News

Revelstoke Year in Review 2013 – Part two

When the CP Rail bridge caught fire on May 4, it made for a spectacular display as flames engulfed the structure and sent clouds of black smoke floating south over the Columbia River. The fire didn’t seem to have any long-term ramifications, but when a train exploded in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in the early morning hours of July 6, 2013, it brought issues of rail safety to the forefront of the national conversation. In Revelstoke, it caused train engineers to speak out about what they perceived as unsafe practices being undertaken by CP Rail. - Alex Cooper/Revelstoke Times Review file photo
When the CP Rail bridge caught fire on May 4, it made for a spectacular display as flames engulfed the structure and sent clouds of black smoke floating south over the Columbia River. The fire didn’t seem to have any long-term ramifications, but when a train exploded in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in the early morning hours of July 6, 2013, it brought issues of rail safety to the forefront of the national conversation. In Revelstoke, it caused train engineers to speak out about what they perceived as unsafe practices being undertaken by CP Rail.
— image credit: Alex Cooper/Revelstoke Times Review file photo

April 3

French immersion deemed unfeasible by school district

For the second time in five years, a push for early French immersion in the Revelstoke school district has died at the school board table.

At a meeting of the Revelstoke Board of Education on Wednesday, Mar. 27, the board supported a recommendation by superintendent Mike Hooker that the implementation of early French immersion was not feasible in the district.

“Our priorities remain focused on students through successful early identification and intervention programs, high levels of individualized student services, and a breadth of program choices at the secondary level,” he wrote in his report. “Our small system meets and exceeds expectations for student success. This achievement has required that we be thoughtful in our resource allocation and priority setting activities to ensure we protect the strength and quality of our programs.

“Within the context of our small total population, the implementation of an Early French Immersion program is not feasible,” Hooker concluded.

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The parents, who have been led by Stephanie Melnyk and Vanessa Morrow, walked out of the meeting visibly disappointed after the board finished its discussion. Melnyk, who has been acting as the group’s spokesperson, declined immediate comment on the board’s decision. On Thursday, she e-mailed the media a highly-critical response to Hooker’s report, saying the way parents were surveyed was not effective, that some families weren’t counted, that his numbers aren’t accurate and that the wrong projection model was used.

City wants $46,000 after RMR contractor illegally dumps raw sewage

The City of Revelstoke is demanding $46,456 in compensation after a Revelstoke Mountain Resort subcontractor illegally dumped raw sewage into sewer drains at the resort multiple times, avoiding disposal fees and causing a stink in the area. They say the practice went on for at least two years.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort owner Northland Properties Corporation doesn’t deny the wrongdoing, or that the illegal dumping cost the city revenue from lost liquid waste dumping fees, but they say the city is overestimating the amount dumped, and the duration of the dumping, and are seeking to pay much less than $46,000.

City public works manager Darren Komonoski said onlookers reported dumping into a sewer system near the luxury homes in the Mackenzie Landing development, which is located above the resort’s base area.

Shell of Friends of Mt Revelstoke & Glacier meets for the last time

It was a bleak scene as the Friends of Mt. Revelstoke & Glacier met for likely the last time at the Powder Springs on Tuesday night.

Seven members sat and listened as what remained of the board – president Travis Hunt, treasurer Marie-Helene Ostiguy, and director David Rooney – delivered an update on the Friends’ situation.

“The Friends is basically insolvent and its essentially dissolved,” said Hunt. “There’s no money, there isn’t quorum of the board. It’s basically non-functioning, non-operational.”

In December, the shocking news broke that the Friends was $215,000 in debt and the board recommended to its members that the organization dissolve. Three months later, they let the members know the debt was in fact even higher – about $250,000 – and most of that would never be paid back. In fact, the remaining directors weren’t even sure they could pay off the $35,000 owing to the Canada

Revenue Agency (CRA) from unpaid payroll taxes, let alone the $20,000 owing to the Revelstoke Credit Union, and the thousands more owed to dozens of other creditors.

April 17

Chamber disappointed as council okays 3.5% tax increase

Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce directors and executive members filed dejectedly from a city council budget meeting on April 9, feeling that council ignored their budget comment package.

