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Toll-free calling begins May 1

David Marsh

MetroValley News

Long-distance charges are about to become a thing of the past for telephone calls within the Greater Vancouver Regional District.

Telus, formerly BC Tel, introduces toll-free calling throughout the region on May 1, putting an end to the current complex patchwork of free and long-distance calling zones.

To compensate for the forgone revenues, Telus will also introduce hikes in monthly residential phone bills next month. Residents of Richmond Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster get a 25-cent increase, while all other areas of the GVRD—from Lions Bay to Langley—will pay 70 cents more.

The company says in a news release that residential and business customers should remember to reprogram their automatic dialers, such as switchboards, faxes and modems, to remove the 1-604 prefix prior to the May 1 changeover.

Meanwhile, Telus is still awaiting a CRTC decision on its bid to add a new area code in the Lower Mainland.

Under that proposal, an “overlay” code would be added for all new connections, while existing lines would keep the 604 code. The proposed system would require the area code to be dialled for all local calls, even within the same neighbourhood, although they would still be toll-free.

The new code would be added in about two years. A CRTC decision is expected by June.

Man gets four years for importing drug

A 33-year-old Israeli man was sentenced to four years in jail in Richmond provincial court Tuesday morning for trying to smuggle 60,000 Ecstasy pills into Vancouver International Airport.

Rafael Tevet was convicted earlier this month of both possessing and importing a controlled substance.

Richmond provincial court judge Ron Fratkin told the court that he didn’t believe Tevet’s story that he had no knowledge that the bags he was carrying contained the illegal drug popular among the rave crowd.

The drugs, which weight more than 10 kilograms, were hidden inside the false bottom of a pull-along wheeled suitcase and a backpack.

“He clearly knew what was inside the bag. He clearly knew what was inside the suitcase.”

Tevet is married and has two children.

A second Israeli man, Yousi Sader, who was travelling with Tevet and was in fact sitting beside him on the first leg of the flight from Madrid to Amsterdam and Vancouver, is scheduled to be sentenced in Richmond provincial court on May 1. Sader pleaded guilty to importing a controlled substance.

Two men recovering from knife attack

Richmond RCMP are looking for two suspects in connection with a knife-attack on No. 3 Road Sunday around 9:30 p.m.

Two young men were attacked with knives on the 4300 block of No. 3 Road and suffered superficial wounds. They were taken to Richmond Hospital where they were treated and released.

The suspects fled the scene of the attack in a white Honda Civic, which had been stolen from Burnaby. The car was recovered by police just three blocks away from the attack.

The suspects are described as:

• An Asian male, 18 to 20 years old, with gold or orange dyed-hair, about 168 centimetres (five feet, seven inches) tall and a thin build. He was last seen wearing a white dress shirt with a black T-shirt underneath and was wearing prescription glasses.

• An Asian male, 18 to 20 years old, with short black hair, about 175 centimetres (five feet, 10 inches tall). He was last seen wearing a plain blue plaid fleece jacket.

Anyone with information about the attack is asked to call the Richmond RCMP at 278-1212.

YVR wins for airport retail

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) enhanced its traveller-friendly image last week as its retail stores were named the best among airports in North America.

YVR’s collection of 110 shops and services took top honours in the category for large sized airports continent-wide in the annual Airports Council International (ACI) North America Excellence in Airports Concession Awards.

Being named the best in retail has also helped sales as YVR has the third-largest total gross sales of all west coast-based airports.

Micro car idea gets shelved

A bid to have TransLink create a vehicle-swapping program for residents to get to and from the B-Line service has been shelved.

The TransLink board voted Wednesday to refer the proposal back for further study. The idea was floated about this past week as a way to get people to transit in areas that lack good enough bus or SkyTrain service.

TransLink’s Richmond representative, Kiichi Kumagai (NPA) was not available for comment, but Coun. Lyn Greenhill (NPA), chair of the city’s transportation committee said the idea was unproven.

She said she liked the concept but said there were too many unanswered questions about how such a service would operate and whether it would be cheaper to find alternative methods to get people to transit, such as by subsidizing taxi cabs.

TransLink’s proposal wouldn’t cost taxpayers; it would be solely funded by users and a private company, which would buy and maintain the smaller, two-seat vehicles.

According to TransLink’s transportation planners, the program is used in U.S. and European cities and the cars are better for the environment, in that they use natural gas, electricity or a mix of gas and batteries.

