Year in Review: Saints claim BCIHL supremacy

Selkirk College hockey squad asserts dominance in collegiate ranks

  • Dec. 31, 2013 1:00 p.m.
All smiles for victorious Selkirk College crew

All smiles for victorious Selkirk College crew

Kirsten Hildebrand

March 21, 2013

The Selkirk College Saints celebrated Saturday night as they took the BC Intercollegiate Hockey League title in an exciting 3-2 overtime win at the Nelson District Community Complex.

The Saints notched the championship win against the Simon Fraser University Clansmen after a bold come from behind effort sent them into extra play. Forward Cody Fidgett scored the winning goal, unassisted just 3:11 into overtime.

“I can’t even put words to it. It’s probably the biggest goal I’ve ever scored. It’s fantastic,” he told the Nelson Star after the game. “It was a hard fought comeback.”

SFU were first on the scoreboard with a penalty shot goal by Kale Wild at 4:37 left in the first period. Then, early in the second, the Clansmen made it 2-0 off a goal by Brenden Silvester from Colton Graf.

Playing at the NDCC due to scheduling conflicts with the KIJHL semi-final series opener in Castlegar, the Saints packed the Nelson rink with fans eager to see their team take the best two of three college series.

When the Selkirk’s Thomas Hardy put his team on the scoreboard with 3:21 left in the second, the crowd erupted. Mason Spear and Fidgett assisted making it 2-1 at the end of the second.

The Saints came out hard in the third and it was captain Jordan Wood who scored the huge tying goal off a pass from assistant captain Logan Proulx midway through the third. With good pressure, the Selkirk team had several more scoring chances that kept the crowd on the edge of their seats. Even up on shots on net, the score was a deadlocked 2 at the end of regulation play.

About to go into overtime, Assistant coach Jamie Freiss said they let the guys know this was the time to capitalize on the tired SFU defensive line.

“We said let’s take ‘em wide. Let’s make sure we put the pucks on net and sure enough, it went in. Our speed finally paid off for us in the end,” he said.

Fidgett’s goal brought down the house with the jubilant Saints bursting to the ice and the crowd cheering the champions on.

Assistant captain Scott Swiston was ecstatic after the game.

“There’s no better feeling in the world right now. You only really get these opportunities really once in a lifetime. This is the first time I’ve won a trophy as big as this. You are just never going to forget it or the people you won it with,” he said. “Start to finish we knew we wanted this more than them. We played with a ton of heart and I think we deserved it.”

Goaltending played a huge role in the Saints win with Alex Sirard solid between the pipes. Hard hits and hard work were critical as the BCIHL champions dug in for the win.

“I am very proud of every last one of them. They all put in the time. They all worked very hard all year,” said Freiss. “This was our goal right out of training camp and they stayed the course. They followed the

program and it paid off for us in the end.”



Castlegar Rebels are KIJHL Champs


March 21, 2013


Marvin Beatty

The Castlegar Rebels have won the KIJHL Kootenay Conference title after sweeping the Golden Rockets in four games, winning game four in Golden 3 – 2 on Tuesday, March 19.

The Rebels got past the Spokane Braves in five games and then the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in a thrilling seven-game series before facing the Rockets.


The Rebels outscored Golden 17 – 4 during the series and have earned a week-long break before going after the KIJHL Championship on Tuesday, March 26 against either the North Okanagan Knights or the Osoyoos Coyotes.



There was no scoring in the first but forward Kody Disher put the Rebels on the board at 17:15 of the second period, with assists from Matt Reed and Stuart Walton. Bryan Lubin then added another at 15:26 from Hunter Jenerou to take a two-goal lead.

What proved to be the game (and conference) winner came on the power play from Brenden Heinrich at 19:35 of the third, with assists coming from Erik Alden and Jamie Vlanich.

The Rockets fought back valiantly with goals from Blake Roney (14:48 – PP) and Brad Orr (5:57) but could not level the game.

Jordan Gluck got to enjoy the feeling of a conference title win in net for the Rebels, turning aside all but two of Golden’s 26 shots.

James Leonard played 59:37 of game four, stopping three of four power plays from the Rebels while facing 19 shots.

Game four of the Okanagan-Shuswap Conference, between the North Okanagan Knights and Osoyoos Coyotes, went to the Knights 5 – 1 who now lead that seven-game series three games to one.

Game five for the Knights and Coyotes is Thursday, March 21 in Armstrong at 7 p.m.


* The Rebels would go on to compete at the next level, to an April tournament on Vancouver Island versus Richmond, Victoria, and Comox Valley – The Cyclone Taylor Cup where they earned a Bronze medal.



Biodiversity Atlas gives new reporting tools to “citizen scientists”


by Marvin Beatty

March 2013


Those living, working, playing and travelling along the length of the Columbia River Basin have a unique opportunity to help scientists uncover the environmental complexities of the area’s flora and fauna.

The Columbia River Basin Biodiversity Atlas, initially funded and developed by the Fish & WIldlife Compensation Program in 2001, is a conservation planning and decision making project that provides scientific data to various users in an easy-to-understand format.

The Columbia River is the key river system in south-eastern B.C. and the Pacific Northwest, stretching into Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Ian Parfitt, Coordinator at the Selkirk Geospatial Research Centre at Selkirk College said a new set of online tools now allows anyone to contribute useful data to the project.

“We began with the project being a way for communicating and sharing information coming from biologists who were collecting information on different projects,” Parfitt said. “We would get data and reports and it was sort of a tool to send stuff out and with this release we’ve built in citizen reporter tools.”

At the website,, one can register to report things such as roadkill, nest box sightings or even which specific trees are providing habitat for wildlife.

Now, with the help of partners and volunteers from industry, government and educational institutions, the project is gaining momentum and developing data helpful to a wide range of users.

