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WILKINSON Mitch Florence 500000 Merritt Jan92020

For the third time in 12-months, Merrittonians are celebrating a lotto win.

Back in February, a Merritt couple won the big prize, a $25.9 Million jackpot. Then a few months ago Merritt was home to a $50,000 win.

Now, Merritt’s Mitch and Florence Wilkinson hit a lotto max maxmillions draw for a cool half-million dollars.

“We bought a few more tickets than normal because we knew the jackpot was $70 million,” says Mitch, who bought the winning ticket at Black’s Pharmacy in Merritt. “Even with $500,000 we were still shaking holding the big cheque!”

The Wilkinson’s were one of the 30 maxmillions winners from the January 3 draw, splitting the $1 million prize with a winner from Ontario.

2020 marks the 31st winter that Mitch has worked plowing snow on the Coquihalla Highway. Though he’s not quitting the job he loves to do just yet, he admits the lottery win makes early retirement look more attractive.

“It’s been a real challenge on the Coquihalla over the years, keeping the roads clear and drivers safe,” he said. “Even though it’s tough, I still enjoy doing what I do.”

The couple – which lived in Merritt most of its life – will be putting the majority of their winnings in savings. However, some of it will be earmarked for home renovations and early retirement.


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mss exterior

On June 30, 2019, the last BC Teachers contract expired. Since then the BC Teacher’s Federation and the government have been attempting to negotiate a new deal.

But, as teachers and students return to classrooms this week after winter break, a new contract is still yet to be agreed to.

Nicola Valley Teacher’s Association President Peter Vogt joined Q101 to provide an update of the situation.

“We’re still trying to make the government aware that there is still a significant amount of underfunding happening and a lot of that has trickled down to the teacher’s salaries,” said Vogt. “We’re still the lowest paid of the western provinces and second-lowest paid in all of Canada.”

While specifics of the negotiations can not be released Vogt did confirm that the two sides are set to meet in January.

“We have to continue to look at what we’re doing to put pressure on the government and whether or not that’s having the desired effect and look at our options going forward,” said Vogt.


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Snowpack Jan 2020

The River Forecast Centre has released its first snowpack report of the season and virtually across the board, the basins are below normal.

Dave Campbell from the River Forecast Centre joined Q101 to discuss the situation in the Merritt area.

“Merritt sits in this region where we see a pretty sharp contrast between the coastal mountains to the West and then transferring to the interior ranges. We’re seeing the western parts, some of the areas that might be feeding of the back of the Coquihalla, a bit slow to start the season and the basins have been fairly low,” said Campbell.

“As we come into the interior ranges, the Similkameen is at about 75 (per cent of normal), and I feel like that’s probably similar to what we're seeing into the Nicola,” added Campbell.

Last January the Similkameen was sitting at 93 per cent of normal. Other surrounding basins include the Lower Fraser, currently at 51 per cent, a sharp decrease from 92 per cent this time last year. The Middle Fraser is also below normal and last year’s pace at 66 per cent, it was at 102 last year.

While the numbers are not a promising start to avoid another summer of drought conditions, Campbell stated that the most recent snowfalls in the region have not yet been calculated and February’s update may provide better insight.


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Last year Merritt Secondary hosted the inaugural Eagles Perch Invitational Basketball Tournament for grade-8 girls’ and boys’ teams.

This year along with the grade-8 event which will take place at the end of January, MSS is hosting a junior girls’ and boys’ tournament, taking place this weekend at MSS and NVIT.

The tourney is bringing together 16 teams from around the interior to compete for the Eagles Perch Crown.

MSS VP Gian Cavaliere spoke to Q101 about the importance of including first nation traditions in the events.

“NVIT and MSS have a great relationship and they’ve been very flexible with us in terms of using their facilities. They offered to sponsor the tournament in different ways and so we felt the only way to respect that and say thank you was to name it after their campus, Eagles Perch,” said Cavaliere.

“We want to respect the territory we’re playing on. So, this year we’re going to have local elders, community members and even some students from the high school and elementary school, they’re going to kick-off our tournament of Friday with a welcome song, and drumming,” added Cavaliere.

Games for the junior squads will kick-off Friday at the NVIT and MSS gyms at 1:30.


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In December, Chief Lee Spahan and members of the Coldwater Band were down in Vancouver for the appeal case against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The Coldwater Band was one of three communities appealing the project based on what they believe to be a lack of proper consultation.

Chief Spahan joined Q101 to discuss his impression of the court proceedings.

“I think it went well. The judges had questions but all the questions that they asked were answered right away from our legal team. I thought that was a very good, positive sign. Just waiting for the outcome now,” said Spahan.

The court has not given a timeline for its decision on the matter.

Earlier this week, the United Nations released a statement calling for the suspension of the pipeline, along with two other BC projects due to lack of consultation, something Chief Spahan can attest to.

“It talks about free, prior, and informed consent. Coldwater never gave consent on this pipeline and they call it consultation when they’re the ones putting the dates on the paper saying whether it's complete or not, we’re going to hand in a report. How can you hand in a report when it hasn’t even started yet?” Questioned Spahan.

The Chief is referring to an aquifer study that is set to be submitted in March despite the study not having begun. The Coldwater Band is ready to begin the study, however current weather conditions have not allowed them to commence.


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