Castlegar News 2011 – Year in Review Jan-June

The Castlegar News' top stories from 2011 are presented.

  • Dec. 29, 2011 12:00 p.m.
2011  The Year in Review

2011 The Year in Review


Tuneful Gift most appreciated

Castlegar News carrier Nathan Kline has received an even bigger prize after he was announced as carrier of the month last week.

Kline, who has been delivering the paper for six years, was recognized in a recent edition of the Castlegar News and said he was saving his delivery earnings to buy a violin.

On Monday, Janice Spratt called the newspaper’s office to say she and her husband wanted to donate one to him.

“My husband, years ago, used to play the violin and when we lived in Abbotsford we used to go with some other people and play our instruments in care homes,” Spratt said. “Through the years, my husband is almost 80 and he doesn’t play it anymore. We have 10 grandchildren and none of them play the violin.”

Kline, who has been playing the violin for almost a year, said he was surprised when he heard about the offer, but felt “pretty good” about it.

Spratt said her husband thought since Kline has been working so hard to save up for his own instrument, it would be nice to just give him his.

Kline picked up the violin later that day.

Airport Fire – Minor

The Castlegar Fire Department was called to the West Kootenay Regional Airport on Tuesday afternoon for what they were initially told was a fire in a plane’s engine. “It was reported as an engine fire, but when we got there it wasn’t, so that’s a good thing,” fire Chief Gerry Rempel said.The blaze turned out to be a small electrical fire on a Medevac aircraft getting ready to transport a patient and running equipment powered by a battery, Rempel said.“It didn’t actually involve the aircraft itself,” he said.The fire was quickly extinguished and the Medevac was able to fly out of the airport with minimal delay.

The Castlegar Fire Department was called to the West Kootenay Regional Airport on Tuesday afternoon for what they were initially told was a fire in a plane’s engine. “It was reported as an engine fire, but when we got there it wasn’t, so that’s a good thing,” fire Chief Gerry Rempel said.The blaze turned out to be a small electrical fire on a Medevac aircraft getting ready to transport a patient and running equipment powered by a battery, Rempel said.“It didn’t actually involve the aircraft itself,” he said.The fire was quickly extinguished and the Medevac was able to fly out of the airport with minimal delay.


Sled pair cold but safe

Two Castlegar residents are “fortunate” to have been found Saturday night in frigid temperatures, according to RCMP.

The men, ages 40 and 48 were snowmobiling off Mackie Creek Road, 15 kilometres west of Castlegar, when one ran out of gas.

“It was decided the other male would make his way back to his truck and get fuel but ended up getting lost in the process,” Cpl. Deb Postnikoff said.

Nearly six hours later, at 9:30 p.m., the male found his way back to his truck where the RCMP found him.

By joining Castlegar Search and Rescue, he was able to locate his friend on the mountain just after 2 a.m.

Both men were unharmed but quite cold in the -13 C weather, Postnikoff said, and search efforts were winding down for the evening when the first man was found.

“RCMP would like to take this opportunity and remind snowmobilers to ensure they are well prepared with emergency supplies, adequate fuel and food and water when venturing into the mountains,” Postnikoff said. “Always tell someone your exact starting point and provide an expected return time. A GPS and fully charged cell phone are always recommended.”

“Not all cases have such a successful, happy ending,” she added.



Kootenay Conference Champions!

It took 15 years, but the Castlegar Rebels are back in the KIJHL finals.

Ryan Aynsley scored a pair of goals late in the second period to break a 2-2 draw, as the Rebels eliminated the Fernie Ghostriders 5-2 in front of 790 fans at the Castlegar Complex Tuesday.

Aynsley fired two power-play markers past former Rebels goaltender Andrew Walton for his team-leading 13th and 14th goals of the playoffs, as Castlegar struck four times while a man up en route to a six-game victory over the vaunted Ghostriders.

Tyler Robinson finished off a pretty passing play to give Castlegar a lead just over five minutes into the game, but Fernie’s Johnny Park leveled the score minutes later.

After taking a high-stick in the face from Cale Wright, the Rebels’ Spencer Brodt put Castlegar up 2-1 early in the second period on a power-play, but again the Ghostriders equalized on a short-handed marker from defensive specialist Mike Anderson.

Cue Aynsley’s heroics.

With time winding down on a two-man advantage, the 20 year-old from Kelowna fired a slapshot past Walton, only to do the same on a subsequent power-play minutes later.

“[5-on-3 powerplays] are my favourite thing to do in hockey,” Aynsley said, “I got two nice passes, took two one-timers and thanks to traffic in front, they went in.”

Fellow Okanagan product Erik Wentzel rounded out the scoring 12 seconds into the third period.

“It was huge to win tonight,” Aynsley said.

Fernie proved the toughest challenge so far in these playoffs, though.

After the two teams split Games 1 and 2 in the Elk Valley, the Rebels held serve in Games 3 and 4 thanks a pair of wins at the Complex.

The victories didn’t come without controversy though: Castlegar’s Stuart Walton scored a contentious game-winner in Thursday’s 5-3 Game 3 victory that had the Ghostriders players and coaching staff up in arms.