Summer interns in geographic information systems courses often work on the project and benefit from co-op opportunities with biologists from various government ministries and industry experts.

The atlas is also being used by School District # 8 students as part of the Kootenay Lake Learning Commons “e-resources”.

Over the last 10 years, the project has mapped the entire Canadian portion of the Columbia River Basin, identifying 42 species of concern.

In a press release, Valerie Huff, Project Coordinator for the Kootenay Camas Project, said, “Adding new tools for public participation in scientific research is a win-win for conservation, providing scientists with rich biogeographic information while making it easy for people without science backgrounds to get involved in the monitoring and restoration of important local species, like the camas lily.”


The government has also used the Biodiversity Atlas to identify and address important land acquisition processes.



Local pair charged in relation to pair of fires


Marvin Beatty

April 4, 2013


Two  Castlegar residents have been charged with arson related to two fires, at St. Rita’s Catholic church and a vehicle owned by the Red Cross near Kinnaird Community Church, that occurred the night of Monday, March 25.

RCMP Inspector Nick Romanchuk, Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment, confirmed by telephone that 18-year-old Lee Wilding of Castlegar and a 16-year-old Castlegar female were charged.

In a follow-up press release, Romanchuk said the female who was charged cannot be named under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Wilding and the female have each been charged with two counts of arson in relation to the fires. The female was taken before a justice of the peace where she was released on conditions.

Wilding has been remanded in custody since his arrest on Thursday, March 28, 2013 and was to appear in provincial court in Grand Forks, Tuesday, April 2.

“The investigation was led by the Castlegar Crime Reduction Unit and included resources from the Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment General Investigation Section, members of Castlegar Detachment, as well as resources from other areas of British Columbia,” said Romanchuk in the release.

“Everyone involved in this investigation did an outstanding job of quickly gathering evidence to allow for arrests to be made and charges laid within a very timely manner. Over the past number of years we have developed a very strong investigative capacity with respect to serious criminal offences and this incident is a testament to that fact.”

The investigation into a garage fire on Thursday, March 28 in the 300 block of 7th Avenue in Castlegar is still ongoing.

Please direct inquiries regarding any of these incidents to Inspector Nick Romanchuk, Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment, at (250)




Darn good action courtesy of Rollers

Marvin Beatty

April 18, 2013


Castlegar’s Dam City Rollers opened their West Kootenay Roller Derby league season on Saturday in Rossland against the Babes of Brutality, falling to the Salmo squad 179-136.

Prior to the game, Coach Sauce was asked how he felt going into battle against the Babes, a team that has proven tough for the Dam City Rollers in the past.

“I always feel good about it,” he said. “It’s derby.”

Indeed. There were a number of people feeling good about derby.

The beer garden upstairs at the Rossland Arena was packed with fans from both sides dressed in either purple or blue (many clad in team jerseys).

Lest anyone think it’s not a family affair, there were plenty of families with children of all ages in the stands, too.

The excitement was palpable at track level, thanks in part to rocking tunes and track announcers and staff who brought their “A-game” as well.

Jody Carroll, who skates for the Slocan Valley Vendettas, was the “jam timer” for the bouts and her antics were almost as much fun to watch as the when the jams were in progress. Her signals for simple time-outs, for example, had her leaving her feet at times.

For the un-initiated, there are ten players on the short circular track during a bout, which lasts 60 minutes and has two 30-minute periods. Each team designates a scoring player (the “jammer”) with the other four being “blockers.”

The jammer wears a helmet cover with two stars and is typically the skater who is also the target. As the jammer passes the pack, points are awarded.

To chants of “Let the bodies hit the floor!”, the Dam City Rollers were in high spirits and fighting form from the opening whistle.

The contest was fairly even through the first period but the Babes of Brutality began to pull away in the second, having a 102-64 at lead at the 24-minute mark.

The Rollers rallied nicely and closed the gap to 145-113 with about four minutes to play but penalties prevented them from finishing the comeback.

Babes’ coach, Heather Parson said the bouts went better than expected because this was the lowest number of players they had played with.

“The girls in Salmo originally started roller derby in this league,” said Parson. “They really know the game and they’re super strong. We had tight walls and good hits.”

The game had a number of momentum changes, in part due to a new rule stating when the jammer is knocked out of bounds, they have to go all the way to the back of the pack.

No doubt as players become more used to that aspect, the speed and intensity will start to ratchet up again.

Don’t let the aggressive hits and falls fool you, this is a sport that is all about the experience, with combatants giving each other hugs and high-fives after the dust had settled.

Even the referees and time-keepers received some hugs, something not seen in other sports.

The Dam City Rollers take the show on the road for a tournament in Spokane April 26-28 before returning for their first home game in Castlegar on Saturday, May 11 at Selkirk College. Doors open at 4 p.m.

Visit for more information, photos and schedules.


Labour-management unrest with FortisBC and IBEW


Marvin Beatty

May 14, 2013


FortisBC received 72 hour strike notice from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, (IBEW) local 213 on Friday, May 10 but there has been little in the way of disruption according to a press release from Neal Pobran, manager of corporate communications with FortisBC.

FortisBC and the IBEW 213 have agreed on an essential services order that was issued by the BC Labour Relations Board.

The release stated bargaining with the union has been taking place since early January 2013 and that FortisBC presented an offer that provided “market-competitive general wage increases.” FortisBC is not proposing concessions to employee wages, benefits or pensions.

The current contract with the union expired January 31, 2013.

The Vancouver office of the IBEW 213 referred the Castlegar News to Rod Russell, business representative for the union in Kelowna, but no comment has been received despite telephone messages left both Friday and Monday.

FortisBC noted the IBEW 213 represents approximately 225 FortisBC employees working primarily in electric generation, transmission, and distribution occupations such as power line technicians, electricians, and system power dispatchers and that they do have a contingency plans to deal with job action.

