Endorsed Monday by city council, the Complete Street guidelines are “”a shift in mindset from the historical car-centric streets to modern multi-purpose streets that appropriately support all modes of transportation,” advised David Jackson, the city’s manager of capital works.
It’s an ambitious blueprint for the future with an aim to design, create and build streetscapes that accommodate users of all ages and abilities and all modes of transportation including pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and transit users.
However we could argue there is little clear direction on the latter save for continued road reconstruction to lessen the shake, rattle and roll that hastens the demise of city buses. Continue reading
Round 3 is coming up momentarily. Of course we’re talking about the Sutherland Saga, the seemingly endless courtroom soap opera.
In the last episode, culminating on Sept. 27, Justice Gorman accepted Sutherland Press building owner David McGee’s submission at a May hearing in the Elgin County Courthouse that Sutherland Loft Inc. did not receive notice of a building order issued by the city and its president was unaware, specifically, the building might be demolished if not remediated by the owner.
McGee’s lawyer, Valerie M’Garry, argued in March of this year the city did not properly deliver via registered mail a letter warning demolition of the building would begin at the end of that month because of noncompliance with a property standards order. The order called for immediate replacement of spalling or damaged bricks and securing the roof, which had suffered a partial collapse. Continue reading
It has served the city well over its 33 year lifespan however the knackered Dalewood bridge is well past retirement.
The Ministry of Transportation supplied the single-lane Bailey bridge in 1983 as a temporary measure and the structure has major issues relating to the abutments and embankments.
A report coming to city council Tuesday outlines the preferred replacement solution: a structure consisting of two vehicle lanes and a sidewalk on the east side. So no more pausing at either end to let opposing traffic proceed.
While no final design is being put forth at this time, the report from David Jackson, manager of capital works, paints an imaginative picture of possible options.
“Bridges remain visible pieces of the community for over 100 years,” writes Jackson. “With some creative design and cost effective engineering they can become icons that contribute towards community identity. Continue reading
Just when we thought the Sutherland Saga could not plunge deeper into the abyss of absurdity, what happens but it does just that.
In a decision rendered Tuesday (Sept. 27), Justice Gorman declined to rule on owner David McGee’s request for an injunction to halt demolition of the four-storey structure deemed unsafe by city engineers.
Instead, Justice Gorman did accept McGee’s submission at the May hearing in the Elgin County Courthouse that Sutherland Loft Inc. did not receive notice of a building order and its president was unaware, specifically, the building might be demolished if not remediated by the owner. Continue reading
If the elements don’t hasten the demise of the Sutherland Press building, time spent in protracted court battles may ultimately prove the enemy of the derelict structure.
As the result of a technicality presented May 27 of this year to Justice Gorman by building owner David McGee, no decision has been reached as to whether the city can proceed with demolition of the Talbot Street building dating back to 1913.
In a decision delivered Tuesday, Justice Gorman declined to rule on McGee’s request for an injunction to halt demolition of the four-storey structure deemed unsafe by city engineers.
A troubling state of affairs when your water bill payment appears to be the only thing keeping Ascent/St. Thomas Energy afloat.
Of much greater concern is the lack of transparency at city hall and the lack of due diligence on the part of city council.
Let’s start in the finance department where we appear to caught director of finance David Aristone in an awkward moment.
Exactly one year ago, when council dealt with the 2014 consolidated financial statements, that document revealed Ascent Group – 100 per cent owners of St. Thomas Energy – rang up an operating loss of $6.8 million. That compared with a $1.4 million profit in 2013. Continue reading
It’s a much anticipated document and it can be found in the agenda for Monday night’s city council meeting.
We are referring to the city’s consolidated financial statements for 2015 which include details of its investment in Ascent Group Inc.
Not sure whether it is meant to offer reassurance to ratepayers, however that portion of the document opens with “The city owns 100% of Ascent Group Inc. which in turn owns 100% of St. Thomas Energy Inc., Ascent Energy Services Inc., Ascent Solutions Inc., Ascent Utility Services Inc., and Ascent Renewables.