Despite warnings from the Budget Focus Group and the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce that the city has been on an unsustainable spending binge for a decade, council opted to stay the course, voting for a 3.5% tax increase, plus other hidden fee increases that mean it’s actually much more than that. Sewer rates were hiked by 15 per cent, for example.

In a huddle outside of the meeting, chamber leaders said their message wasn’t heard.

“I think there’s disappointment that expenses aren’t being addressed,” said chamber president Steve Bailey, as five other chamber board members nodded in agreement.

April 24

Hydro leaves rutted, rocky road after Illecillewaet dredging

Definitely a work in progress. That was the appearance of the rutted, rock-strewn road built by BC Hydro to access the Illecillewaet River for dredging in March and April.

Until about a week ago, when Hydro covered the dirt road with a spray coating of hydroseed – the green mixture of grass seed mix and fertilizer you see sprayed on industrial landscaping projects. There, finished, said the green coating.

You have to walk through the rough road to get to the gravel trail leading to the Mark Kingsbury Memorial Bridge. The roadwaywinds through the greenbelt down to the river. It’s covered in ruts and rough edges, with cantaloupe-sized rocks scattered here and there at its edges.

‘That’s it?’ was the reaction of one passer-by to the bulldozer trail through the Illecillewaet Greenbelt, a recreation and conservation area popular with walkers, runners, bikers, naturalists and the dog crowd.

Jennifer Walker-Larsen is the BC Hydro spokesperson for the Revelstoke area. In an email responding to Times Review  questions about the aftermath she confirmed that BC Hydro’s contractor is in fact done.

“The site restoration work has been completed including the permanent access route to the river from the Illecillewaet River dyke,” she wrote in an April 16 email. “The access route was scarified with heavy equipment to reduce ground compaction and prepare the site for planting.”

May 1

RMR summer development shifts to Greeley side of Mount Mackenzie

Northland Properties, the owner of Revelstoke Mountain Resort, is a business partner in the Revelstoke Adventure Park, a proposed summer tourist outdoor adventure centre that wants to offer amenities like lift-accessed mountain biking, climbing, bungee jumping, camping and other amenities in the Greeley area on the north side of Mount Mackenzie.

The partnership between Northland Properties and Revelstoke Adventure Park (RAP) was not featured in a media release about the proposed summer tourist attraction when it was publicly announced in late January.

Northland’s involvement in the summer tourist park on the north side of Mount Mackenzie is causing concern in Revelstoke city hall that the owners of Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) are shifting summer tourist development away from the base area of RMR on the south side of Mount Mackenzie, which is within city limits, to an area in the Columbia–Shuswap Regional District, outside of city limits.

City planning director John Guenther said the shift away from the RMR base was a “big concern. It affects the [controlled] recreational area (CRA).”

Locating summer activities outside of the city would have many implications for the city, including a loss of potential tax base if business moves outside city limits.

Developer pulls out of Revelstoke Crossing

The developer of a major multi-million dollar hotel and restaurant development on the Trans-Canada Highway in Revelstoke has announced it is pulling out of the project, citing frustration with city hall.

The Revelstoke Crossing development at the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 23 North has been winding through the development process for nine years, said the proponents.

The property is closely associated with developer Steve Platt, a Dallas, Texas-based property developer whose company Creststone Development has created several business and retail park developments in that state.

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Late last week, Platt told Mayor David Raven that his local company, Big Bend Development Corporation, was giving up plans to further develop Revelstoke Crossing and was putting the property up for sale.

In a telephone interview from Texas with the Times Review, Platt declined to comment on his company’s reasons for pulling out, referring questions to business partner Terry Lowrey.

Lowrey issued a brief statement expressing displeasure with city hall: “The regulatory and political environment in Revelstoke is the reason that we are selling the property. After almost nine years of work we are moving on.”

May 15

Snowmobile Club picks up reigns after Snowmobile Society dissolves

Snowmobiling in Revelstoke will fall under the roof of the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club after the Snowmobile Revelstoke Society voted to dissolve last week.

The decision marks the end of 16 years of snowmobiling in Revelstoke being promoted by two different groups that worked together, but often with a confusion as to who did what.