* A lockout did indeed occur in June, which was not resolved until December.


Incumbent Conroy wins… her party? – another story

Marvin Beatty

May 16, 2013


B.C’s path for the next four years will be forged with a majority Liberal government at the helm after Christy Clark and the BC Liberals took an early lead as results came in and the numbers continued to climb throughout the evening.

As of publication at 11:30 p.m., of the 85 seats up for grabs in the legislature, the Liberals were leading or elected in 50, the NDP were at 33, while the Green Party had 1, “Other” was at 1 and the Conservatives had 0.

Locally, incumbent Katrine Conroy (NDP) took the Kootenay West seat in a landslide.

Here are the percentages and vote tallies on the night: Conroy 62.99 per cent (10,606); Jim Postnikoff (BC LIberal) 21.33 per cent (3,592); Joseph Hughes (Independent) 13.30 per cent (2,239) and Glen Byle (Independent) 2.38 per cent (400).

According to Elections BC, final voting results will not be available until after the conclusion of the final count, which begins on May 27.

The BC Liberals were led by Christy Clark, who took over as party leader in February of 2011 and were down in the majority of polls heading into the final days of the campaign.

The NDP, with  Adrian Dix as leader, looked to be clear favourites across B.C.’s ridings but the faces of those gathered at Conroy’s reception at the Portuguese Social Centre were a mix of shock and gratitude that their candidate bucked the provincial trend.

Speaking from Castlegar, surrounded by supporters at a reception at the Portuguese Conroy said she would continue to do what she has done as MLA in the past.

“Provincially, this is a concern and I’m watching and hoping the numbers will change as more polls are counted,” said Conroy. “Some of the ridings don’t have more than 50 per cent of the polls counted so we’ll hope things change by morning.”

Conroy was asked if she felt the possible continuation of a Liberal government would make her job that much harder.

“It would make it harder but I’ve always worked hard in this constituency and will continue to work hard and will continue to represent the people of this area,” said Conroy. “Hopefully, I can continue the work I’ve been doing with seniors and making sure those issues are being addressed. We’ll continue to fight for what’s right and what needs to be done in this province.”

Conroy was first elected as the MLA for West Kootenay-Boundary in 2005 before the boundaries were redrawn in 2008.

She won the Kootenay West riding in the 2009 provincial election. She served as opposition critic for Seniors and Long-term Care.

In the 2009 election, Conroy took 66 per cent of the vote and won by over 8,000 votes ahead of the Liberal Party’s Brenda Binnie.

“I have an amazing team,” said Conroy. “I’ve got to thank all the people in this constituency that worked so hard to get us elected here. I don’t do this by myself. There’s still lots to do — we’ll get the office tidied up and carry on.”

Reached by telephone, nearest challenger Jim Postnikoff spoke about the difference between his campaign and that of the eventual winner.

“We went on a strong economy and a secure tomorrow and we wanted to get out to the people; we wanted a stronger voice in Victoria,” said Postnikoff. “She’s got the very strong union movement here that always leans to socialist programs and that’s what the people of the area seem to want. In a democratic process, it’s up to the people.”

Postnikoff said he thought he would get a stronger union vote and said he would not rule out another run.

“The incumbent always has the advantage and the other big thing you have to understand is a lot of people didn’t want a lame-duck MLA in this area,” he said. “A lot of people thought, provincially, that the NDP were going to win. Going through this campaign, I think she’s heard loud and clear what the constituents want and what she needs to do to bring some of these things home.”

Strong showings in all-candidates forums by independent candidate from Nakusp, Joseph Hughes, translated into fairly impressive numbers for a first-time, independent candidate.

Prior to the results being announced, Hughes said he was looking forward to celebrating with his family regardless of the outcome.

“We may go camping shortly after the results and get re-grounded,” said Hughes. “It’s been an incredible adventure for the family and we’ve met some great people. It’s been inspirational and a lot of work.”

An initiative by the other independent candidate Glen Byle, supporting the creation of a website to assist with “technology enabled democracy,” did not seem to resonate with voters; something that Byle acknowledged in previous interviews would take some time to not only explain but implement.

A hands-on person who fixes electronics for a living, Byle said the highlight of running was to meet people who really liked his platform, and believe, like he does, that it could improve the way the political system works.

“I was hoping to give people a chance to vote for something they wouldn’t have to compromise on; if people do that, I’ll be happy,” he said. “I hope to be able to make a party for the federal election.”

To read more about the system Byle was proposing, visit

In neighbouring ridings, incumbent NDP candidate Michelle Mungall of Nelson-Creston retained her seat garnering just over 50 per cent of the vote. The Boundary-Similkameen stayed Liberal with Linda Larson topping the polls with over 46 per cent. Liberal Bill Bennett easily took the Kootenay East riding with just over 63 per cent.


Rota Villa remains

June 20, 2013

Jim Sinclair


It was back in March of this year that a special meeting had called for the residents and board members of the Rota Villa Housing Society in Castlegar.

The continuing administration of the residential facility which caters to those on fixed incomes was in some doubt as some residents were in favour of the reins being taken up by BC Housing, while others were not.

A vote was held, and while a 64 per cent majority preferred BC Housing guidance, the required majority was 75 per cent.

“Our meeting in March resulted in the society remaining as is and electing a new board,” said outgoing society secretary Brian Brady in an email following the society’s June 13 Annual General Meeting.

“Thursday night a new board was elected,” Brady’s email continued, “headed by interim chair Elmer Williams, Barb Olson as Secretary, Marian LaBrie as treasurer, and directors Terry Kaufman, Doug Patan, Joan Hall, and Bob Ferguson. One additional director is awaiting confirmation. It appears that this group wants to make things work locally, but will be hindered, in my opinion, because five are tenants and will be in a conflict of interest in many situations. Interest from outside Rota Villa seems to have dwindled since the March meeting.”

