MISSION 2016: THE YEAR IN REVIEW – Part two July to December

The observatory building was torn down, protesters converged on a sex offender's house and more.

With the year 2017 fast approaching, the Mission Record is looking back at some of the stories that grabbed the headlines in 2016 from July to December:

 

JULY

 

ESTRANGED HALF-BROTHER CHARGED IN 2013 MURDER

The community of Mission was in shock three years ago when the body of 18-year-old local resident Rachel Pernosky was discovered in Chilliwack.

The Integrated Homicide investigation Team (IHIT), along with the Mission RCMP, announced there was sufficient evidence to support homicide-related charges against Rachel’s estranged half-brother.

Matthew Joseph Pernosky, a 31-year-old Richmond resident, was charged with second-degree murder, as well as a second charge of indignity to a body by having sexual contact with and disposing of the body.

 

LIGHTS OUT FOR ILLUMINARIA

The 2016 Illuminaria Lantern Festival was cancelled. After 16 years, the Mission Association for Community Living (MACL) announced that it would no longer be holding the popular event, noting they no longer had the capacity to take the lead on the festival.

“It’s just grown beyond what we can manage,” explained Dawn Hein, executive director of MACL.

 

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY THREATENED

Plans to tear down the observatory building in Fraser River Heritage Park and re-purpose the building material hit a major snag.

Habitat for Humanity Upper Fraser Valley withdrew its involvement with the project after receiving a flood of negative feedback from observatory supporters.

The backlash was so strong that Habitat CEO Doug Rempel told The Record he even received some threats.

 

CRIME RATE INCREASES 15 PER CENT

Crime rates were up in the Abbotsford-Mission census metropolitan area (CMA) for the second consecutive year, but police in both communities said measures had already been taken to reduce those numbers.

The annual figures, released by Statistics Canada, reported the crime severity index (CSI) and the crime rate for 33 CMAs across Canada for 2015. The Abbotsford-Mission CMA was the fifth highest in the nation for both crime rate and CSI.

The area’s CSI – which is a figure based on the number of crimes reported and the severity of each offence – was up 14 per cent from 2014. The figure, 96.6, was higher than the national average of 69.7 and the provincial average of 94.7.

 

MHA STILL LOOKING FOR ANSWERS

Members of the Mission Heritage Association (MHA) came forward with documents that they believed prove their long-standing contention that they proceeded to build the observatory structure with verbal permission from the district and that the building’s foundation was solid.

Brian Antonson, president of the MHA, believed there had been so many remarks and accusations about the observatory that all of the issues needed to be addressed to separate fact from fiction.

But despite the paperwork being brought forward, Mayor Randy Hawes said it didn’t explain away the numerous issues with the structure.

The observatory was demolished at the beginning of August.

 

AUGUST

 

PROTESTERS WANT SEX OFFENDER RELOCATED

A public rally was held to protest the arrival of repeat child sexual offender James Conway to Mission. About 40 people attended a protest in front of Mission city hall.

The announcement about Conway’s move from Abbotsford to Mission was made through a press release issued by BC Corrections. The exact location where Conway would reside was not released.

Missionite Angel Elias organized the protest, saying she wanted to protect her community.

Mission Mayor Randy Hawes spoke at the protest and told the public that council was as surprised about the announcement as they were. He said council found out about it through the media and had no prior warning.

 

DISTRICT TO ASK COURT TO FORCE CONWAY TO MOVE

More questions were raised about why convicted child sex offender James Conway came to Mission.

After a meeting with a representative of BC Corrections, Mayor Randy Hawes and community representatives learned that the agency had a list of more than 40 potential locations in the Fraser Valley that Conway could move to.

He had been living in Abbotsford, but the city had initiated court action to force the home he was in to close, as the property was not zoned for care purposes.

Hawes said the district hoped to use its zoning bylaws to try to get Conway out of the community, as the district said the property was not zoned for care homes or halfway houses. Protesters continued to rally outside the home daily.

 

TWO CHARGED WITH MISSING MAN’S MURDER

Six years after Mission’s Joshua Bowe went missing, RCMP announced murder charges against two B.C. men.

The men, who were youths at the time of the offence and cannot be named, were charged with first-degree murder after a long investigation by the provincial unsolved homicides unit.

Bowe was first reported missing in November 2010.