City to host quake seminar

The City of Richmond is sponsoring an emergency preparedness symposium early next month in support of emergency preparedness week.

The seminar, which will tackle topics such as flooding, earthquakes, insurance and home hazards, will be held on Saturday, May 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Fairmont Hotel at the Vancouver International Airport.

Participants will get the chance to sign up for presentations that interest them.

For more information, call event organizer Tara Simpson at 244-1282.

School threats being investigated

Richmond RCMP were alerted to unconfirmed reports that a 13-year-old Richmond youth had made threats Wednesday morning to cause violence against Jewish people, teachers and students at Tomekichi Homma elementary school in Steveston.

The Review was contacted by a relative of a student who attends the elementary school. He said he’s been told at least one Jewish family was considering not sending their child to school on Thursday.

Assistant schools superintendent Bruce Beairsto said Thursday afternoon that twice as many students were absent from Homma elementary as on an average day. But he pointed out that he has no way of knowing whether the absentees were the result of the threats.

The boy suspected of having started the rumours has been interviewed by police, he said.

Anxiety about the rumours was heightened by thefact that Thursday was the one-year anniversary of the Columbine high school shooting spree in Littleton, Colorado.

Rumours spread through Steveston, affecting nearby McMath secondary, where another youth was fingered for generating the threats, Beairsto said.

But Richmond RCMP Staff Sgt. Keith Hildebrand police took the treats seriously but believed that the level of threat was “sufficiently low” not to cancel classes on Thursday.

“It looks like the rumor mill got going and went out of control,” Hildebrand said.

Diefenbaker students go ‘green’ year-round

The world celebrates Earth Day every April 22, but students at Richmond’s John G. Diefenbaker elementary practise “green” habits every day.

Through the efforts of staff members Paula Alvaro and Judy Momeyer and custodian Karen Vanderlaar, Diefenbaker’s kids have adopted an extensive school-wide recycling program, collecting all papers, cardboard, toilet paper rolls, and drink containers. The school composter is also fed fruit and vegetable scraps from the staffroom and Kindergarten class, and the composted soil is used in flower planters around the school.

Other reusable materials such as greeting cards, gift wrap and boxes, and other “beautiful junk” items are collected for future projects , Alvaro explained.

“These environmental efforts have been going on for several years and seem to expand each year,” said vice-principal Larry Hurst.

During Earth Week, which started last Monday, Diefenbaker’s Environmental Club met noon hours to plant flower seeds and bedding plants and make spring window decorations and also have a recycling relay. Other years, the students have planted a tree which is decorated in December with unique creations made the “beautiful junk.”

Vehicle levy gets OK

David Marsh

MetroValley News

Get ready to shell out an extra $75 or so for the privilege of driving your vehicle.

TransLink, the regional transportation authority, has approved an ambitious five-year plan to be funded in part by a new annual fee, averaging $75, on all personal vehicles licensed in metro Vancouver.

Barring an unlikely veto of the TransLink plan by the Greater Vancouver Regional District in coming weeks, the new levy will take effect in October, 2001.

“The levy has been a difficult process for everyone on the board,” TransLink chairman George Puil said after the TransLink board’s 12 municipal politicians unanimously approved the five-year plan Wednesday.

“It’s a difficult thing for a locally elected politician to do when it might not be palatable for their citizens ... this is a huge step today.”

The new plan will use the vehicle levy, some transit fare increases, and added parking taxes to fund a major expansion of Greater Vancouver’s transit system, especially buses, as well as road improvements.

TransLink will spend $1.43 billion, and increase its annual budget by about 50 per cent, over the next five years to dramaticially increase the region’s bus fleet; co-fund the new SkyTrain expansion and make other transit and trasportation improvements.

Next up for TransLink is deciding how the new vehicle levy will work. The plan is built on an assumption of $75 per vehicle—and rising five per cent per year as of 2002—but not necessarily as a flat fee. The levy could be assessed on a sliding scale based on kilometres travelled, insurance classification, emissions test results, or some hybrid, as long as the average is $75.

TransLink says it will meet with the Insurance Corp. of B.C. to discuss drafting up some detailed options for the levy, which is expected to be payable when motorists renew their vehicle insurance. A public consultation process on those options is planned for this fall.

Multilingual vocalist stars in RAPBA’s annual gala

This year’s Richmond Asia Pacific Business Association Gala will be a multilingual affair.

