Year in Review, part 3

There seemed to be a lot of leaving in 2022. Port Coquitlam left the LMLGA, Rob Vagramov left the mayor’s chair, and Rabih “Robby” Alkhalil escaped the North Fraser Pretrial Centre.

Last summer also marked a milestone for Coquitlam Search and Rescue as the volunteers notched their first helicopter hoist rescue.

We saw a guilty verdict in the Amanda Todd case. We also saw the beginning of an investigation in the tragic case of Noelle O’Soup.

But, between major development approvals in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam, the story that seemed to touch most people’s hearts and stomachs was the closure of Rosa’s Cucina.

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Click here to read part one.
Click here to read part two.
Click here to read part four.

image supplied

Port Moody approves midrise St. Johns project, boosts affordability

It’s two six-storey buildings and it’s 10 units of affordable housing.

One year after it was delayed and subsequently revamped, Port Moody council approved a 197-unit project at the 3100-block of St. Johns, St. George and Buller streets in a 5-2 vote Tuesday.

Full story here.

July

Volunteers save injured hiker, mark Coquitlam SAR’s first helicopter hoist

The hiker was zigging and zagging along a remote trail way out in the backcountry on Saturday morning when she slipped.

Her knee slid toward her hip. Her leg swelled.

The hiker, a Vancouver woman, was heading with her husband to Widgeon Lake. However, she quickly realized she couldn’t walk.

The couple called 911 and the message was relayed to Coquitlam Search and Rescue.

Full story here.

photo supplied

Province announces completion of $37.5 million Eagle Ridge Hospital expansion; province ‘extremely challenged’ by shortage of workers

The new emergency department at Eagle Ridge Hospital is now three times bigger with 20 new treatment spaces and four isolation rooms for people with infectious illnesses, the province announced July 4.

The upgrades also include two new resuscitation areas for trauma patients.

A source inside the hospital was ambivalent on completion of the 39-bed emergency department.

The new beds are great to have. However, there are not any new staff to care for the influx of patients, according to the source.

Full story here.

image supplied

Non-market rental project moving ahead on ‘ugliest property’ in Maillardville

A six-storey, 166-unit non-market rental building may soon be built on two vacant lots at the old Vancity site at 1013-1025 Brunette Avenue, following a unanimous vote from Coquitlam city council Monday.

Full story here.

photo supplied B.C. Bats

Port Moody looks to get friendly with bats

Port Moody is going to bat for bats.

The City of the Arts took the first step toward becoming a certified bat-friendly city, following a unanimous vote from council.

Moving forward, Mayor Rob Vagramov suggested the city might offer bat boxes to interested residents.

“[There are] tons of folks around Port Moody that would eagerly take a free bat box,” he said, adding such a program could produce a “phenomenal” return on investment.

VPD officer set to be investigated following neglect-of-duty allegation

B.C.’s police watchdog is set to determine if a Vancouver Police Department officer neglected his duty in connection with the case of Port Coquitlam teenager Noelle “Elli” O’Soup.

A little more than one year after she went missing, O’Soup and another person were both found dead in a Vancouver apartment on May 1. O’Soup was 14.

A man in his 40s had been found dead in the same Heatley Avenue and Hastings Street apartment on Feb. 23.

Port Moody trails renamed to honour volunteers

You will never again stroll on Inlet Trail or the Elsdon Bay Greenway.

Inlet Trail is now officially known as Léon Lebrun Inlet Trail. The Elsdon Bay Greenway, located at April Road and Elsdon Bay Road, has now been rechristened Ron Little Park.

Port Moody recently renamed both spots to honour long-time volunteers Léon Lebrun and Ron Little.

Christopher Irwin. photo supplied

Man who RCMP said was intended target in two Chickadee Place shootings found dead in Burnaby

Christopher Irwin died in what police are treating as a targeted homicide, according to a release from the RCMP’s homicide division.

Irwin, 31, was found dead in a vacant lot near Norland Avenue and Laurel Street in Burnaby shortly before 10 a.m. on July 14, according to the release. About five hours before Irwin was found, New Westminster police were called to a vehicle fire. Homicide investigators suspect that vehicle is linked to Irwin’s death, according to the release.

Chickadee Place shootings

Irwin suffered non-life threatening injuries in March following a shooting in the 1600-block of Chickadee Place in Westwood Plateau. A Toyota Rav 4 was found on fire on Hope Street in Port Moody shortly after the shooting. A bystander was seriously injured from the car fire and subsequent explosion, according to police.

Three months earlier, a man was sitting in a car in the 1600-block of Chickadee Place with his nine-year-old son when he was shot. His injuries were not lift threatening, according to police.

In both cases, police stated that Irwin was the intended target.

Future of Moody Centre neighbourhood raises concern from province; mayor responds

Low and slow might be good strategy for barbecue but it’s the wrong way to build around a SkyTrain, according to a recent letter from the provincial government to Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov.

Reducing allowable density around Moody Centre SkyTrain station would be “inconsistent with regional goals and best practices for land use around rapid transit,” according to the letter, which was signed by Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming, Minister of Municipal Affairs Nathan Cullen, as well as Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman.

