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Merritt RCMP officers providing support for a massive 4-day international music festival at Sun Peaks.

Kamloops Rural RCMP S/Sgt Doug Aired confirms officers from Merritt, Barriere, Chase and Vernon are all joining his members to help police 'Snowbombing', which gets underway today.

"The organization running this has a security contingent of over forty people, so I'm not anticipating any problems. There's up to six venues, where they will have either a DJ or live band, so that's where their security team and officers will be stationed."

Tainted drugs and intoxicated drivers are Aired's main concerns.

But he says all officers will be equipped with naloxone in case of any overdoses, and Alexa’s Bus, the RCMP’s mobile road safety unit, will be at the festival to police drinking and driving.

 

ICBC is looking at technology that will prevent cellphone use in cars.

Road Safety manager Mark Milner says they have asked companies to report back in a few weeks with any device or app that could reduce distracted driving.

Among them Milner says would be apps that would block all incoming calls or texts from a phone in a car that is in motion.

"What we'd like to see is people leaving their phones alone. And, we think in a lot of cases people want to, but for several reasons just find it too difficult."

On average, 78 people die as a result of distracted driving in BC each year, which accounts for a quarter of a traffic fatalities.

 

Nicola Ranch shutting down haying operations.

Ranch manager Matt Williams confirms they have had to layoff employees that grow and harvest the feed as a result, but the ranch does remain operational.

"We are keeping our cattle operations going, so Nicola Ranch will remain solvent and will continue to function. We just made a logical decision when looking at our cash-flow situation and income statement, and decided at this time it’s in our best interest to shutdown our haying operation."

Williams says the decision to shut down haying operations is not final, and will be reassessed on a year-to-year basis.

Expected increase in attendance at the Rockin' River Music Fest this summer is creating issues as to who is responsible for the cost of providing emergency services.

Merritt Mayor Neil Menard says the city was contacted by organizer Kenny Hess this week, who has been told with the festival expected to draw more than 5,000 per day they are no longer exempt from paying for policing, ambulance and fire suppression services.

Sterling-Hunt, the company that owns the festival site, has informed Hess that either Rockin' River or the City of Merritt is responsible to cover those costs, which could be in the neighborhood of $80,000.

"The word I got back from Mr. Hess was that Sterling-Hunt has told him the city is responsible, and if we don't cover the costs, it doesn't matter whether the services are in place. We believe it does matter, and the contract is clear. It's Sterling-Hunt's responsibility for the financing of that."

Menard says the City of Merritt's only responsibility in the contract originally signed back in 2014, was to provide the equipment, and RCMP officers, paramedics, and firefighters, if needed.

School District 58 planning a district-wide Fine Arts festival this spring.

Assistant superintendent Christine Perkins says 'What's The Big Idea!" will take place from April 24th to May 5th, and feature both students from Merritt and Princeton, fine arts teachers, local artists, and community members.

"The festival was born out of BC's new school curriculum. Which talks about building student success through things like collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and personal responsibility. The Fine Arts department is a leader in this area, and so the district fine arts team has decided the best way to show off these skills is by hosting a festival."

Events are scheduled in Merritt throughout the two-week festival, which will also act as a way for School District 58 to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday.

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