Jay Patry with Canadian Flag on Lhotse summit with Mt. Everest in the background. He is the first Canadian to climb to the summit of both peaks within 24 hours. Contributed photo

Front page news and community stories

Top news and community stories from January to June 2018


Moricetown school flooded

Moricetown students will be home for the holidays a bit longer than expected after Moricetown Elementary Secondary School (MESS) experienced a school-wide flood Jan. 3. A press release from Witset First Nation (Moricetown) on behalf of the Kyah Wiget Education Society (KWES) that operates the school said the cause of the flood was a broken four-inch pipe that feeds the sprinkler system.

Smithers supportive housing closer to reality

Smithers council made two crucial approvals last Tuesday for the planned 24-unit supportive housing project on Railway Avenue. The housing complex is meant for homeless people and would include the Broadway Shelter, 24-hour staffing and support funded by the Province, and include needs assessments and case plans for each tenant. BC Housing would lease the property from the Town of Smithers, and Smithers Community Services Association (SCSA) would serve as a landlord and provide support services to residents, working with other organizations including Northern Health.

An open house last Monday saw about 70 people hear from homeless women from Smithers, a representative from Medicine Hat where the community has taken on the challenge of eliminating homelessness, and more. Laura Alex gave her personal experience and explained to the crowd that most people do not understand how hard it is for her and others to find a home and gain more independence.

“No landlord will just drop down and say, ‘oh we’ll give you a place to rent,’ because of our problems with drugs and alcohol,” she said. “We need the support to get a place so we can straighten out and make something better of ourselves. Everybody thinks it’s easy but it’s not. It’s really hard for us to go through this. And we’ve lost so many people to being homeless and their addictions, and we don’t want to see any more people from our crew — we don’t want to bury any more of them.”

“We don’t like walking around with backpacks on our back every fricking day just to make ends meet,” she explained.

Services that would be offered cover a wide range, everything from health care and mental health service to meals being provided. The goal is to build to a more independent life. Two units on the ground level would be fully accessible.

Alleged evidence destruction and use of force complaint

A complaint has been filed against the RCMP for alleged evidence destruction and use of force in the police-involved death of a Wet’suwet’en man formerly from Moricetown. Thirty-five year old Dale Culver died while in police custody on July 18 in Prince George.

Train derailment near New Hazelton spills coal into creek

Crews are responding to a train derailment involving southwest New Hazelton. The incident involving 27 cars pulled by a westbound coal train happened at about 8 a.m. today. A CN spokesperson said in an email that there are no reports of injuries and no dangerous goods involved. Two environmental emergency response officers from the provincial Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy were onsite last week to monitor spill response efforts.

In Thursday’s update, Emergency Management B.C. said after crews were able to gain better access to the Mission Creek (also called Station Creek) bank, the estimated volume of coal still present has increased. Mission Creek is a salmon spawning waterway.

Smithers wins back-to-back Paperweight Awards

The Town of Smithers has the (dis)honour of being named a recipient of a Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) 2018 Paperweight Award. The “award” recognizes government departments or agencies who have made life difficult for business owners by adding or enforcing unnecessary rules and regulations.

Smithers again got the award for its infamous sidewalk bylaw. The bylaw states any construction or renovation above $100,000 requires businesses to build sidewalks in front of their property. The Bulkley Valley Child Development Centre, a not-for-profit society, was forced to pay for a sidewalk on Seventh Avenue as result of the bylaw last year. A variance to not build it was denied by council.

This is the second year in a row Smithers has won a Paperweight Award. Smithers joins the National Capital Commission as the only government agencies to win the award twice. The Town won the award last year for forcing North Central Plumbing and Heating to build a sidewalk on Frontage Road that does not yet connect to anything.

“This has to be one of the dumbest one’s we’ve seen,” said CFIB vice president, B.C. and Alberta, Richard Truscott.


Digital mammography service officially open in Smithers

The ribbon has been cut on the new digital mammography machine at the Bulkley Valley District Hospital. The new machine, along with improved IT equipment and renovations to accommodate the upgrades, cost almost $9.5 million. It was paid for by the Province.

A committee was formed to fight for a digital unit and more than 1,200 people signed a petition to keep mammography services local. Smithers council also got behind the movement.