Some residents of the 40-suite seniors facility (11th Street and 7th Avenue) had had issues with with a possible change in the administration of the complex – directed for a number of years by an independent society following it’s original construction which had been arranged by Castlegar Rotarians.

An interested onlooker in this ongoing issue has been Castlegar city councillor Deb McIntosh, who was also in attendance at the June 13 AGM.

Members of the board were encouraged to take an active role in overseeing the day to day operation of the Villa, and taking also, according to McIntosh, a pro-active approach toward the long-term future of the facility.

“It’s good that there are people coming on board to help them out,” said the councillor on June 15, “it’s up to them to get the board going and keep it going.” McIntosh emphasized that the ball is in the board’s court.

“They have a full slate of officers and hopefully they can take it to the next step now, which is either declining BC Housing’s offer, or running it as a society. But they have a big job ahead of them and I hope they’re up for the task.

Sandy McCreight (seniors advocate) and I have offered to be on the outside as advisors, in an unofficial capacity, to help them move things forward.”


Nick Chernoff – Citizen of the Year, 2012

Jim Sinclair

June 27, 2013


A number of guests including local dignitaries as well as communications and representatives from/of provincial and federal politicians were on hand on Wednesday, May 29 for Nick Chernoff’s induction as Castlegar’s 2012 Citizen of the Year.

A broadly smiling Mr. Chernoff (longtime operator of Trowelex Rentals) was the centre of attention and accepted the honour with grace and humility.

Speaker after speaker, including friends, colleagues, and employees made reference to Nick’s big heart and willingness to help others.

Brian Bogle, emcee for the evening and member of the Knights of Columbus which orchestrates the choosing of the Citizen of the Year, mentioned Nick’s reaction when notified of his selection for the 2012 distinction, “You couldn’t find someone better than me?”

When Mr. Chernoff stepped up to the microphone, after expressing heartfelt gratitude, he related a story from his youth. At the age of 18 he had been in a situation where he was able to save man’s life. Cool under pressure, he did just that. As with so many of Nick’s good works over the years, he had acted with no thought of potential accolades, only because he saw a pressing need.

“This,” he said of the honour bestowed that evening, “is my reward.”


School funding cuts announced


July 4, 2013


Funding cuts to the 2013-2014 budgets of local community schools aren’t good but are also not as bad as they could have been.

“They had a special open board meeting on June 26, ” said Alana Medeiros, Blueberry Creek community school coordinator. “After some discussion they reduced our funding by $5,000. We are still able to run most of the programming but we’re going to have to re-evaluate next year. Our four major programs are the summer reading program, the Friday night youth program, the Blueberry patch summer day camp program and 360 Twin Rivers.”

Increased enrolment in addition to the budget squeeze is also making things more difficult.

“We have 105 kids in our summer reading club,” said Medeiros. “There are lots of people in and out of here. People just don’t have anywhere else to take their kids and they want to keep the kids’ reading levels up and social interactions intact over the summer months.”

These four core programs and other smaller partnerships will all need to be looked at in the coming months with the announcement that next year, less funding will be available from the school district.

For the 2012-2013 year, Blueberry received $25,000 for community programs. CBAL received the same amount, while Robson received $50,000.

“With that money, we leveraged $72,000 this year because it doesn’t only cost $25,000 to run those programs,” said Medeiros. “We use the money they give us as seed money and apply for other funding.”

The situation is similar at Robson community school.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to crunch any numbers yet but at least it gives us a year to look at it,” said Lori Watson, community school coordinator. “Which is a much better decision then taking it absolutely all away and leaving parents high and dry as far as things they were anticipating for next year, such as the after-school program.

“During the summer we have summer camp in partnership with Castlegar and District Recreation. We offer seven weeks; for the first two weeks, the camps are at Robson, then they move downtown and the final four weeks are at the complex.”

Watson said things would definitely look different if the funding was to have disappeared altogether.

“All the camp programs would all be put on one person, Audrey Polovnikoff at the complex, who would have to do it all on her own in lining up the sites, etc.”

Watson said that part of what was discussed at the meeting was the need to keep the communication lines with the schools open, so that funding isn’t cut without notice.


Celgar layoffs loom

Marvin Beatty

July 11, 2013


On Tuesday, July 9 workers at Zellstoff Celgar pulp mill in Castlegar learned that approximately 85 employees will be let go over the next five years, with the majority of employees to be affected over the next 12 months.

Mercer International Inc. announced the workforce reduction after conducting a comprehensive assessment, saying in a press release the reduction is intended to improve its competitiveness with other pulp producers.

The planned reduction will affect both hourly and salaried employees.

Kevin Anderson, managing director of operations and technical at Celgar spoke with the Castlegar News on Tuesday about the unfolding situation.

“It’s an unfortunate reality for some people here,” said Anderson. “Though we are doing our best to minimize the impact to employees. One of the key things is that we’re looking to offer, as much as possible, voluntary alternatives for senior employees to depart and lessen the impact to some of our junior employees.

“There are some unknowns, in particular with those covered under the collective agreement. We know the number of positions but it’s difficult to know the employees that are going to go because there is quite a process in the collective agreement around seniority that we need to work though.”

Anderson added the company is doing its best to be “as fair and generous” with the retirement incentives as possible and that once it’s better known who will take the voluntary options it will be easier to ascertain who will be leaving on an involuntary basis.

“It is essential for the long term viability and sustainability of the Celgar mill that it maintains a competitive cost structure compared to other producers in the face of ever increasing costs and other challenges, said Mercer’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Jimmy Lee in a release.”A competitive cost structure is also essential to attract the necessary investment capital required to continue to modernize the mill and participate in growing bio-economy opportunities.”