“It certainly worked well when it first got started. As the market changes and snowmobiling changes, it is time for another change,” said Greg Byman, the president of the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club (RSC). “The directors of both boards decided the best way to move snowmobiling forward in Revelstoke is to bring it back under one name again and under one board of directors.”

Body of missing White Rock man found by Arrow Lake

The search has ended for a White Rock man who went missing from the Twelve Mile area south of Revelstoke in October.

On Sunday, May 5, two campers discovered the body of David Klammer, 39, on the west side of the Upper Arrow Lake about 10 kilometres south of Shelter Bay. The BC Coroners Service has officially confirmed the identity.

Shelter Bay is located approximately 50 kilometres south of Revelstoke by highway, across the Upper Arrow Lake reservoir from Twelve Mile.

In a brief statement, the BC Coroners Service and the RCMP said they don’t feel the death is suspicious.

May 22

Norm Macdonald returning to Victoria in opposition once more

Norm Macdonald will be returning to the British Columbia legislature as a member of the opposition after winning re-election in Columbia River—Revelstoke, only to watch his party suffer a defeat province-wide on Tuesday.

Macdonald’s victory was narrower in the past. With all ballot boxes counted, he was at 48.2 per cent support (6,019 votes), compared to 36.4 per cent (4,543 votes) for the Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok. Conservative Earl Olsen picked up 8.6 per cent (1,079 votes) of the vote and Green Party candidate Laurel Ralston had 6.8 per cent (851 votes) of the vote. 12,492 votes were cast, down from 13,520 in 2009 when only 56 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots.

Macdonald was watching the results of the 2013 provincial election at his home office in Golden, surrounded by supporters and well wishers. He declared himself “profoundly disappointed” at the results of the evening, though he was grateful for his support in Columbia River—Revelstoke.

“We ran a low-cost, volunteer-based campaign and we spoke the truth. It was a respectful campaign,” Macdonald said, thanking all of the people who came out to help with his campaign, and saying the victory could not have happened without them.

June 12

City of Revelstoke announces major restructuring

The City of Revelstoke announced a sweeping overhaul to city administration and services, including staff reductions, realignment of duties and responsibilities amongst city departments and a review of city services.

The major changes were announced on June 5. Here are some specifics:

– Director of Engineering Mike Thomas will assume an expanded role, replacing the recently departed planning director John Guenther. Thomas’s position will be Director of Engineering and Development Services and he will oversee engineering, building inspection, planning and development services.

– Engineering, planning and building inspection services will be located on the lower level of city hall.

– Bylaw enforcement will now be a responsibility of the administration department, not the planning department.

– The city will create a new communications/corporate administration position.

– The city plans to eliminate several positions, but hasn’t specified which ones. Some of these positions will result in new, integrated positions.

– The city plans to review public works with the view of making the department more efficient.

– The bylaw creation process will take place in the administration department; for the past several years, the lion’s share of new bylaws were generated and driven by the planning department.

– The city plans to physically overhaul the city hall building. In addition to the long-planned upgrade to the stucco envelope, a new service entrance will be added on Second Street. It will be accessible to those with mobility challenges.

In an interview with the Times Review, City of Revelstoke Chief Administrative Officer Tim Palmer said the changes are designed to improve customer service, create a more efficient organization, improve communications and focus on core services.

June 19

City of Revelstoke silent on ‘$14-million’ lawsuit settlement

The City of Revelstoke is not disclosing to taxpayers the details of a recent settlement between the city and a property development company that, when it  led its lawsuit, claimed it could cost the city up to $14 million.

The recent settlement was not announced by city officials; when asked last week, Mayor David Raven referred questions to city staff.

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What’s the agreement going to cost city taxpayers? The City of Revelstoke is not prepared to say.

“As with most court settlements, speaking about details in not appropriate and we wish to respect the settlement process and all those involved,” Palmer said in a statement. “The city is content with the resolution we have reached and has no further comment.”

Court records show the case was scheduled for trial at the Kelowna Law Courts for June 3, but the trial was cancelled before it reached court. Although a trial would have likely resulted in public disclosure of the results, the private agreement between the two parties makes discovering the details of the deal – and its cost to taxpayers – much more difficult.

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