Record snow on ground three times average

A record was broken for the most amount of snow on the ground for Feb. 8. According to Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan there was 94 cm of snow at the airport. The previous record was in 1965 with 79 cm on the ground. The average for this time of the year is 29 cm. Hudson Bay Mountain Resort reported a base of almost two metres on the mountain.

Recycle BC trashing contract with Bulkley Valley Bottle Depot

Recycle BC will be canceling their current contract with Bulkley Valley Bottle Depot effective Feb. 24. Managing director for Recycle BC Allen Langdon wouldn’t give any specific reason to why they are terminating the contract.

“We have no intention of having any further discussions with the BVBD to work anything out,” he said. “They’ve told us they intend on continuing to accept recyclable materials so really at this point if that changes we will look at establishing a relationship with another operator or facility to collect recyclable material.

New home for Home Hardware

Home Hardware is building a new 12,500-square-foot building at Third Avenue and King Street, and someone’s going to live there. A residential suite will be part of the building — a direct result of the Town’s proposed Downtown Revitalization Tax Exemption that would give this building a five-year municipal tax exemption of 75 per cent.

Greyhound passenger service permitted to end

The Passenger Transportation Board on Feb. 21 approved Greyhound’s proposal to eliminate nine routes across B.C., including the Prince George to Prince Rupert route that runs through the Bulkley Valley. The bus company has said it can no longer subsidize losses on unprofitable routes with revenue from the more profitable routes in the province. In a decision posted online, the board said it can’t force a private business to suffer “significant financial losses indefinitely.”


Smithers man dies at Brucejack Mine

The B.C. Coroners Service and WorkSafeBC are investigating the death of a Smithers man in his 50s at the Brucejack Mine. The work-related death occurred at a support camp operated by one of the mine’s contractors, approximately 25 km away from the mine, and did not cause the mine to shut down. Due to the privacy of the deceased, per the Coroners Act and privacy legislation, his identity is not being released during the investigation. WorkSafeBC was notified about the incident on Feb. 25 at 5:05 p.m.

Former Burns Lake Mayor Luke Strimbold facing numerous sex assault charges

Former Mayor of Burns Lake Luke Strimbold has been charged with numerous counts of sexual assault and sex-related offences, and police believe there could be more alleged victims. North District RCMP did not speak to the exact number of charges, or specific details in a news release Friday, but did say the allegations are said to have occurred in 2016. According to news reports, Strimbold was arrested and released on Feb. 3.

Northern Health approves $2.9-million CT scanner

CT scan services are coming to the Bulkley Valley District Hospital (BVDH) in Smithers. The project comes with a $2.9-million price tag, which includes equipment and renovations required to install it at BVDH.

The Bulkley Valley Health Care and Hospital Foundation recently met their fundraising goal of $1.75 million to help bring the service to Smithers. This amount includes the donation from Frtiz Pfeiffer of $1.6 million. Other sponsors include the Smithers Celebrity Golf Tournament, Seabridge Gold, Bulkley Valley Kinsmen and other individuals and businesses. As well, an upcoming BV Kinsmen truck demolition derby, comedy night and dance on May 5 will raise funds for it.

Telkwa gets $3.6-million water funding

The Village of Telkwa will be breaking ground on a reservoir as soon as the spring after being awarded a multi-million-dollar grant from the federal government. Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repen announced the $3.6 million in Federal Gas Tax funding for the Trobak Hill Reservoir Project Friday. The hope is for it to be completed and in operation by this fall.

Pellet plant ready to build

The decision to redevelop the former NewPro particle board facility into a wood pellet production plant was celebrated last Monday at the side of a giant pile of wood chips. Shovels with green ribbons were used to signify the groundbreaking that will happen when construction crews move in soon. Production is expected to start in the third quarter of this calendar year (July to September). The plant is a major redevelopment of the former NewPro particle board plant along the railroad track. West Fraser, which owns Pacific Inland Resources (PIR) in Smithers, is a partner in the project with a 30 per cent interest.

Hagwilget Bridge rescue

On Wednesday, March 21 just before 10 p.m., New Hazelton RCMP received a report of a person standing in the middle of the roadway, not moving or attempting to avoid the traffic. A media release described how the dangerous situation got even more precarious, and the efforts from local police and firefighters: “Without hesitation two of the officers slid down the main support cable of the bridge to the unresponsive female while other offices assisted them from the top side of the bridge.