Celgar will take appropriate measures to assist employees affected by the workforce restructuring in accordance with applicable agreements, policies and legislation and offer early retirement incentives for senior employees.

The Celgar mill will continue to operate with an annual capacity of approximately 520,000 air-dried metric tons of market northern bleached softwood kraft pulp and plans to employ approximately 370 employees when the workforce reduction is completed at the end of 2017.

Since purchasing the mill in 2005, Mercer has allocated approximately $140 million in capital improvements to the Celgar mill. Approximately $60 million of this total was funded from subsidies received from Federal programs aimed at improving the global competitiveness of the Canadian pulp industry.

As the main economic engine for Castlegar and one of the largest employers in the West Kootenay region, Celgar has been providing high-paying, family-supporting jobs for over 50 years.

In 2012, Celgar contributed $52 million to the local economy in wages and benefits.


Keen sense of smell proves valuable

Jim Sinclair

August 1, 2013


Eleven-year-old William Watt Jr. is an active and outgoing young man, with the sort of qualities displayed by many kids his age. But a chance encounter with dangerous levels of explosive gas fumes has brought him into the limelight.

William happened to be cycling with his dad by Castlegar Primary earlier this week when he smelled what he knew didn’t belong.

“We were riding by the schools (on 7th Avenue in Castlegar) when my son slams on his brakes,” recalled the elder Watt. “I kept going about a half a block further than him and looked back. He’s walking up to the school. He called me over and asked if I could smell gas. I said no, but as soon as I got closer to the school I could smell it.

So we phoned the 1-800 number for the gas company.”

A part of the series of events following the incident has been the invitation for William to be a guest competitor at a local mini-race track in Ooteshenia, namely the 454 Offroad Raceway located behind the West Kootenay Regional Airport at 454 Ootischenia Road.

“I heard about what Bill Junior did,” said track operator Mark Froley on Friday afternoon, “and wanted to offer him a chance to come out and do a race in the novice class of our radio controlled car event.”

William will have a new (and fast) car under his control and he was getting the hang of it on July 26, doing quite well.

He will be eligible for the car raffle to be held during the scheduled action on the BC Day long weekend.

“I just think the sport’s pretty cool and it’s fun to get out and race these little cars,” said Bill Jr. of the units that can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,000. It’s not all new to the youth as he has a gas-powered car he’s put through a fair number of spin-outs.

The incident with the leaking gas, strongly suspected to have been the result of vandalism, was safely and effectively dealt with and the value of young Watt’s role in the drama has not been downplayed in the aftermath.

The episode contained ingredients that could have led to a catastrophe had things played out differently.

“That’s quite an important thing,” stated Castlegar Fire Chief Gerry Rempel on July 26. “When a building fills up with natural gas like that, it doesn’t take a lot to ignite it.

When it’s in an enclosed space it is certainly quite explosive.”

The chief signed off with hearty kudos for the young Watt’s nose.

“If he’d of not detected it, who knows? That could have been going all night,” said Rempel who added that detonation could have occurred with a tiny spark from a flipped light switch, or pilot light from a gas appliance.


Lemon Creek response updates

Staff writer

August 15, 2013


The Unified Command Structure established in the wake of the jet fuel spill at Lemon Creek, which included staff from the Ministry of Environment, Regional District of Central Kootenay, Executive Flight Centre and Interior Health Authority, was disbanded effective Saturday, Aug. 10.

A release from Jonathan W. Lok, information officer, stated the clean-up has progressed from an “emergency phase” into a “project phase” and will continue with cooperation from all agencies but in a more streamlined structure.

Quantum Murray will continue to lead the “project phase” through to completion on behalf of Executive Flight Centre and will be subject to meeting the standards and requirements of the Ministry of Environment.

Large booms were removed from the Kootenay River last week and smaller boom setups, including both containment and absorbent booms and pads, will continue to be used for localized flushing operations in Lemon Creek on a reach-by-reach basis.

On Friday, Aug. 9 Interior Health lifted all water restrictions for lemon Creek and the Slocan River.

The release stated atmospheric concentrations have been well within established government standards, but due to the hot weather the jet fuel is evaporating, which causes odour. Interior Health has advised the smell alone does not constitute a health hazard.

Residents in the affected area are encouraged to thoroughly flush drinking water and irrigation water systems to remove stagnant water in the lines. Domestic Water System Flushing Procedures are available on the Interior Health website (

If, after flushing, residents have any concerns or detect odours of fuel, please contact IH Health Protection at 250-420-2220. Residents should not use well water if there is a fuel smell in the well or at any tap.

On Monday, Aug. 12, the temporary shower and washroom facilities put in place at Winlaw Elementary school were scheduled to close but after meetings with some affected residents they were planned to be left in place until Wednesday and then reevaluated in the wake of “special circumstances.”

“The special circumstances encountered today are related to some of the localized cleaning activities near certain residents’ river water intakes,” said Jonathan W. Lok, information officer, in an email. “Providing these residents with continued support through the potable water and shower facilities provides them with a reliable option while they transition to reactivating their own water systems.”

Potable water stations, available at the Junction of Highway 6 and Lemon Creek Road and at the Resiliency Center in Winlaw, will also be removed as the water restrictions have been lifted.

SNC Lavalin experts, in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture, have collected vegetation and soil samples in support of the program of assessment for agricultural land. The Kootenay Organic Growers Society is also working closely with the various agencies on its members’ behalf.

Results of these tests are still pending analysis.

Anyone who has concerns about locations where fuel is present is asked to forward the information along with your name and contact details to the Executive Flight Centre at or call toll free at 1-855-399-1694.


More memories brought back to Castlegar

Jim Sinclair

September 19, 2013


Reaching across international and geographic boundaries to make a difference in the lives of others – there’s an act worth looking back on for the long term.

