FortisBC will be hiking its interim 2021 electricity rates by 4.36%, which will work out to an increase of $7.30 per month for those who use an average of 12,000 kilowatt hours.
The British Columbia Utilities Commission granted the approval for the interim rate on Thursday. It will be the largest increase in rates in the last five years. The utility raised rates 2.76% in 2017, had no hikes in 2018 and 2019, and increased it 1% earlier this year.
“We strive to operate efficiently and keep rates at the lowest possible cost,” FortisBC regulatory affairs vice-president Diane Roy said in a press release. “However, increases are sometimes needed so FortisBC can make necessary system improvements and long-term investments that ensure our customers will always have the power they need, when they need it.”
FortisBC says the new rates reflect what the utility must charge to maintain the system effectively. It plans to spend $72 million electric infrastructure improvements in 2021.
The utility said a final decision on permanent rates is expected in early 2021.
Kelowna’s Forbidden Spirits Distilling Co. has entered into an amalgamation agreement with Spartan Acquisition Corp. and will become a publicly traded company if the deal becomes binding.
Forbidden produces and distributes brands like Rebel Vodka, Forbidden Spirits Vodka, Adam’s Apple Brandy and Eve’s Original Gin. The company will be known as Forbidden Spirits Distilling Corp. once the deal is complete, which is expected to take place no later than Jan. 28.
“This is great news for shareholders and the company in general,” the company wrote in a press release. “… Thank you to everyone that has contributed to the Forbidden Spirits story so far. We are so excited for the future and hope to see you over the holiday season.”
Forbidden is also in the process of a capital raise of between $3.6 million and $4.5 million.
Powder hounds rejoice. SilverStar opens next week.
The hill will be open for pass holders only Dec. 4-6, with other skiers and snowboarders welcome to the hit the slopes after that.
“We are very excited to open for our alpine season on December 4th,” resort spokesperson Chantelle Deacon said. “We have lots of snow, and it already looks like it’s going to be an awesome season.
“After a lot of preparation, we feel confident with all the steps we have taken throughout the resort to keep our guests, staff and community safe.”
The opening will come with some modifications to meet COVID protocols.
“Although things are definitely going to look different when guests arrive, all the protocols we have implemented are meant to ensure we have a full, healthy and awesome season on the slopes,” Deacon said.
“We ask guests to please follow all our protocols. It’s extremely important that everyone do their part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Face coverings are mandatory at Silver Star this winter, unless you are seated at one of the restaurants.”
Another change this year is a parking reservation system.
Reserved parking will be in place throughout the season, and parking will be free but must be reserved before arriving at the resort to ensure availability.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure a great, fun-filled ski and ride season. By managing the number of people visiting SilverStar at any given time, staff and guests will be able to appropriately physically distance, stay safe and have fun,” general manager Ken Derpak said in a press release.
The resort is following Canada West Ski Area and National Ski Areas Association recommendations, which include:
- The requirement for staff and guests to wear facial coverings when indoors, except when seated to eat or drink, and outdoors when two metres of physical distance cannot be maintained.
- New protocols for lift queueing and riding to ensure appropriate physical distance, including facial coverings while in line and on the lift.
- With reduced capacity in all areas, guests are asked to prepare for their day from their vehicles. New areas for dining and expanded grab-and-go options will allow for physical distancing.
Peachland is getting its first retail cannabis store.
Municipal council Tuesday approved issuing a business licence to Budding Creations Cannabis Corp. for a retail cannabis store in the Edgewater building at 5830 Beach Ave.
After the federal government made the sale of cannabis legal, Peachland began an intake process for applicants wishing to set up shop in the community.
Staff indicated that, while there was plenty of interest, obtaining retail space, a requirement of any application, had become a challenge.
The Budding Creations application was the only one that met the municipalities criteria during the initial intake phase.
The company is owned by four individuals, three of whom are Peachland residents and all of whom currently work at or own other licensed businesses within the community.
Staff indicated the application received a perfect score of 150.
Before it can open, the company still requires licensing approval from the province.
A maximum of two cannabis retail stores will be allowed within the municipality. Since the intake process has passed, staff said it will look at future applications on a first come, first served basis.
The City of West Kelowna will go to the public next week with a series of proposed regulations around legalizing short-term rentals.
Director of development services Mark Koch outlined a series of licensing, rezoning and enforcement regulations to council Tuesday that could form the basis of a new bylaw regulating short-term rentals within the city.
Council endorsed those unanimously.
The guidelines, Koch says, were taken from a number of regulations currently in place in a number of Okanagan communities such as Kelowna, Lake Country and Penticton, as well as other resort communities around the province including Pemberton, Squamish and Tofino.
Included within the proposed regulations:
- Short-term operators must have a business licence
- Operators must reside within the home
- Short-terms rentals would be restricted to single, detached homes and would not be permitted in homes with secondary suites or carriage homes
- Maximum of six guests and three bedrooms
- Off-street parking consisting of one space for two bedrooms rented and two spaces for three bedrooms
The city would also step up enforcement of any new bylaws with fines ranging from $100 to $1,000. Koch says those would be incremental for repeat offenders and would be applied each day a property was not in compliance with the bylaws.
As of July, there were more than 400 illegal short-term rentals advertised within West Kelowna. Once licensing is required, Koch says that number could drop to about 100 based on the drop-off Kelowna experienced once it required short-term properties to get a licence two years ago.
Some councillors voiced concern over the perceived lack of a level playing field between short-term rentals and bed and breakfasts in the community, noting that B&Bs allow for eight occupants and up to four bedrooms.