Once you digest the Ascent Group financial statement we, as ratepayers, would be better off owning a fleet of wheezing Russian Ladas.
If you thought the 2014 Ascent picture was grim, hold on. Continue reading
There was more pruning over at Ascent/St. Thomas Energy this week, leaving the city’s utility pared back to the bone.
A release issued Thursday announced Alltrade Industrial Contractors Inc. of Cambridge, Ont., had acquired Ascent Utility Solutions for an undisclosed amount.
This small division of Ascent dealt with traffic and streetlights in the Greater Toronto Area and employed four or five non-union staff and any union staff were retained through a union hiring hall, according to Ascent acting CEO Rob Kent.
Alltrade operates in numerous sectors including automotive, food and beverage, manufacturing and its energy group works within the renewable energy sector, solar, water and wind and within the power and utilities sector.
The transaction does not include St. Thomas Energy, the local distribution company owned by the city and Ascent Energy Services which deals in fibre optics and provides IT services in the city. Continue reading
No disrespect to the hospital’s vice-president, but you can bet Nancy Whitmore was anything but the first choice to replace out-going president and CEO Paul Collins who exits on Oct. 31.
Whitmore will take over the helm in November, but the hospital board of directors did not hire healthcare recruitment firm The MedFall Group only to have them say look from within.
Back in March of this year we talked to board chair Melanie Taylor who asserted the hunt for a new president and CEO would be far-reaching.
“We’re looking to retain the best possible talent who could come from someplace other than southwestern Ontario,” advised Taylor. Continue reading
A major shuffle in the works next month as the local housing corporation is to be incorporated into city operations in an effort to create “efficiencies.”
This according to city manager Wendell Graves, who explained Elgin and St. Thomas Housing Corporation — which owns and manages 512 assisted (rent geared-to-income) rental units and 18 low-end of market units throughout St. Thomas and Elgin county — will be brought “under the city’s umbrella.”
In a conversation this week, Graves noted, “We’ve had a series of reports that actually go back to last fall. We announced we are going to take a look at integrating Elgin and St. Thomas Housing Corporation under the city’s umbrella . . . and now we’re looking at a mid-September implementation date.”
So what will this entail?
“As part of that the strategy in terms of the housing corporation itself, the individuals tied directly to helping the residents of the affordable housing units, the client side of it, will be working out of the Ontario Works office,” advised Graves. Continue reading
She beat out 11 other candidates for the job of director at Ontario Works back in February of 2011, so where is Barbara Arbuckle today?
The question was prompted by an email sent our way.
“She was there for a couple of months then disappeared,” writes a curious reader. “It seems to be quite a mystery in the department and out as to whatever happened with her.”
Yes, it is a mystery as her name still appears online in the city’s staff directory. However when you call her phone extension the line goes dead.
A call to city manager Wendell Graves on Friday resulted in a guarded response. Continue reading
Coming up to three months since both sides in the Sutherland saga faced each other again at the Elgin County Courthouse. On May 27, city staff and Toronto owner David McGee – along with their legal counsel – left the fate of the 103-year-old Sutherland Press building in the hands of Justice Gorman.
Have we waited an inordinate amount of time for a decision?
Not really, suggests McGee’s lawyer Valerie M’Garry. There is a lot of supporting documents to digest she notes.
“Stacked together they would be a foot-and-a-half high,” M’Garry points out, “so for her (Justice Gorman) to go through them all, which I think she would want to do for whatever decision she is going to render.”
The plug has been pulled – at least temporarily – on Mayor Heather Jackson’s vision of a fibre optics network for St. Thomas.
Her plan for a fibre optics information session was voted down in a closed-door meeting on June 20 and Jackson was so infuriated she fired off an email to various players in the business community pointing the finger at councillors Jeff Kohler and Gary Clarke, who put forth the motion that “The Information Session regarding fibre planned for July 19, 2016 be postponed until a date agreeable to Council.”
Council voted 6-2 in favour of the motion.