Game 4 was not without its crazy circumstances, either.

Fernie arrived in Castlegar 75 minutes after puck drop was originally scheduled due to a highway closure and missed ferry.

When the game finally started at 9:38 p.m., Castlegar took advantage of a weary Ghostriders club, scoring twice in the opening frame en route to a 3-1 win.

The Rebels will now meet the Osoyoos Coyotes for the KIJHL title.

The first two games of the series will be played Saturday and Sunday night at the Sun Bowl Arena.

“They’re young, fast, well-coached,” Aynsley opined. “It’s going to be a great series.”

The Rebels last played in the championship series in 1996, when a club coached by former NHLer Pat Price defeated the Sicamous Eagles for the third championship in franchise history.


Marijuana controversy grabs national attention

A local battle over the bounds of legal marijuana production has grabbed national attention after police raided a grow op near Castlegar and arrested a 62-year-old woman, despite the fact that she had a valid licence to grow a certain number of the plants.According to police, the number of marijuana plants found at Velma Mullaney’s residence in Pass Creek exceeded what was allowed under the licences issued by Health Canada to her and her boyfriend.Together, the pair are legally allowed to grow 98 plants, but RCMP Sgt. Laurel Mathew said police had evidence there were more plants than that in production, based at least partly on high levels of power consumption at the residence.After obtaining a warrant, police searched the large rural property on Feb. 24.Mathew said three separate officers each counted more than 98 plants, but she wouldn’t say exactly how many plants were counted.Mullaney’s lawyer, Don Skogstad, said his client claims police later told her they had counted 99 plants.As a result, Skogstad told the Castlegar News he doesn’t expect the Crown to pursue charges.”A one-per-cent error?” he said. “Nobody’s going to charge her for that.”Mullaney went to great lengths to stay within the limits of the law, Skogstad added, and was confident that she and her boyfriend had only 98 plants in production.”She was absolutely positive,” he said. “When you do this type of thing, you try to be careful.”No formal charges have yet been filed against Mullaney in relation to the February raid, in which her 18-year-old grandson and a person under the age of 18 were also arrested.Mathew said the grandson “was found in the grow, tending to the grow” when police searched the property.Mullaney’s boyfriend wasn’t present at the time of the raid but was arrested later, Mathew added.She said the Castlegar RCMP expect to pass their files on to Crown prosecutors either Friday or early next week, and any decision regarding charges will proceed from there.Mullaney is already facing drug charges from an arrest two years ago.In January 2009 she and her husband (from whom she is now separated) were arrested after police raided their property and seized 1,200 marijuana plants as well as harvested marijuana and cash.Mullaney is facing chrages of cultivation of a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking in relation to that raid. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for April 6 in Castlegar court.Mullaney obtained her medicinal marijuana licence in October 2009.The February raid made headlines across Canada this week, with stories carried by national broadcasters and newspapers.Mullaney told the Globe and Mail she uses marijuana to deal with the symptoms of her arthritis and her boyfriend uses it to control pain caused by a bad back.Skogstad told the Castlegar News that Mullaney and her boyfriend have medicinal marijuana licences allowing them to grow 49 plants each, which is based on an estimated prescription of 10 grams of daily use.He said 49 plants per licence may seem like a lot, but noted that medicinal marijuana users often have less sophisticated equipment than illegal grow ops and usually don’t get the same kind of yield.Due to disease and inconsistent quality, Skogstad said even good medicinal marijuana growers “are lucky to get one ounce per plant.”While he is only representing Mullaney on her current and any pending criminal charges, Skogstad said his client is also considering filing a civil suit against police for the damage she says police caused to her growing equipment.