The province took issue with a city survey concerning land-use around the station.

Vagramov defended the city’s actions.

While it’s understandable the province wants to “maximize the dollar value of the land they hold in Moody Centre,” there are more urgent principles at stake, the mayor contended.

Full story here.

Port Coquitlam staffer explains city’s decision to part ways with LMLGA

The Lower Mainland Local Government Association represents 29 municipalities including Coquitlam and Port Moody – but not Port Coquitlam.

The city between rails and rivers opted not to renew membership with the LMLGA this year due to: “not getting value for taxpayers’ money,” according to the city’s chief administrative officer Rob Bremner.

In 2021, LMLGA’s membership fee was $2,256.

Port Coquitlam also withdrew from Urban Development Institute and the Canadian Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement.

The decision to leave an inoffensive organization was “a bit of a headscratcher,” according to political science professor Stewart Prest.

Full story here.

photo supplied Simon Fraser University

Mercedes-Benz EV batteries to power Port Coquitlam clean tech company

After the car stops rolling the power keeps pumping.

That’s the idea behind a recently announced deal that has Mercedes-Benz Energy supplying electric vehicle batteries to Port Coquitlam-based Moment Energy.

Generally, an EV battery has about 80 percent of its original capacity when the car leaves the road. Moment Energy can then harvest that capacity, essentially harvesting the leftover charge to power remote communities.

Full story here.

2021 crash report: Two of the Lower Mainland’s worst intersections were in the Tri-Cities

There was a total of 319 crashes at two Tri-Cities intersections in 2021, according to crash data released by ICBC.

Brunette Avenue ranked as the fourth most dangerous intersection in the Lower Mainland with 184 crashes in 2021.

Broadway Street and Mary Hill Bypass was the eight worst with 135 collisions.

Coquitlam and Surrey shared the No. 5 slot with 164 crashes adjacent to the Port Mann Bridge.

In total, Lower Mainland drivers were in approximately 65,000 crashes causing roughly 40,000 injuries and 24 deaths in 2021. Those figures are all substantially below the five-year average.

Rabih “Robby” Alkhalil. photo supplied

Police seek public’s help in search for escaped murder suspect

Rabih “Robby” Alkhalil was facing murder charges for gang-related killings when he escape from the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam on July 21.

Alkhalil broke out with the help of two suspects in a white Ford Econoline van, according to police, who noted his international connections.

Writing in the Vancouver Sun, crime reporter Kim Bolan described two suspects arriving at the pretrial centre. They pretended to be contractors hired to do repairs. Once inside they used a plasma torch to break Alkhalil out of the centre, Bolan reported.

Full story here.

Former Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov. photo supplied

Mayor Rob Vagramov announces he will not seek re-election

After nearly four years leading a deeply divided and sometimes toxic municipal government, Mayor Rob Vagramov announced he will step down from the mayor’s chair after this term.

In the last minutes of the final council meeting before summer break, Vagramov said he’d decided to take: “a slightly longer vacation than most.”

Full story here.

image supplied

Westport project gets considered/approved/delayed/devastated and given a one-year extension

A gateway project on the west side of Port Moody that’s been gestating for 17 years nearly hit a brick wall this month before getting an 11th hour reprieve.

Full story here.

August

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For dad: Port Moody resident raises cash for cancer research with Tour de Cure

A young boy sits in the backseat of the family’s big blue minivan. A few feet ahead and a world away, his father’s CB radio crackles to life.

At home he’s dad. At work he’s one more government employee. But when that radio clicks on the man at the helm of the Dodge Caravan is someone else. He’s Flying Tiger.

Full story here.

Port Coquitlam gets last word on noise bylaw

After getting an earful about noise bylaw passed just 10 days earlier, Port Coquitlam council scheduled one last meeting on Friday to undo the new rules.

Council had previously agreed to a new bylaw that prohibited the use of power tools – including lawn mowers – after 7 p.m. That rule was unreasonable, explained Mayor Brad West during Friday’s meeting.

The city should generally adhere to an if-it’s-not-broke-don’t-fix-it approach, West explained.

“I, for one, was never on the receiving end of a bunch of complaints about rogue lawn mowing happening late in the evening,” he said.

The newly-passed bylaw allows for the use of power tools from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

photo supplied

Rosa’s Cucina set to close its doors at the end of August

For 22 years the little restaurant on the south side of Clarke Street has been her kitchen and everyone who walked up the steps and in the door has been her family.

But at the end of the month, Rosa Gabrielli is set to close the doors of the Italian eatery for the last time.

“I guess it’ll be emotional this month,” she says.

Scroll through the online reviews for Rosa’s Cucina Italiana and you’ll find a mix of anger and adoration. Some patrons described Gabrielli as abrupt, even rude. For others who would drop in to celebrate milestones over meatballs, Rosa was the reason to keep coming back.

“Some people love me, some people hate me,” she says. “I didn’t hate nobody. To me the customers were like friends, they were family. . . . I treated them as my family.”