Student flees civil war and gets a taste of Canada

A student from Hungary is spending a semester at Bulkley Valley Christian School to take a break from a recent harrowing move back to her home country and to help improve her English. Grade 10 student Zsofia Tarackozi is staying with a family friend in Smithers and taking a breather from being uprooted in the fall. She was born in Hungary but has spent the last seven years in Ukraine. The civil war there forced her family back to Hungary. The only way her family could stay in Ukraine was if her brothers joined the war.


Big tax breaks proposed

A vibrant downtown is the heartbeat of any community. This is especially true for the small business community of Smithers. Feet and eyes on the street from shoppers, tourists and residents are what provide feelings of safety and energy.

Smithers council and mayor want to build on that through tax exemptions. The idea is by giving property tax exemptions to builders and renovators, they will include residential components to their businesses. That would mean more people downtown with a density that keeps sidewalks bustling. But that also means a loss of potential revenue from taxes paid and more traffic. If approved, business owners can get up to a 100 per cent discount on their tax bill. It all depends how dense they are willing to go.


Seven bears removed from Smithers trails

The Perimeter Trail around Willowvale Marsh and near Elks Park is now open after Conservation officers cleared seven bears from the south end of Smithers. Unfortunately, one of the two sows had to be put down after being wedged on a tree limb. The orphaned cubs were placed with Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter. Apples and chicken feed left out by people were the suspected attractants.

We are Witset

Witset celebrated its name and identity Saturday. Formerly called Moricetown, named after a priest not known to be friendly to Wet’suwet’en traditions, the community’s name now means something akin to “first” or “the people of the first village.”

Recreational fishing closed

Recreational fishing for all salmon – chinook, sockeye, pink and coho – on the Skeena and Nass rivers and their watersheds is forbidden by Fisheries and Oceans Canada until further notice. That includes the Bulkley River and its tributaries.

Victim wants women to come forward

A Smithers woman reported a horrible experience at Chandler Park to local police, speaking to them three times to verify all the information she could, and she wants more who may have been sexually assaulted to do the same.

New Walnut Park Elementary School

It’s a go. After years of asking for a new facility to replace Walnut Park and weeks of speculation, the Ministry of Education announced it will fund the build. Minister of Education Rob Fleming and Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson visited the school to give the good news.


Wheels on new BC Bus North

With the final Greyhound passenger bus departing northern B.C. on May 31, the announcement of a new bus service is right on schedule. BC Bus North, provided by BC Transit, was to begin service on an interim basis June 4. The first Highway 16 Prince George to Prince Rupert trips are set to pass through the Bulkley Valley Thursday and Saturday afternoons, with return trips the following days.

Proposed $45-million South Hazelton pellet plant

The Gitxsan Development Corporation has been working on bringing the project to reality for just over a year. They’ve teamed up with Airex Energy out of Quebec, who has developed a new type of pellet that is a clean alternative to coal.

No charges in Granisle shooting deaths

Over two years later, the investigation into the police shootings in Granisle that left a 73-year-old woman and her 39-year-old son dead has concluded with no charges recommended. The IIO report reads that the officer who took the shots said he was forced to first when Jovan Williams ran out the back door wearing an army helmet and tossed a Molotov cocktail and pointed a rifle, and again when Shirley Williams came out with a shotgun and wearing a bullet-proof vest.

Rescued from the wilderness

The circumstances leading to the disappearance and rescue of an Oregon family in the backwoods of northern B.C. can be boiled down to poor planning, Dease Lake RCMP said. Police said the family was travelling to Alaska and camping along the way, but underestimated the vastness of the North.

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Crews survey the damage at the scene of a coal train derailment where 27 cars came off the track near New Hazelton, spilling some coal into Mission Creek. Emergency Management B.C. photo

Lisa Glaim from Smithers has been living on the street for the last 10 years. She says any housing needs to allow her dogs Hannah (left) and Booboo. (Chris Gareau photo)

Pinnacle Renewable Energy breaks ground and starts construction of its Smithers pellet production plant. It is expected to employ 20 people. About another 10 people will be hired to fetch logs that West Fraser’s PIR mill would have had to burn, but is sending to Pinnacle instead. (Contributed photo)

President and COO of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Leroy Reitsma (left to right), Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach, and West Fraser vice president Larry Gardner at the site of a wood pellet production facility. (Chris Gareau photo)

Witset celebrated its name and identity. (Contributed photo)

Oregon family rescued in northern B.C. after getting lost. (Contributed photo)

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