Feature entertainer for Fly RAPBA Fly, the association’s 7th annual gala dinner, is Lini Evans, a Vancouver-based vocalist who sings in seven different languages. Evans’ remarkable language portfolio includes Japanese, Mandarin and Cantonese—surprising for a self-professed “blue-eyed blonde.”

Even more remarkable is the fact that Evans is a self-taught linguist. And while some of her language skills are limited, she had no trouble bantering in Cantonese with those assembled at a press conference held Tuesday to announce details of the gala dinner, while providing a brief sampling of her vocal talents.

Evans has performed around the world including gala shows in Hong Kong, Paris and Osaka and a command performance in Kobe, Japan. She has been featured on national television in China and performed alongside Asian pop titans Andy Lau, A*Mei and Emil Chau at a special broadcast gala in Taipei. She performed for Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji here in Vancouver, at the annual Chinese New Year Festival in Toronto and with the Calgary Philharmonic. While Evans won’t perform in all seven languages at the gala dinner, she promised her repertoire will include some Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese and French classics.

RAPBA president Tony Lau told the press conference the gala dinner is an important annual fundraising event for the business group, which was founded to encourage local investment and promote ties between Richmond and the Asia Pacific.

Also in attendance was Mayor Greg Halsey-Brandt, who saluted RAPBA saying the group has played an important role in a number of civic initiatives, including assisting with economic development efforts overseas and contributing to the recently-completed business task force.

Fly RAPBA Fly is set for Saturday, May 6 at the Hotel Vancouver. There’s a no-host bar at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are $100 and proceeds will help support the United Way.

Limited tickets are still available at Scotiabank at 4940 No. 3 Road, all Richmond TD bank branches and all Tony Lau Insurance Agencies branches. Call 276-2754 for details.

Kudos for Kwantlen promotional video

A promotional video created by Kwantlen University College beat out more than 1,400 entries to win an international award.

The Paragon Award was presented to officials from the university college recently at a National Council for Marketing and Public Relations conference in Portland, Oregon.

Dubbed Focus on Your Future, the video was produced by Kwantlen’s marketing and communications department and the Eyes Multimedia, and features sophisticated computer graphics, student interviews and fast-paced editing.

A total of more than 1,470 entries were sent in various categories from more than 270 entrants in Canada, the U.S. and the Bahamas.

Violence against women targeted

“Violence against women is as prevalent here as anywhere. People and the media tend to think Richmond is a wealthy community that is free from problems like that, but we have the same problems as anywhere else.”

That’s the view of Hilary Randall, president of the Richmond Women’s Resource Centre’s board of directors, who accepted a $17,000 grant Tuesday from the federal government to help continue offering a variety of services to local women, including those who are suffering violence in the home.

“In general, women don’t really know where to go for help on a number of issues. We provide everything we can, from getting help with their taxes to finding a doctor. And when we can’t help them directly, we provide them with a referral.”

One of the most well attended groups at the women’s centre is one covering conversational English with women from as many as six different cultures attending the weekly meetings.

The grant will also be used to fund the resource centre’s participation in developing the Richmond Poverty Report Card.

Hotel mourns Marriott founder

Flags were flying at half mast this week at the Vancouver Airport Marriott to mark the passing of Marriott Corporation co-founder Alice B. Marriott.

Marriott passed away Monday at the age of 92

She and her husband J. Willard Marriott first opened a nine-stall root beer stand in 1927. It grew to become a worldwide hospitality industry leader with annual sales of more than $20 billion.

The Marriott family continues to play a major role in the business with sons J.W. Marriott Jr. and Richard E. Marriott, running two of the five members of the Marriott family of companies..

Local firms cited for air quality

Three Richmond firms were among seven Lower Mainland companies to make the most recent GVRD non-compliance list.

Metalex Products Ltd., 2511 No. 5 Road, and Tree Island Industries Ltd., 3933 Boundary Road, Richmond, were both on the air quality department’s non-compliance report for the six-month period ending Dec. 31, 1999.

Metalex made the list for its sanitary baghouse, which was found to release excess sulphur oxide emissions. After Metalex was handed a violation notice, it effected repairs which met permit requirements.

Tree Island’s galvanizing line exceeded hydrochloric acid restrictions indicated on its permit. It made repairs following the issuing of a violation notice.

Cara Airport Services, 6260 Miller Rd., was ordered to commit to a compliance program for its sewerage and drainage. This was Cara’s second time on the list.

Due to a history of violations for their total oil and grease limits, the company was committed to a second compliance program, which has a completion date of Sept. 11, 2000.

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