She wasn’t rude, she maintains. But she was firm.

Full story here.

photo supplied Amanda Todd Legacy

Man found guilty on five counts in Amanda Todd case; Carol Todd calls for sextortion to be treated more seriously

Ten years after the death of Amanda Todd, Aydin Coban was found guilty of five counts related to the online sextortion of the Port Coquitlam teenager.

Coban was found guilty of extortion, harassment, communication with a young person to commit a sexual offence, possession of child pornography and distribution of child pornography in a B.C. Supreme Court verdict.

Coban’s lead counsel Joe Saulnier said an appeal was “a possibility.”

Full story here.

photo supplied

Rotary Club of Coquitlam helps fund humanitarian aid in Ukraine

It’s bad all the way but it’s worst at the last mile.

There are people in need in Ukraine, Dmitry Alexeev explains. Often, the things they need are close – just not close enough.

Food, hygiene, products, clothes and medical supplies are kept in warehouses near Ukraine’s border with Poland; hopefully out of the range of Russian missiles. Volunteers load up at those warehouses and truck that aid to Ukrainians surviving in cities and villages near the front line.

Full story here.

photo Jeremy Shepherd

Ukrainian family tries to fight Russia in court

We start in the before time.

They were a family of five living in the suburbs of Kharkov. Friends. Family. A dog and a cat.

It was before the missiles, before Zelensky asked the international community for ammunition, before the atrocities in Bucha. It was also before the hatred.

Full story here.

photo supplied Ian Mather/ Canada Games Council

A historic podium, a Games record and 17 medals

Let’s set the scene: Twenty sports, sixteen days, and nearly 5,000 up-and-coming athletes competing against the backdrop of Ontario’s wine region.

After a one-year delay, the 2022 Jeux du Canada Games wrapped up on Sunday. Team B.C.’s athletes certainly put on a show, thanks in part to the performances of Tri-Cities athletes.

Full story here.

September

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Ratings gold: TV cameras roll as adventurers search for Slumach’s legendary treasure

The story’s been told before. But like all really good campfire yarns, it insists on being told again.

The HISTORY Channel debuted Deadman’s Curse: Legend of the Lost Gold. The reality TV show delves into the tale of Slumach’s gold as three adventurers search for a fortune while attempting to unravel the truth behind a B.C. legend.

Full story here.

photo Marissa Tiel

‘A happy ending,’ Kyle Centre to operate as extreme weather shelter in fall, winter and possibly early spring

The Kyle Centre in Port Moody will once again serve as an extreme weather shelter for vulnerable people throughout the Tri-Cities this year, according to Phoenix Society CEO Keir Macdonald.

The Phoenix Society is slated to operate the 20-bed overnight shelter, which generally opens during periods of extreme rain as well as during 0 C temperatures.

“It is a happy ending,” Macdonald said, noting there was a level of uncertainty due in part to the deteriorating condition of the 1977-era building.

Full story here.

Challenge to B.C.’s public health orders dismissed as ‘premature’

A legal attempt to challenge the constitutionality of B.C.’s COVID-19 public health orders was dismissed this week by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of BC.

The health orders, which came into effect on Sept. 13, 2021, required British Columbians to be at least partially vaccinated to get into concerts, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, movie theatres, and fitness centres. However, three petitioners – all of whom described medical limitations preventing them from getting fully vaccinated – contended those orders limited their ability to: “exercise their rights in a free and democratic society.”

Full story here.

image supplied

Port Coquitlam approves pair of highrise towers totalling 556 units

City council unanimously approved a pair of approximately 300-foot tall towers and 556 housing units on six lots at Westwood Street and Woodland Drive.

Located about 400 metres from Lincoln SkyTrain station, the location is ““As appropriate as you can get,” said Mayor Brad West.

Full story here.

Coquitlam man ‘Dr. Ray’ convicted on 13 counts of sexual abuse

A Coquitlam man who practised “quantum health” and “energy work” in his basement was found guilty of 13 counts of sexual abuse in B.C. Supreme Court.

Raymond Gaglardi, 78, who was also known as Dr. Ray, faced charges of sexual abuse dating back more than 45 years involving 14 different complainants, all of whom were boys or young men at the time.

Full story here.

image supplied

Coquitlam council approves nine-tower, 4,000-unit downtown project

It’s towering, it’s transformative, and it’s moving ahead.

Council unanimously approved a project that would put nine towers – including a hotel – and 4,000 units of housing on the old Chrysler dealership over the next 10 years.

Reaction to the project was somewhat muted, with only two residents – both of whom were in support – weighing in during Monday’s public hearing.

Full story here.

photo supplied

Rocky Point Inlet overdue for dredging

Rocky Point Inlet is slated to be dredged before March 2023.

Earlier this summer, council tripled the dredging budget – from $250,000 to $750,000 — after tests revealed unearthed persistent organic pollutants.

The level of pollutants was higher than the national allowable amount, so the excavated materials have to be transported to a landfill rather than dumped back into the water at a different location.

Full story here.

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