Incumbent Atamanenko wins big in Southern Interior

Alex Atamanenko was re-elected in BC Southern Interior by a wide margin on Monday and will join about 100 of his NDP colleagues as the Official Opposition in the House of Commons.Atamanenko ended up with roughly 51 per cent of the popular vote. In the 2008 election he won with 47.5 per cent of the vote.”I felt positive throughout the campaign, and one of the reasons I did is because we had a bunch of new people helping out in each of the campaign offices,” Atamanenko said during his victory party at the Portuguese Hall in Castlegar on Monday evening. “And the vibe I got at the door was that people had, by and large, been happy with the work that my staff and I had been doing.”His win was just one of dozens across the country for the NDP, as the party exploded in popularity — particularly in Quebec — and posted its highest seat count ever, by far.Atamanenko said he’d be happy to stay on as the federal agriculture critic for the NDP but the job will become much more serious — and much more difficult — now that his party forms the Official Opposition to the Conservative Party’s majority government.”I would suspect I’ll retain my role as agriculture critic, and basically it will be up to me … to make sure we move on with a Canadian food strategy, to make sure we don’t introduce further genetically modified organisms, to make sure cattle producers get a fair shake and we don’t have the GM apple introduced in Kelowna,” he said. “It’s a tremendous responsibility, not only in our party but on my shoulders, whatever portfolio I retain as a critic.”Despite the NDP’s historic gains, Atamanenko said he was “not happy with the outcome federally” and worried about what the new Conservative government will do with its majority in the House of Commons.”I think they’re going to try to ram through legislation,” Atamanenko said. “Their crime bills are going to go through, they’re going to do away with the Canadian Wheat Board. And any other legislation that they want to run, we’re not going to be able to stop them. We’re going to do our best, but it’s going to be very difficult.”Conservative candidate Stephen Hill met with about 20 supporters at Rave’s Restaurant in Trail Monday, resigned as he watched Atamanenko cruise to victory but at the same time elated with the Conservative majority.“It couldn’t be better,” Hill said. “We wiped out the Bloc, we wiped out the Liberals and we’ve got a majority government for four more years — that’s perfect. What I was trying to get across to people is ‘Do we want to be part of that or continue to be on the wrong side of the government?’”The Rossland resident, who earned about 39 per cent of the vote, was critical of the NDP performance in the riding for the last six years suggesting Atamanenko may even retire before his third term is complete.“We have the highest unemployment rate in British Columbia, we’ve lost 7,000 jobs in the last two years and half of downtown Trail is closed — it’s pretty obvious,” Hill said.With just over six per cent of the vote, Green candidate Bryan Hunt didn’t capture the kind of attention he was looking for in the vast riding, which covers Salmo in the east to Princeton in the west and the U.S. border north to Kaslo, including Nelson.“I think our country is sending the wrong message here,” he said from his home in Calgary. “I think allegations of elections fraud with the Conservatives and certainly the contempt of Parliament, which has never happened in our Canadian history, and the message we sent was ‘We’re OK with it.’”But Hunt was having a celebration for his party leader Elizabeth May, who became the first-ever Green Party candidate to be elected to the House of Commons as she won her riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.“I think she’s going to hold (Harper’s) feet to the fire and try do things ethically there and overall it will be a good thing,” he said. “Even though it’s just one person, it’s a big signal.”Hunt said the biggest challenge was reaching those who voted strategically.“I had about an equal measure people saying I’d really like to vote for you but I’m afraid the Conservatives will get in so I’m voting for Alex” he said.Liberal candidate Shan Lavell bottomed out with the least amount of support, earning just under four per cent of the total vote, which isn’t surprising in a riding that has switched back and forth between the Tories and NDP for decades and hasn’t seen a federal Liberal in power for more than 100 years.The 55-year-old with a nursing degree and a master’s degree in counselling psychology was selected to represent the riding after she failed to secure a seat in Okanagan/Coquihalla riding.“I think people chose who they wanted by who they know. Alex had put in the most work with the most people over the years,” Lavell said from her home in the Okanagan.In total 49,497 of 74,519 registered electors in BC Southern Interior cast ballots, according to Elections Canada, for a voter turnout of 66.4 per cent.

— This report was put together with files from Valerie Rossi, Jim Bailey, Andrea Klassen, Kim Magi, Bob Hall and Robson Fletcher.



Pageant a ‘great experience,’ says newly crowned Miss Castlegar


Newly crowned Miss Castlegar Marie Soukeroff started her duties immediately after Friday night’s pageant for Sunfest weekend.

“It was a busy weekend,” said 16-year-old Soukeroff, who is in Grade 10 at Stanley Humphries Secondary School.

As Miss Krueckl Financial at the pageant, she edged out seven other girls for the title and will now travel to other pageants and towns with Miss Castlegar Princess, Sabrina Broad, as ambassadors for the city.

The contestants were judged on training, personal interviews, speeches, talent, evening gowns and impromptu questions. During the training, which began in January, Soukeroff said she and the other girls became very close and she’s happy with how far they’ve come.

“All the girls did so well and everyone should be proud of themselves,” she said. “The training was so beneficial to all of us, it was great.”

Soukeroff said her favourite part of participating in the Miss Castlegar program was getting to know all the other girls.

“They’re such great people,” she said.

Although all eight girls are close in age and all go to Stanley Humphries, Soukeroff said they didn’t really know one another before training started.

“We weren’t as close as we’ve become over the past five months.”

Participating in the program helped boost her confidence, Soukeroff said.

“I’ve learned so many valuable skills that are going to help me in the long run.”

Miss Castlegar 2010, Mariah Morris, offered some points of advice to Soukeroff too, she said.

“She said it’s a great experience and to just have fun.”

After riding in Saturday’s Sunfest parade with the other Miss Castlegar contestants, Soukeroff and the other girls participated in Sunfest activities then helped with the Lions’ Family Day and children’s parade on Sunday.

Next for Miss Castlegar and Miss Castlegar Princess will be Sam Steele Days in Cranbrook, where they’ll represent the city in the parade and the pageant there.

Soukeroff doesn’t know what the year will bring yet, but she’s already sorted out what she’s going to wear.

“Me and my princess already decided that later on we want to get matching outfits,” she said.

However, more important things lie ahead first.

“I’m honoured and excited to be given the chance to represent the City of Castlegar and I’m excited for the upcoming year and I know it’s going to be a great learning experience,” she said.