The cost of such a network would be tens of millions of dollars according to an individual in the know and this may have played a role in council putting the brakes on the mayor’s plans. Continue reading
After steadfastly refusing last week to allow us access to St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital board of governors chairwoman Melanie Taylor, a change of heart – sort of – this week.
To recap, Coun. Linda Stevenson – the city’s representative on the board of governors – has tendered her resignation over allegations Taylor is attempting to circumvent a CEO salary cap imposed on STEGH and all hospitals in the province in order to make the position more “competitive.”
STEGH administrators won’t cut Taylor loose to respond to Stevenson, instead we are in receipt of a carefully crafted statement from Cathy Crane, vice-chair, on behalf of the STEGH board of governors. Continue reading
Six years after the infamous Paul Collins retire/rehire shuffle, administrators at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital find themselves at the centre of another CEO controversy.
Coun. Linda Stevenson – the city’s representative on the board of governors – has tendered her resignation over allegations board chairman Melanie Taylor is attempting to circumvent a CEO salary cap imposed on STEGH and all hospitals in the province in order to make the position more “competitive.”
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, according to Stevenson, who would like the ministry of health to come in and review the practices of the board of governors. Continue reading
The latest cuts at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, which will see the lights turned out at the sleep clinic on Oct. 3, is nothing short of a bad dream for the former director of the lab.
Calling the decision to pull the plug on a clinic that saw 940 patients last year “misguided”, Dr. Charles George has sent an open letter to all members of the St. Thomas Elgin Medical Association urging them to make their concerns known.
A copy of Dr. George’s letter was sent our way anonymously in a plain, white envelope.
He notes the sleep clinic opened in the mid-1990s under the direction of Dr. Linda O’Fiara. When she departed for Montreal, Dr. George and Dr. Kathy Ferguson stepped in because, “at the time the clinic was generating revenue for the hospital and the patient volume was increasing.” Continue reading
Surely no one individual has contributed more to the fibre of life in St. Thomas over the past six decades than Ken Verrell.
A compilation of his accomplishments and volunteer work forwarded to me Friday nearly fills two pages and I’m sure others could easily be added to the list.
Kenny died Wednesday afternoon at the age of 89 and where do you begin to document the life of a man who so tirelessly toiled to make this city a better place to live.
We could note he was a founding member of Golden K Kiwanis in 1987; an original founding member of the St. Thomas Curling Club on Parkside Drive; a Past Grand steward of Masonic Lodge 546, St. Thomas; vice-chairman of Crime Stoppers in St. Thomas-Elgin; founding member of the Elgin County Railway Museum; long-time volunteer with Christmas Care; an original director of Pinafore Park Memory Garden Foundation; and president and founding member of the Elgin Photographic Heritage Society, to note just a few highlights. Continue reading
It’s true the motive behind council’s decision to start looking at potential merger opportunities for St. Thomas Energy is likely the province’s offer to waive the 33 per cent transfer tax on such a transaction.
It’s an attractive incentive.
Too bad the city’s utility may not be such an attractive merger prospect.
Its parent, Ascent Group, just held a fire sale and sold off its Ascent Solutions division to Spark Power of Oakville for an undisclosed amount.
A sum ratepayers will never be privy to because Spark Power is still chuckling at the bargain basement price it paid for Tillsonburg-based Tiltran — acquired by Ascent in 2007 — and Belleville operation Tal Trees — acquired in 2009.
So, there is little left in the Ascent cupboard except St. Thomas Energy and a debt load in excess of $20 million.
Not the most attractive package for tire kickers. Continue reading
It’s a case of “inefficiency, it’s disrespectful to the employees and it’s going to cost the city a fortune.”
Not a flattering assessment of labour negotiations between the city and Valleyview Home employees, represented by Unifor Local 27.
In fact, Unifor national representative Robert Buchanan calls the turn of events since May 25 when a settlement was reached with city administration both “bizarre” and “ludicrous.”
To recap, on June 8 about 100 City of St. Thomas employees at Valleyview voted in favour of the May 25 settlement.
The three-year deal provides for a two per cent wage increase in each year of the deal in addition to health and welfare benefit improvements.
