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Smithers 2022 Year in Review - November



Police vehicles targeted in hotel parking lot arson

An early morning fire in a Smithers hotel parking lot in late October left a number of police vehicles and at least one ambulance destroyed in what investigators believe was a targeted attack on emergency vehicles.Shortly before 4:30 a.m. Wednesday (Oct. 26), first responders found a number of vehicles ablaze at the Sunshine Inn on Fourth Avenue.

The fire did not cause any damage to the hotel. Eight vehicles, including four RCMP cruisers and one BC Ambulance, were damaged or completely destroyed in the blaze.

“Thankfully no one was hurt in the fire, which is the most important thing,” said Cpl. Madonna Saunderson.

Transportation meeting yields limited results

In a meeting held at town hall Nov. 24, attendees heard from business owners, hotel managers, tourism operators and the general public concerned about the lack of a taxi service in Smithers.

Last spring, less than two years after Paddy Hirshfield and Patrick Hibbitts resurrected Bulkley Valley Taxi, they shut down operations again. The pair said the market was not strong enough to support their business.

Previously, Joyce Pottinger (the previous owner), closed the doors in January 2020, she cited an inability to find staff as her main reason for stepping away.

During the absence of service, people have been stuck at the airports, or in town needing to get to the airport, people have been dropped off at the Via rail station without a ride or even direction (with the building locked), and some companies are sending their workers to Terrace, because they have no way to get around for work.

It was decided the Town of Smithers, the regional district, the stakeholders and town’s economic development officer will look into some of the ideas brought forward, and seek other viable solutions and alternatives to make recommendations to council, and hold further public meetings to present findings.

Affordable housing project makes progress

A $13 million affordable housing project came one step closer to becoming reality after Smithers Council approved the design plans in principle with some modifications at its Nov. 8 meeting.

The Dze L K’ant Housing Society’s affordable housing project will be funded by BC Housing and will serve families and elders from the Indigenous community.

The site will be on the town-owned, 2.4 acre former LB Warner site on Main Street, near Tenth Ave. The gymnastics club will continue to have their gym on one side of the property and the apartment building will be on the other.

School District elects new chair and other officials

Following the October election, Houston trustee Jennifer Williams was named the chair of the School District 54 school board and fellow Houstonite Les Kearns will once again serve as vice chair, as trustees gathered for their first official business meeting Nov. 15.

The chair and vice chair are named for one-year terms and this will be the fifth term for Williams as chair and the fifth term for Kearns as vice chair.

Smithers trustee Frank Farrell was named provincial councillor and Kearns will be the school district’s representative to the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, the provincial body that negotiates wages and benefits contracts between public school districts and their employees.

Emergency services providers seek solution to connectivity problem

In November, three incidents in the previous five months that disrupted 911 service locally had regional emergency services providers seeking solutions to ensure continuous connectivity.

On October 18, a motor vehicle incident outside Terrace caused a Telus outage that affected the Smithers, Telkwa and Houston fire departments.

During this outage, a structure fire occurred in downtown Smithers. The outage caused a delay in paging out Smithers Fire Rescue, but the Fire Operations Communication Centre (FOCC) in Prince George was eventually able to establish a line of communication with the fire department for the duration of the call-out.

On June 7, a Telus line was damaged near Topley that affected multiple types of communications, including 911 in the western portion of the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN).

And on July 8, there was a Rogers outage, due to maintenance issues, which disrupted internet services across Canada for approximately 19 hours. Police services reported 911 services were inaccessible on many mobile phones.

Tower Communications, which is under contract with the regional district to service all regional district 911 communications equipment, will be providing staff with recommendations for providing a reliable backup system that will ensure communications coverage should another outage occur.

Smithers Talks event brings people together

A unique event designed to bring together people of differing political opinions in Smithers exceeded organizers’ expectations.

The initiative, dubbed Smithers Talks, was spearheaded by high school student Madeleine Ghatavi, who said after seeing a Ted Talk on the My Country Talks program she wanted to do something to heal some of the divisions she saw develop over the course of the last couple of years in her hometown.

“When I look at the political tensions that are rising in the world, as a young person, it is inspiring to see these grassroots dialogue spaces coming to fruition and that can help to diffuse tensions before they become civil wars and make an impact on how we run societies,” she said.

By the time the Nov. 12 event rolled around, 38 people had taken a survey and signed up to have a one-on-one conversation with someone who answered the survey differently.

Sara Cooper, the technical project manager for the My Country Talks organization said it was a very good result for a town the size of Smithers.

Critical Incident Response Team member honoured

In November, the Bulkley Valley Critical Incident Response Team (BV CIRT) honoured Karen Wilson of Smithers for her 25-plus years of Service to the team.

“Karen joined the team in the early 1990s when the team was still very wet behind the ears, training under Bruce Ramsay and Jess Ram, global leaders in critical incident response,” said Cornelia Huisman, program coordinator.

Werner Eichstadter, long term member of BV CIRT, said Wilson has been great to work with and a “mainstay” in the group.

“There are four of us that have worked together since the beginning days, and Karen is one. She is also on the BC Ambulance team in Smithers and a part-time community paramedic in Houston, so she is a very busy person,” Eichstadter said.

New bylaw officer and Town part ways

After less than two months, Smithers’ new bylaw officer was already Smithers’ former bylaw officer.

Perry Lewin, who came to the valley from Kindersley, Sask., assumed the role Oct. 1.

In an email to the Interior News this afternoon (Nov. 23) chief administrator Dianna Plouffe did not give any reasons for the abrupt departure.

“I confirm that Perry Lewin is no longer employed by the Town of Smithers,” she stated.

Mayor Gladys Atrill said because it is a personnel matter, neither she nor the Town would say any more than that.

Former Smithereen earns highest honour from Irish medical school

Former Smithereen, Rebecca Bulmer received the President’s Honour Award for her final year of medicine from the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland.

“Thank you to Dave McMillan and former staff at the Learning Centre for believing in Rebecca 25 yrs ago,” said her parents Elizabeth and Wayne Bulmer.

The Bulkley Valley Learning Center is an alternative to high school run by SD54.

Marisca Bakker

About the Author: Marisca Bakker

Marisca was born and raised in Ontario and moved to Smithers almost ten years ago on a one-year contract.
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