Local youth involved in the Rotary Interact club returned earlier this month from several weeks in Bolivia where they soaked up culture, started friendships that will likely last a lifetime, and did a whole pile of hard work.

There were 18 young folks who made the trip.

Each of the travellers had taken the maximum allowable luggage. Along with some personal effects they were loaded down with gifts for their hosts and others. With carefully measured amounts of sightseeing and recreation, a heavy work schedule was followed.

The afternoon (Sept. 15) the group was caught up with at the Kinnaird Hall, it was about to get down to some forward-looking business, including the election of a new president.

While still in possession of the executive distinction, Israel Millar provided a summary of the recently concluded expedition.

It was a very long trip to the southern hemisphere but the effect of the kilometres seemed to vaporize as they crew arrived.

“We were all so excited to be there we forgot all the hours we had just spent on the plane,” she said.

The group was bound for an area called Cochabamba in the central part of the country. The travel was carefully plotted so the visitors would not be suddenly dropped off just anywhere. The extreme elevation, often well-over 10,000 feet above sea level can play havoc with a newcomer, causing serious discomfort… actual sickness.

The main goal of the visit was do work on a community school.

“It was fantastic, like, honestly,” said Israel. “From my perspective I could still be down there doing work at that centre because, it was a lot of hard physical work, but it was really worth it because the kids at the centre, and their parents, and the people running it were so thankful. We’d have days when we’d show up for work, and we didn’t have shovels anymore because the parents were so eager to volunteer. Everyone there was so friendly and so proud of what we were doing. We were greeted so warmly in Bolivia… it was fantastic.”

Israel noted how the locals in Cochabamba had not been in need of someone to show them what was needed, but a lack of resources and the ever-present general poverty make it tough to get major projects started and completed.

“Us coming down was kind of the start of the project,” said Israel. “Otherwise we doubt it would have happened. They have lots of students at the school… and they’re doing their best. We were so happy we could help.”

The idea for the project came to the visitors from fellow Rotarians based in Cochabamba.

Back to the future, so to speak, the club was in a bit of a re-grouping mode that Sunday afternoon in Kinnaird.

“It’s always kind of up in the air for the first couple of months when we’re back in Castlegar, mainly because we need to see where our club’s at,” said Israel… “kind of take our time coming out of the trip…refocus and reorganize.”

Whatever developments may occur within the group, it’s apparent a strong link has been has been created on the other side of the Equator.

“Bolivia will always kind of be a place for the Castlegar Interact Club to think about going to in future,” Millar concluded. “Hopefully in 2015 there will be another trip.”


Taste of Castlegar a delicious success

Marvin Beatty

October 3, 2013


Food and beverage lovers descended on the Lion’s Head Pub in Robson for the Taste of Castlegar on Saturday, Sept. 28. The event, organized by the Castlegar Chamber of Commerce, showcased the offerings from local restaurants, breweries and wineries.

“We have 18 vendors,” said Tammy Verigin-Burk, executive director of the Castlegar Chamber of Commerce. “We had a couple of others who were going to come but they just sold their businesses, so they couldn’t make it. The weather hasn’t hampered people at all. Everyone’s still showing up and we’re still selling tickets at the door.”

Most of the attendees paid little attention to the rain and huddled under tents where intoxicating smells lingered in the cool air. There were plenty of satisfied faces and expressions of enjoyment as attendees tucked into dish after tasty dish.

“Right now I’m eating some Twisted Thyme buffalo chile and warming up by the fire,” said attendee Ida Price. “It was a good thing they had a [bon]fire going because it’s a little bit of a cold day but it’s nice and fun. I’m enjoying it and hope they do it again.”

Asked if the event was an annual possibility, Verigin-Burk answered in the affirmative and said they were already discussing changes to keep things interesting.

“We’re looking at doing it as a rotation so it can go to anyone who wants to have it in their parking lot,” she said. “The one thing we don’t want to do is conflict with other events going on, that’s why we thought the fall would be great.”

“I think it’s awesome that all of these businesses came out to support the Chamber,” said Shirley Henderson, owner of the local A&W. “The weather is kind of crappy but all-in-all the music is great and you can taste what all the restaurants are offering and you can have a glass of beer or wine; it’s perfect.”

“It’s awesome,” said Al McLeod, Nelson Brewing’s sales and marketing person. “Castlegar has always been good to us. We’ve been in business for 22 years now and we’ve always done well here. We’re trying our organic Pumpkin Ale today. We did a limited run of 1,000 cases which sold out in three days and so this is what we had left.”

Troy Pyett, who has owned the Lion’s Head with his wife Carly Hadfield since 2009, described all of the food being served as amazing, singling out the butter chicken from Cuisine of India as one example, and said he was particularly happy to see the Kootenays embracing craft beer and local food.

“I’d like to see the event outgrow this place, which would mean it was successful and goes everywhere else. It’s nice to see the community come together. It wasn’t about us, we just have the facility to hold a different style of event here. We really believe in local [products]. We try to do that as much as we can.”

Wanita Hunter-Oglow of Castlegar Meal delivery, had a tent set up with a number of mouth-watering dishes including chile, chicken souvlaki, and yam-quinoa salad.

“I started out with the idea of doing a meal delivery service for seniors, shut-in, those recovering from surgeries that couldn’t do meal preparation for themselves but wanted healthy choices that weren’t high in saturated fats or sodium,” she said. “But I ended up doing a lot more catering. I do business luncheons, corporate luncheons and board meetings.”

Hunter-Oglow said the event was a great chance to see what everyone else offers around town.

Tammy Uppal, owner of the Cuisine of India, said her aforementioned butter chicken and rice was almost half gone by the time we spoke with her shortly after 4:30 p.m.

“I love participating in the community programs,” she said, adding that the butter chicken was the perfect choice for the weather. “You will see us here again.”

