A Kelowna man has been charged with arson relating to a fire that all but razed a Westbank landmark.
Kerry Robert Cooper, 30, was charged for arson and appeared in Kelowna Provincial Court Monday morning to face a charge of arson – damage to property.
“He was remanded in custody, to appear next on May 13, 2014, in Kelowna Provincial Court,” said Sgt. Wade Seversen in a press release.
Rick Hebner, past president of Westbank Lions’ club, said a representative from the RCMP called the hall manager last Friday to say there had been an arrest in the investigation into who burned down the historic Lions’ Hall.
“He told us somebody had been arrested, and that was it,” said Hebner.
“It’s nice there’s been something done about that.”
That said, Hebner pointed out that it will be more interesting to see how the courts treat Cooper.
The arrest, of course, doesn’t make up for the inconvenience experienced by community groups since the Sept. 1 2013 blaze, that have long relied on the facility.
The District of West Kelowna used the Lion’s Hall for open houses and public meetings, while a number of service clubs used the smaller rooms for their meetings.
Several tenants were displaced, as well as the Central Okanagan School District’s alternate school and several programs of the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club.
“The rebuilding is about 50 per cent complete,” said Hebner, adding that means the exterior has been rebuilt.
Final approvals on plans are slated for some time in the future, and Hebner said all the lingering unknowns amount to little more than more questions.
“We honestly have no idea when we’ll be back,” he said. “It all depends on when the final approvals are given. There have been little bits of work here and there, but the majority of heavy labour has yet to be done.”
The fire that engulfed the Westbank Lions Community Centre started around 8 a.m. Sunday and quickly spread through the original wooden hall portion, which dates back to 1928, and the adjoining section which was added in 1980.
The entire building was renovated in 1980 when it was moved back from its original position nearer to the road and the addition was completed.
Damage was estimated somewhere in the ballpark of $1 million.