the classroom Sept. 8.

BCTF president Teri Mooring says the plan unveiled by Education Minister Rob Fleming and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry Wednesday needs more time, and a lot more work if it is going to keep everyone safe.

While acknowledging a lot of “excellent work” has gone into the plan, and the importance of returning students to the classroom, the announcement “misses the mark on several critical components, and should go back to the working groups who helped develop it.

“This plan is still a work in progress, and there is a lot of room for improvement,” Mooring said in a statement following the provincial announcement.

“I am confident that, with more authentic consultation and collaboration, we can get to a much better place.

“The reopening needs to be safe, careful, and get the buy-in of teachers, support staff, parents and students. If the plan is rushed, or too many questions are left unanswered, it won’t be successful.”

Some of the areas the BCTF ask government to address include:

  • Authentic consultation and collaboration at the local level between school districts and local unions.
  • Health and safety measures in place and tested before staff return to the school site and before students return to class.
  • Time in September for teachers to plan, prepare, and undertake the necessary in-service training and health and safety orientations to enable equitable learning conditions and safe workplaces.
  • Smaller classes to ensure all of the children, youth, and adults that share our school spaces can adhere to the physical distancing protocols we have all been asked to maintain during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • More clarity around the proposed “cohort model” and how that will keep teachers safe while ensuring students still get their full education.

Mooring says both teachers and support staff will need time in September to make adjustments to the new structure, make sure the safety protocols work and prepare resources and lessons necessary to meet the new reality.

In response, Fleming says the BCTF has been a critical part of the restart steering committee, and values their contributions.

He says he understands, and is OK with the fact some “are not quite there yet,” when it comes to the plan outlined Wednesday.

“We had a lot of discussions and similar concerns when we went to Stage 3 of the restart plan,” said Fleming.

“We will get there. She has my commitment that we will continue to collaborate with her organization.

“Professional teachers are vital to make sure these health and safety protocols are effective to keeping her members safe, to keeping students safe, but also to make sure we can move back to in call instruction so that kids can resume their learning careers successfully.”

After roughly four years, the rural community of Willowbrook has had a boil water notice lifted

After years stuck under a boil water notice, citizens of Willowbrook in rural Oliver can now drink their water freely.

On Wednesday, the area’s regional director Rick Knodel was thrilled to do the honours of officially lifting the notice, which he noted had been in place for about four years, at a small meetup at the well pump station.

He had introduced the project to the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen and had worked hard to get grant funding so the cost of upgrading to a chlorine contact system didn’t fall on the shoulders of his constituents.

“They’ve taken kind of a bit of a pounding with the RDOS taking [the water system] over, we have to operate to a higher level than the private owner did in the past,” Knodel said.

“I was fortunate enough to get good advice from our financial officer and our engineering staff and I was able to do this through gas tax grants, so it’s taken some of the load off residents.”

The residents have already struggled with the inconvenience of the boil water notice for years, and this upgrade would have added about $150 per year to local water bills over a course of 20 years had the grants not been acquired.

“Those are substantial increases to people on fixed incomes, and that’s a good portion of this neighbourhood,” he said.

Plus, he pointed out, boil water notices around the neighbourhood are not exactly attractive for people looking to buy in the community.

“It lowers the property value, a lot of these people are getting older and trying to sell their properties,” Knodel explained.

The chlorine contact system is just the first step in a longer road to getting the well system up to RDOS standards, but at least those notice signs can come down. And for Knodel on a personal note, it’s a major victory as an elected official serving his community.

“It’s nice to have your name attached to one good thing that actually comes to completion, and this is a biggie for me. They needed a little help and I’m glad to have been part of it.”

Toxic spill health emergency

An Osoyoos Landfill employee needed urgent medical help after hazardous material was improperly disposed.

On July 28 at 10:20 a.m., Osoyoos RCMP responded to the landfill, where a contractor’s employee had been compacting freshly dumped waste when he crushed a container of solid chlorine pucks.

The pucks, which had been dumped contrary to hazardous material regulations, gave off a discharge when compacted that the employee breathed in.

He immediately suffered a medical emergency and was lucky enough to be able to remove himself from the area and call for help.

The BC Ministry of Environment attended to assess the measures taken to isolate the area while waiting for the response contractor to arrive, while Work Safe BC inspected the site to determine how the spill occurred and to ensure compliance with occupational health and safety requirements.

“It is clear this spill was caused by someone improperly disposing of a pail of solid chlorine pucks into the Town’s waste system,” said Sgt. Jason Bayda, Osoyoos RCMP commander.

“This should be a reminder to all that disposing of hazardous materials into a waste container can cause serious injury or death to those working with the garbage down the line. Hazardous materials need to be disposed through the proper disposal/recycling process.”

The Town contacted an environmental agency who attended the Landfill and packaged the damaged pail and chlorine pucks in a UN-rated poly drum and took them for proper disposal. The loader that contacted the chemical was cleaned by the agency and they inspected the area to determine if there were any more distributed in the area.

A CHANCE TO HANDLE ARTIFACTS

Sarita Patel

The Okanagan Heritage Museum in Kelowna has started a new program called the White Glove Experience where residents are invited to get an up-close experience holding artifacts and curating their own museum experience.

“The people who have come and participated so far have really enjoyed the experience – they really love the VIP experience of putting on the special curator gloves, learning how to be a curator, learning how we handle museum objects properly and safely,” explains Jen Garner, head of programming at Kelowna Museums.

The drop-in program has been running for the past three weeks and they highlight a different gallery space every week.

“We bring special objects from our Education Collection, so objects that are not generally on display,” adds Garner who says along with the new objects they’re also opening up the different interactives in the museum that are not available at other opening times.

Garner says the museum collection is large and only a small percentage of artifacts displayed at one time.

“It does take a little bit of time for new objects to come on to display and of course we have feature exhibit every couple of months so that this always a great opportunity to come and see new things. This gives us the opportunity to bring new objects up every week.”

They’re following all COVID-19 safety protocols, with extra sanitization, the museum interpreter wears a face mask, proper social distancing measures are in place and each set of curator gloves are washed after each use.

They also only allow one family or group to join them at once to avoid contact with others, which Garner says other visitors of the museum tend to peer over to see what’s going on.

“People get really excited about a VIP experience and especially the little ones, we really build it up as they’re really doing something quite special in the museum by being a curator and then we always like to see the people who are still young at heart.”

The program runs Sunday from 12:30 – 3:30 p.m. and Thursday 5 -7:30 p.m. and admission is by donations.

The museum is located at 470 Queensway Ave. in downtown Kelowna.