There was no shortage of entertainment on the day, either, as Leeza Perahudoff, Cindy Onyett, Ray Bouliane, Moates and Oats, That Girl and Earl were followed later in the pub by the Rippin’ Rattlers.


Brilliant Bridge receives Heritage BC’s highest award

submitted: RDCK

October 24, 2013


One hundred years after its construction, the Brilliant Bridge has been honoured by Heritage BC with its highest award — Outstanding Achievement – for the recent restoration and preservation of the historic structure.

The award was presented at a ceremony in Burnaby on October 18 to the Regional District of Central Kootenay, Concreate Ltd. and McGinn Engineering and Preservation “for the care and commitment demonstrated in the completion of this important project.”

“The Heritage Society does not give out this award lightly,” said Barry McGinn of McGinn Engineering and Preservation, who nominated the bridge for the honour. “This award recognizes technical excellence, the level of volunteer and community involvement in the project, and the overall value of the bridge to the area’s heritage.”

The restoration commenced in September 2009 with funding from multiple sponsors. Completed in 2010, the project cost nearly $1,000,000.

“The project didn’t cost our taxpayers anything,” said Gordon Zaitsoff, RDCK Area J Director. “It’s one of those projects that the whole community can take pride in as so many people were involved. It’s certainly been the highlight of my political career.”

The Brilliant Bridge was constructed in 1913 by Doukhobors using hand tools and traditional techniques.

“This award also speaks to the original workmanship of the bridge,” said Zaitsoff. “The bridge was important to this area for transportation and for opening up the region to economic development.”

The bridge’s legacy endures: “Now that the bridge has been established as a regional park, it should last another 100+ years,” said Zaitsoff.

For more information on the Brilliant Bridge, please visit:


Sculpturewalk results

Jim Sinclair

November 7, 2013


A number of artists were saluted Saturday night at Element Club, Bar and Grill in Castlegar before a performance by acclaimed talk-rocker Shane Koyzcan.

The occasion was the annual awards gala for the increasingly popular Castlegar Sculpturewalk.

A selection of 50 works were featured in this year’s event. Picking up the coveted People’s Choice Award was Douglas Walker of Black Creek on Vancouver Island, for his work entitled “Honkfest” which has been on display in front of Castlegar City Hall.

The artist spoke gratefully of the ongoing program following his win, stressing how much he and the other artists appreciate their reception by walk organizers.

“They treat us like gold when we get here,” he said. “They cover some expenses for us, put us up in hotels if we need it.

“I especially want to thank my business partner and wife, who isn’t here tonight. Behind every semi-successful artist there’s a somebody with a really good job.”

Following the ceremonies Walker was asked about the creation of the winning work.

“I got the idea in Edmonds, Washington, I think about three or four years ago. I met a guy and he said, ‘Have you got any baritone horns?’ I said I’ve got a whole stack of them. He said, ‘What could you do?’

“I got the idea of five baritones pouring water out. They were all stacked up in a spiral. He never did order that fountain but I pursued the idea anyway, and five seemed too big so it ended up with three baritones topped with saxes. I built the fountain originally for a show on Granville Island in Vancouver, so three or four hundred thousand people saw the sculpture before it got here. And when they decided to do a fountain for this year’s Sculpturewalk, I thought, ‘This is the one.'” (This version of Honkfest has been modified somewhat from the example that appeared at Granville Island.) Many others have obviously felt the same, hence the major award, $3,000 cash prize and the sale to the City of Castlegar where the work will remain in perpetuity.

Walker feels pretty good about his ongoing connection with Castlegar that has been created.

“It’s truly amazing that a community can put this together,” he concluded, “because it’s nowhere else in Canada. There are very few places where you can do something like this, in North America, let alone Canada. I’m very proud to have this piece here.”


People’s Choice

Winner (sculpture purchased by City of Castlegar for permanent display, $3000 cash): “Honkfest” by Douglas Walker (Black Creek, BC)

2nd Place ($1,000): “The Spirit of Family” by Spring Shine (Argenta, BC)

3rd Place ($500): “Raincoat Kids” by Susan Geissler

4th place ($500): “Rusty” by Cedar Mueller (Canmore, AB)


Artistic Merit

Winner ($3,000): “Amnesia” by Sergio Raffo (Kaslo, BC)

2nd Place ($1,000) “In Between” by Ian Johnston & Shayne Brandel (Nelson, BC)

3rd Place tie ($500 each): “Fir Cone” by Kevin Kratz (Krestova, BC)

& “Rhythm of Being” by Regine Neumann (Canton de Hatley, QC)


Maximenko announces intention to run in next federal election for South Okanagan West Kootenay region

Craig Lindsay

November 14, 2013


She may have a similar name as the man she hopes to replace, but Margaret Maximenko is looking at building her own name in federal politics. On Nov. 4, Maximenko announced her intention to run for the NDP nomination in the newly named riding South Okanagan West Kootenay (SOWK).

The federal riding is currently called B.C. Southern Interior and represented by NDP Member of Parliament (MP) Alex Atamanenko, who recently announced he was retiring at the end of his current term.

“I’ve been a long time activist,” said Maximenko. “I came to Canada as an immigrant at the age of nine; I understand what this country has to offer and what it has provided the citizens of this country for a long time. I’ve been watching that disintegrate and it’s been causing me some distress. We can do better. I don’t believe I have all the answers – but I believe I can be part of the solution.”

Maximenko said she’s been recruited many times over the years to go into federal politics, and she’s also been a recruiter.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to represent this area,” she said. “I have a lot of experience in the role of representing constituents. The time is right for me.”

Maximenko grew up in a political family with a strong political culture. She recalls being 16 when she was first recruited by Stanley Orrice to run her first campaign.

“The bug was set,” she said. “Although I didn’t get back into it in a big way until 1986 when I began more campaign work and it snowballed from there.”

