Grand Forks Gazette’s year in review: March/April 2012

Two prominent Grand Forks hotels were targets of suspected arson in March, in incidents that gained province-wide attention.

There were fires at the Grand Forks Hotel and the Winnipeg Hotel. The Grand Forks Hotel was completely destroyed and damage to the Winnipeg was limited to the back of the building. A Grand Forks resident was charged.

March 7, 2012

Grand Forks teachers joined the rest of the province in withdrawing services for three days on March 5.

Norm Sabourin, president of the Boundary District Teacher’s Association (BTDA), noted leaflets about the walkout were distributed to students at schools.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) organized a rally on March 6 at Gyro Park, where several speakers discussed the importance of bringing awareness to Bill 22, the Education Improvement Act.

“Bill 22 sets a cooling off period and suspends the teachers’ union strike action while calling on the assistance of a mediator,” Sabourin said. “It also implements the $160-million Learning Improvement Fund and other measures that will play a fundamental role in the future of education in our province.”

March 14, 2012

The historic Grand Forks Hotel has been completely destroyed and the landmark Winnipeg Hotel damaged due to a pair of early-morning fires on March 7.

According to Boundary Regional RCMP, police were responding to a report of a fire at the Grand Forks Hotel at about 3 a.m. when a fire was detected at the Winnipeg Hotel on Central Avenue in Grand Forks.

Christopher James Cusack, 47, has been charged with two counts of arson, which endangered human life. Police initially considered both cases to be arson due to the suspicious nature of both fires.

Grand Forks RCMP’s Staff Sgt. Jim Harrison said while police are “tying up loose ends” in the investigation, they are still appealing to the public.

“If anybody witnessed anything suspicious or anyone near those two hotels around the time that we believe the fire would’ve started, if someone could forward and give us information on that we’d appreciate it still,” he said, adding police have already canvassed the area.

Police constables first entered the smoke-filled Winnipeg Hotel early on March 7 and ensured all occupants were evacuated prior to the fire department’s arrival and the headed to the Grand Forks Hotel, where it was determined that all guests were safely out of the building and accounted for.

Fire fighters fought fires (arriving at the Winnipeg Hotel first) and while the Grand Forks Hotel, the fire department was able to protect surrounding buildings.

March 21, 2012

The Grand Forks Airport could see more use in the future with WestJet’s new short-haul carriers.

Though still in the planning stages, WestJet’s new program, announced early-February, is aimed towards regional operations that will serve smaller Canadian destinations.

At the moment, the local airport is available for 24-hour medical evacuations, BC Fire Services use during

the summer months, aircraft fuel sales and recreational use.

March 28, 2012

The City of Grand Forks is in the midst of completing its 2012-2016 Five Year Plan as council makes decisions on budgeting.

Though there was an increase in the city’s electrical utility rate in January, there aren’t any other anticipated increases for the rest of the year as city Chief Financial Officer Cecile Arnott said she hasn’t heard anything from Fortis BC regarding this.

However, there could be other increases, as water and sewer usages fees could increase by $90,000.

Proposed preventative maintenance and minor capital projects include repairs to the beacon radio at the airport, estimated to cost $68,000.

April 4, 2012

RDKB executed a court order to remove a number of illegal trailers from the Granby Road property of Peter Demski on March 28.

The RDKB contends that there had been complaints from nearby residents about the trailers, which were brought onto Demski’s property illegally and went against zoning bylaws.

The mobile homes were torn down and the debris was taken to a local landfill.

***

The City of Grand Forks are finally a part of the City Watch program in British Columbia.

A collaboration between workers of the City of Grand Forks and local RCMP detachment, City Watch aims to promote community safety through worker awareness.

Grand Forks RCMP Staff Sgt. Jim Harrison explained he was approached a year ago to see if RCMP was willing to work with CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) and their City Watch Program

The program is very similar to Grand Forks’ Citizens on Patrol.

April 11, 2012

Crimes throughout Grand Forks and the Boundary area saw a 19-per-cent decrease from 2010 to 2011.

According to the 2012 Report on Policing: Boundary Regional Detachment, the most notable decreases were residential break and entry, down by 56 per cent, and business break and entry down by 64 per cent.

This is followed by thefts under $5,000, which was down by 24 per cent, and causing a disturbance down by 29 per cent.

April 18, 2012

Grand Forks businesses felt the pinch when the federal government lifts the exemption limit allowing Canadians to bring back more items duty and tax-free.

As of June 1, travellers who have been outside of Canada for more than 24 hours, but less than 48, will be able to bring back $200 worth of tax-exempt goods – the limit is currently $50.

Canadians travelling outside the country longer than 48 hours will also see the exemption increase from $400 to $800. The exemption for travellers who have been away for more than seven days rises from $50 to $800.

Limits for alcohol and tobacco remain the same.

***

School District 51 Boundary held a “District Design 2013” forum for the public to help develop and re-design the school district on May 23 at Dr. D. A. Perley Elementary School.

There was discussions about reconfiguration for the schools in Grand Forks to address the issue on shifting enrolment.

The reconfiguration looked at two elementary schools, one in Christina Lake and one in Grand Forks for Kindergarten to Grade 5, a middle school with Grades 6 to 8, and a secondary school with Grades 9 to 12.

April 25, 2012

The federal government has recently allocated $150 million towards infrastructure for cities around Canada that will benefit the City of Grand Forks as it moves forward in updating its aging infrastructure.

With the passing of this year’s budget and two infrastructure-related bylaws (Bylaw 1922 and 1923), projects can now move forward.

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