The employees have been without a contract since Dec. 31 of last year.
The union’s bargaining team also secured a commitment from the city to maintain full-time jobs and add more staffing hours to the laundry department.
While he had become accustomed to findings similar to those contained in a report to council Monday, the Professor would be far from pleased with the latest report card.
Prior to his death in February, Ed McLachlan
spent years as a member of the St. Thomas Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee and filed many reports to council on accessibility issues in all city-owned facilities.
is now chair of the committee and the annual site audit is on the agenda for all to see.
Here is a sampling of the ongoing barriers the handicapped face.
Three members of council are in favour of keeping the people who elected them to office in the dark about the comings and goings at Ascent, formerly known as St. Thomas Energy.
Well actually it may only be two but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The trio, Mayor Heather Jackson
and councillors Gary Clarke
and Linda Stevenson
sit on the Ascent board of directors which met May 26 to deal with the sale of its Ascent Solutions division to Spark Power of Oakville.
Included in the deal are Tillsonburg-based Tiltran — acquired by Ascent in 2007 — and Belleville operation Tal Trees — acquired in 2009.
This corner — and we’re sure many ratepayers — would like financial disclosure on the sale.
Guess what, that is not about to happen. Continue reading
If it didn’t pose such a financial burden on the city, the Sutherland saga would be comedic relief in best Keystone Cops fashion.
Take, for example, the return to court this past Tuesday in what was to be the start of a scheduled two-day hearing to determine the fate of the 103-year-old structure.
Instead you have a solicitor and three city staffers sitting in stunned silence across from building owner David McGee and his lawyer as Ontario Justice Gorman announces she has only set aside five minutes for the proceedings.
So, who dropped the ball here?
It was made perfectly clear when the two sides last faced off in April the next step would entail presentations from the city seeking to proceed with demolition of the derelict building while McGee and his lawyer would counter with the argument there is nothing structurally wrong with the four-storey structure. Continue reading
It was late Friday afternoon when the media release arrived announcing completion of Spark Power’s acquisition of Ascent Solutions Inc., a division of Ascent (formerly St. Thomas Energy).
The pending sale was announced at the beginning of March and involves the Oakville, Ontario firm’s purchase of Tillsonburg-based Tiltran — acquired by Ascent in 2007 — and Belleville operation Tal Trees — acquired in 2009.
Both will operate as members of the Spark Power Group of Companies but function as autonomous, highly integrated operating teams, according to the release.
Tiltran and Tal Trees specialize in constructing and maintaining medium to high voltage substations and power lines, engineering services and equipment sales and offer 24/7 emergency response.
The combined businesses include 53 employees based in the two locations. Continue reading
Over the past decade, there has been precious little in the way of positive news emanating from the rubble that is Alma College.
That is until last week when employees of R. Good Concrete of Aylmer uncovered the McLachlin Hall cornerstone that dates back to 1888.
How did the crew clearing the 11-acre site of debris hit paydirt with the discovery?
Credit goes to St. Thomas native Ryan Belanger, who has kept in touch with fellow history buff Steve Peters in an attempt to locate the stone, assumed to contain a time capsule.
Belanger contacted London developer Gino Reale to alert him as to the possibility the object in question was likely buried amid tons of yellow bricks and other building materials.
For well over a century, Pinafore Park has served as the city’s playground. Family gatherings, seniors’ picnics, the Fire Muster and Canada Day celebrations to document just a few of the activities that attract residents and visitors to this green oasis.
Alas, a corner of the park is known for a far darker reason.
Torn down earlier this month, the nearly 60-year-old washrooms were the subject of interest on several truly disturbing websites.
Their internet reputation was brought to our attention by an individual we will refer to as Chris, a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
He started sending photos of the men’s washrooms, many of them downloaded from adult websites.
As Chris describes it, “Pictures included here are from a website that is for adults but some youth are being involved or targetted. This is but two examples of two men looking for younger males. The two here are or say they are from the London area. They are trying to make contact with an 18-year-old. Both offering money to an 18-year-old. I am sure it is a concern, as Pinafore Park is mentioned.”