There was also agreement that enforcement will have to be a key component of any new bylaw regulating the industry.
Following public and stakeholder consultation, a refined set of regulations will be presented to council for endorsement sometime in February.
The city hopes to have its new regulations in place in time for the start of the rental season in early spring.
Ebus will be opening a new stop in downtown Kelowna next week.
The new location will begin operating on Tuesday at 516 Lawrence Ave. and will be open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
“We’re excited to offer this downtown location for those people who need to access medical appointments, employment, educational, training and many other essential services right in Kelowna,” Motorcoach director John Stepovy said in a press release.
“We didn’t want the pandemic to hinder our customer service, and so we made the decision to open this location despite currently seeing lower numbers of traveling passengers.”
Ebus started serving B.C. on Oct. 31, 2018, and has locations at Kelowna International Airport and in West Kelowna along Highway 97. The company is using a program to ensure COVID-19 safety on its buses, and its features include:
• Face masks being mandatory for all passengers
• Ebus face masks, hand sanitizers and gloves being available for purchase for those who don’t have their own
• Passenger screening questions asked of everyone prior to every trip regarding international travel, health symptoms and face mask usage
• Enhanced daily cleaning protocols, including our industry-leading electrostatic sprayers, allowing the appropriate sanitizers and disinfectants to evenly coat all types of surfaces for a more complete clean
Big Boot Inn is about to get a big rebrand.
Owner Mercedes Basford has some exciting plans for the downtown shop, which is set to close in February.
“We’re going in a different direction,” she said. “It’s going to be called Prickly Pear Boutique.”
The Big Boot Inn was originally owned by two Italian brothers—the DiGeso family—who were cobblers. They first opened the doors on First Avenue before moving to Victoria Street. Their major focus was on high-quality work boots and cowboy boots.
At a young age, Basford worked in the shop as a retail clerk, which gave her an in-depth understanding of the shoe industry.
In 2018, Basford bought the business.
She says the COVID-19 pandemic has given her a chance to take a step back and look at the shop and refine her goals.
The new storefront will no longer carry work boots and will be fashion-focused. It will also carry trendy accessories and stylish clothes.
“I want to explore different avenues that are more versatile. Shoes are going to be our primary focus, but we still want to diversify a little bit,” Basford explained.
“We will keep true to the quality and the comfort of (Big Boot Inn), but we’re going to focus more on fashion and everyday casual. We’re bringing in a lot more fun stuff. We’ve got lots of colours and statement pieces.”
Although it was a tough decision to rebrand the longtime business, Basford says this new shop will better represent the direction she has always set her heart on.
“I picked the name because I wanted to stick to homage Kamloops, our little dessert town. It was really important to me, being from Kamloops.”
Prickly Pear Boutique, located at 241 Victoria St., is set to open in March.
FortisBC is investing $500,000 in UBC Okanagan to study how to implement hydrogen into the natural gas system.
The utility will work with UBCO’s School of Engineering to determine how it can further reduce emissions from its natural gas supply by delivering hydrogen, a carbon-free energy, through its extensive distribution network.
“Hydrogen is an abundant element and a clean energy carrier, and will be step change for our efforts on climate action,” FortisBC vice-president of external and Indigenous relations Doug Slater said in a press release.
“And in order to leverage the potential of hydrogen we need to partner with leading experts in the field. We’re thrilled to have the minds at UBCO on board, helping us unlock this opportunity for what will be a giant step forward in advancing a lower carbon future.”
FortisBC and UBCO will work to understand the potential effects hydrogen may have on the existing natural gas system.
The Penticton Indian Band (PIB) has earned a gold standard commendation from the First Nations Financial Management Board.
FNFMB’s mandate is to support Canada’s First Nations and help them effectively manage their finances, apply for loans on similar terms as other governments in Canada, and to review and audit financial practices.
The PIB is one of just 24 First Nations in B.C. and 44 nationwide to attain the Financial Management System certification.
“This ensures that the community receives the transparency and accountability that it deserves,” PIB Chief Greg Gabriel said.
“The review included obtaining an understanding of the system, assessing any risks associated with the system, testing the design and implementation of the system based upon the assessed risk, and performing such other procedures considered necessary in the circumstances,” Geordie Hungerford, FNFMB’s chief executive officer, wrote in a Nov. 6 letter to chief and council.
The PIB has a team of six responsible for the financial records, and a finance and audit committee that provides oversight and reports to council.
The local First Nation had previously attained two other FNFMB standards: Financial Performance Certification in 2013 and Approved Financial Administration Law in 2017.
The Vernon Farmers’ Market makes its indoor debut for the season this Friday.
After the outdoor season wrapped up, vendors had been waiting on provincial approval to go forward with indoor markets at Kal Tire Place.
Farmers’ markets were deemed essential services and are able to run under the Vending Markets Order while following provincial safety directives, the market posted on its Facebook page Monday.
The next four Fridays the market will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. around the arena concourse.
COVID-19 safety measures will be in effect, including:
• Mandatory masks
• Customer capacity of 50 people at a time
• Physical distancing of six feet
• One-way traffic through the arena loop
• Sanitization stations throughout the market
Organizers ask that shoppers come alone or in groups of no more than two when possible and not linger inside.
“Shop, don’t stop. The market is your essential local shop, you can catch up with friends outside. Please be patient and kind,” the market wrote.
“We thank you all so so much for your continued support this year. We need to support local now more than ever.”