Investigators soon began to suspect that foul play was involved in Joshua’s disappearance and the file was transferred to the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

 

SEPTEMBER

 

FISH KILLED, YARD FLOODED AS VANDALS STRIKE HOSPICE

Vandals struck the Mission Hospice Society office, flooding the backyard and killing more than 100 koi fish. Angel Elias, executive director of the society, said her husband arrived at the office, located in a house on Hillcrest Avenue across from Mission Memorial Hospital, to find the backyard pond flooded, security fence damaged, and beer bottles and dead fish scattered all along the yard.

 

$3.5 MILLION FOR DOWNTOWN IMPROVEMENTS

Mission council unanimously decided to invest $3.5 million into a First Avenue streetscape improvement project in the downtown core. The project will span three blocks, from Horne Street to Grand Street. The new streetscape concept included numerous elements designed to improve the overall pedestrian experience, along with increased safety.

 

SOME SHOPS NOT WANTED DOWNTOWN

New tattoo shops, cheque cashing companies and tobacconists might not be welcome in Mission’s downtown core. Following an announcement that the District of Mission will be spending $3.5 million to enhance the downtown area, Mayor Randy Hawes asked for zoning changes that will forbid several types of businesses from being allowed to set up shop in the area.

 

OCTOBER

 

KKK FLYERS DISTURBING

Some Mission residents, most on Cherry Avenue, discovered a small package on their front lawns from the Ku Klux Klan. The package was a clear plastic bag containing a one-page flyer and a small amount of rice for weight.

The flyer indicated it was from the “Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan” and that “Yes! White Lives Do Matter.” Mission RCMP received many complaints regarding the KKK literature, and several files were opened.

 

 

LAWSUIT FILED IN ATTEMPT TO REMOVE SEX OFFENDER

The District of Mission moved forward with its attempt to force sex offender James Conway out of the community.

Deputy chief administrative officer Mike Younie confirmed that the district filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court claiming that Conway and W.J. Stelmaschuk and Associates (WJS), the company keeping him under constant surveillance, were in violation of local zoning bylaws.

 

DOG OWNERS FACING FINES

More than 1,700 dog owners in Mission faced $200 tickets after failing to renew their dog licences for 2016. Across the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD), no licences were purchased for nearly 3,000 previously accounted-for pooches, leaving the FVRD’s animal control program short $114,00 in revenue.

In Mission, which moved dog services to the FVRD in 2016, 1,703 “active dogs” were unlicensed. That was more than double the number of unlicensed dogs in Abbotsford, where there were 655 such pooches, as of Oct. 3. Chilliwack had 535 unlicensed active dogs.

 

 

NOVEMBER

 

RENEWED WATERFRONT EFFORTS

Mayor Randy Hawes still saw potential in the district’s waterfront, and a strategy was created to engage almost 90 different landowners along the Fraser River.

In the past, there had been attempts to bring some owners to the table, but Hawes believed this was the first concerted effort at a dialogue with businesses while keeping an eye towards the future.

Some roadblocks stand in the way. Environmental testing will be necessary for the district to see what type of soil sits beneath many of the properties, and if there’s floodproofing that will be required.

 

TAX INCREASE OF 3.7 PER CENT

Mission homeowners can expect their annual municipal tax bill to rise next year. Council considered a new budget for 2017 that included a 3.7 per cent increase in property tax, a one percent increase to water users fees, a four per cent increase to sewer user fees and a drainage levy increase of 4.9 per cent. There were no proposed changes for garbage, recycling and compost curbside collection.

 

DECEMBER

 

ASBESTOS CONCERNS RAISED

An anonymous letter sent to the Mission school district and the local newspaper suggested that Mission Secondary School had an asbestos exposure risk, a statement that superintendent Angus Wilson said was not entirely accurate. But he did not deny the fact that the school, which was constructed in the 1950s, contained asbestos materials.

He said that each school in the district, including Mission Secondary, has had a report conducted to indicate where there is asbestos material.

 

DOWNTOWN DENSIFICATION

More residential and commercial space was being planned for Mission’s downtown core.

The proposal was for a six-storey, wood-framed, mixed-use residential building with 74 residential condo units, one storey of commercial space and two-and-a-half levels of underground parking.

 

Happy New Year to all and here’s to another great year of news in 2017.

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