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No one was injured after a weekend fire at a Merritt business. 

Merritt Fire Rescue Department Chief David Tomkinson says they responded to a structure fire at 12:20 Sunday morning at The Balloon Station on Garcia Street.

He adds that they were able to contain the fire to a back room, but smoke damage is extensive throughout the business and they'll return today to try and determine the cause of the fire.

Tomkinson says they extinguished the fire at about 5 am.

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The recently expanded Merritt and Area Transit System bus service is proving to have been the right move.

Frank Rizzardo, a director with the Nicola Valley Transportation Society says ridership is up as a result of the expanded hours into the evening and on Saturdays.

He adds that the Society is starting a survey to find out from riders whether usage is work related, shopping related, or simply recreational and that will allow them to build momentum on expanding that service further in town.

Rizzardo says the survey is going to be in the form of a voluntary questionaire with drivers posing the question as riders board the bus.

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Merritt's brand as "The Country Music Capital of Canada" remains a winner with the community.

James Umpherson, Business and Economic Development Officer for the City, says a July survey indicates that most residents feel that Merritt lives up to the title.

He adds that the survey showed a 2:1 ratio in favour of the City continuing its identity as the Country Music Capital of Canada, which translates into 66.67 percent of respondents agreeing that Merritt remains with the title.

Umpherson says the survey was taken at various locations and different times over a period this past summer.

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While the elected Council of the Lower Nicola Indian Band claims they have suspended Chief Victor York and Councillor Harold Joe, York says they can't do that.

York says it's because the Council doesn't exist after he suspended all of them, except Joe, several months ago.

He adds that he suspended the other members of Council because the Band had to wait for a judge's order to find out who was on Council. He notes that those suspended Councilors continued to have meetings after a judge ruled that there were no meeting could happen without York calling it.

York says it's up to himself to set the agenda and the pace.

He says after the court order was over, a second judge came back and said it had to go back to the Elders who will meet shortly to decide on the Councillors in question and will decide who is in or out.

If they're out, he says, it will then have to go to a by-election.

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Merritt City Council is back to it's regular meeting schedule tonight after re-arranging the schedule to accommodate the Union of BC Municipalities Convention in September.

Deputy City Clerk Carole Fraser says there's a Public Hearing for a rezoning bylaw amendment already in progress, before the meeting kicks off with a presentation of the awards received recently from Communities in Bloom.

There's also a notice of motion from Councillor Mike Goetz regarding development cost charges bylaws and a report requested by Council with regards to the Chapman Street renewal program.

The meeting is at 7 o'clock in City Hall Council Chambers tonight.

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