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New officer in charge of the Merritt RCMP General Investigation Section.
 
Cpl Derek Francis is returning to plain clothes to head up the local unit in charge of major criminal investigations in the Merritt area.
 
"I was in GIS for six-years prior to this as a constable. I was then promoted to corporal and served a year-and-a-half as a corporal in general duty after being promoted. I believe it's my experience that git me the job."
 
Meanwhile, the GIS Unit continues to operate down a member.
 
"There's just two of us right now. The plan is to have two constables and a corporal. It's all about managing staffing levels. We are short on general duty right now as well, and we don't want to take away from them. They are the first line of defense, and the one's that answer when you pick up the phone."
 
The General Investigation Section is one of three specialized units operating out of the Merritt RCMP detachment.
 
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Merritt and District Chamber of Commerce could be losing another president.
 
Manager Etelka Gillespie says Mike Heron, who was just elected president in October after three-term president Julie Van Koll stepped down over issues with the city, is pursuing business interests in Calgary that may force him to leave Merritt.
 
"He is indisposed right now in Alberta. So, we won't know what is happening until he does. Right now, nothing is official."
 
Since taking over in September, Heron and the Merritt and District Chamber of Commerce have been active, proposing a partnership with the City of Merritt to build a business park near the airport, and working to lower the organization's debt.
 
Privately, Heron has also been working on constructing both an ethanol production, and modular housing manufacturing plant at the site of the former Tolko sawmill.
 
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City of Merritt pushing to have RCMP officers back on bikes.
 
No current Merritt RCMP officer has completed the five-days of training necessary to conduct patrols on bikes, but If made a priority, Cpl Derek Francis believes it would allow police to better monitor areas inaccessible by car.
 
"I think every community in Canada recognizes bike and foot patrols as a great supplement to just reactive policing, and going to calls. If you have personnel, training and equipment to do it, there is no down side."
 
The request to have Merritt RCMP officers return to bike patrols was made at Tuesday's Police committee meeting, in response to concerns surrounding alcohol and drug use along the Coldwater River Trail.
 
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City of Merritt won't be stopping anyone from flooding, or skating at the Central Park multi-purpose sports box this winter.

Despite documented issues with the boards and surface, CAO Shawn Boven says the rink will be open for skating, should Mother Nature cooperate.

"The thing is, even if it is not flooded, the snow falls, and it melts and floods anyways. Not flooding it, doesn't keep the water from further damaging the rink, unless we were out there with a squeegee all the time."

Last winter, which was one of the coldest on record in the Nicola Valley, the sports box was well utilized by residents.

 

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A year after Tolko Industries ceased operations, the City of Merritt continues to look to add new industry.
 
Facing a significant drop in tax revenue starting in 2018 because of the closure, Mayor Neil Menard assures the city is focused on making up the loss.
 
"Of course. Anytime someone contact us, and expresses an interest to locate here in Merritt we are going to encourage them and making the process as accommodating as possible. So, yes we are going to do everything we can to attract businesses large and small to the community."
 
Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the Tolko sawmill closing in Merritt.
 
While the loss of 200 jobs was a shock to the community, Menard is proud of the way residents have responded.
 
"I've said this before, our citizens are a pretty resilient bunch. They looked things over, and realized we need to move on from here, and basically that is what they have done."
 
The former Tolko sawmill in Merritt was put into shutdown status last month. 
 
The move will result in a roughly 4% hit to the city's overall tax revenue in 2018.
 
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