In 1990, Maximenko was nominated for Area C (Christina Lake) director for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary which she really enjoyed.

“That was a wonderful job with great opportunities,” she said. “Through that, I was selected as the local government spokesperson for the commission on resources and the environment, which Mike Harcourt and Stephen Owen set up to attempt to quell the war in the woods. It was a multi-stake holder process that lasted over two years and I was selected to represent the five regional districts that make up the Southeastern quarter of the province.”

Maximenko was born in Oakland, California and moved to Grand Forks at the age of nine with her family.

She began her business career as a property manager at the age of 20. With her husband, she eventually ended up operating a retail operation, three contracting companies and a manufacturing plant which employed over 100 people over four years.

Maximenko knows that taking over from Atamanenko will be a daunting task for anyone, but she is eager to try.

“Alex Atamanenko leaves an amazing legacy that would be my honour to continue,” she said. “Alex has served the constituents of the BC Southern Interior with determination and grace and I believe he has the most effective track record of any MP in our corner of the world.”

Maximenko adds that part of the reason she is announcing her candidacy so early is because Atamanenko has said he will work with the NDP candidate.


Bodybuilder brings hardware home to Castlegar

Jim Sinclair

December 5, 2013


In a Nov. 15 story in this newspaper local realtor and fitness devotee Lorene MacGregor was profiled.

MacGregor is involved in a pursuit that furnishes its own progress reports and there’s no way to pass off misleading information. The proof is, quite simply, right there in the eyes of the beholder, not to mention the judges. In Lorene’s case – a finely sculpted physique, gracefully proportioned, is all the evidence required as to her dedication.

The bodybuilder was featured following a pair of competitive outings in the last couple of years (fifth and third placings), with a meet coming up on Nov. 23.

To say she was elated with the outcome would be a bit of an understatement, ‘over-the-moon’ would be more accurate.

“I did it,” she enthused via email after having come down somewhat. “I placed first in both Masters Figure and Novice Tall Figure. I placed fifth in Masters model.”

The scene of MacGregor’s latest success was the IDFA (International Drug Free Athletics) event in Vancouver.

The competitor’s email went on to relate how “a figure athlete has more defined muscles in balance from head to toe where a fitness model is a bit softer toned.”


MacGregor, pictured centre, has chosen to compete in an environment known as the Natural Federations or the tested federations “because I love seeing what athletes can accomplish naturally and I prefer to compete on a level playing field.”

So where to next? The route to higher levels may well have been opened up by her recent strong showings. But the nature of her sport and the strong discipline (dietary and otherwise) required dictates that she make a decision soon (probably in the the next several weeks) whether to go for even higher level recognition, specifically, her pro card. As of this writing she had yet to decide it if that was, indeed, what she wants.

To conclude, MacGregor had some gratitude to put out there.

“Thanks to the community of Castlegar including Peak Physique and The Castlegar and District Recreation Department.  Special thanks to my friends and coworkers for supporting me in this new sport. Biggest thank you to my amazing husband Kere MacGregor who not only tolerated my many varieties of making chicken breast, white fish and green vegetables taste great for eight months but who encouraged me to pursue this farfetched goal.”


Penticton resident declares Federal candidacy

Craig Lindsay

December 19, 2013


A new candidate for the South Okanagan West Kootenay region has emerged out of Penticton. Marshall Neufeld, a former Parliamentary aid to Stockwell Day, announced recently that he will run for the candidacy for the Conservative party in the area.

Neufeld was born and raised in Penticton and after a year working in North Vancouver returned to the Peach City.

He trained as a rehabilitation assistant in Kelowna and eventually worked at a senior’s home in Penticton and also volunteered as an assistant with then-MP Stockwell Day.

In 2006, he was hired on full-time as a Parliamentary assistant for Day.

“I was there for two years with Stockwell,” said Neufeld. “The first year I was junior Parliamentary assistance. The second year I was senior Parliamentary assistant so I ran the office in Ottawa and worked on Parliament Hill.”

Among his duties, Neufeld helped go through from between 500-1,000 emails per day for Day.

“I was basically his personal secretary on the hill,” he said. “I would also run errands and follow up on any files that he wanted to pursue that weren’t under his normal portfolio he’d give over to me.”

Neufeld said it was great experience working with Day and getting a chance to see how Parliament Hill works.

“It was tremendous,” said Neufeld. “He’s a man of incredible integrity. I didn’t really realize how fantastic he was until I started to work with him. He’s completely consistent whether he’s in his riding, in Ottawa or working privately with someone in an office or public setting. He’s a down to earth guy who really wants to help society.”

Neufeld said that Day has been a great influence on him and his decision to get into politics.

“He inspired me and made me realize how much good a person can accomplish within politics,” he said. “That’s really what I wanted achieve by running myself. I would like to be an MP who’s here to serve the people and make the country and the riding a better place.”

Neufeld left Day to become a realtor in Penticton. He stayed involved in politics as a volunteer. He was Conservative Party riding president for Okanagan-Coquihalla up until he was elected to the national council.

“I was one of two representatives from B.C.,” he said. “We would meet quarter and go over the general oversight of the party.”

He later became riding president again at the urging of Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas. He was also riding president of the newly created South Okanagan West Kootenay riding, but stepped down on Dec. 9 to run as candidate for the Conservative party in the next general election.

Neufeld is pleased with the support he has received so far as he has toured the riding and is looking forward to connecting with more Conservative supporters in the future.

“I’m feeling good about the support so far but it’s important to me to be a candidate and future MP for the entire area,” he said. “That’s why in the first week I’m having events in Penticton, Castlegar, Trail and Grand Forks.”

Neufeld said the date has not been chosen yet for the nomination for the Conservatives. The next federal election date is set for Oct. 19, 2015.