Response to St. Thomas Police Service survey a surprise to poll’s author


city_scope_logo-cmykThe St. Thomas Police Service was the focus of national media attention last week, a baffling turn of events for one member in particular.
A survey launched last weekend went somewhat viral in a most unexpected fashion and responses to Tanya Calvert’s poll ultimately may be put under the microscope for a future research paper, according to a CBC story.
Calvert – corporate communications coordinator with the service – took to Facebook last Friday (April 12) to ask the question should the city’s police service “publicly release the names of all people who are arrested for trying to purchase sex.”
A hot-button issue that boiled over on the police Facebook page.
In the span of just two days, the survey generated close to 4,000 votes and well in excess of 400 comments from far beyond St. Thomas. In fact, there was feedback from across the country and into the U.S.
And the survey says: 59 per cent of respondents are opposed to naming names. Continue reading

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So, who on city council is responsible for kicking around the issue of climate change?


I love my planetjpgFor the second time in less than a month, Coun. Lori Baldwin-Sands failed in her bid to have council endorse a motion to declare a climate emergency in the city.
So, you have to ask what is the motivation behind this motion that Baldwin-Sands admits is purely symbolic in nature?
Well, if you were one of the several dozen supporters in the public gallery Monday (April 15) and you listened objectively to what was espoused by seven councillors, the mayor and city manager, then you should have your answer.
The motion, tabled by the member of council who is seeking the Liberal nomination for Elgin-Middlesex-London riding in this fall’s federal vote is, pure and simply politically motivated.

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No big spenders in the 2018 St. Thomas municipal vote


city_scope_logo-cmykMayoral candidate Steve Wookey was proof the individual spending the most was not guaranteed success in last fall’s municipal vote.
In a breakdown of the audited financial statements from all candidates seeking a seat on St. Thomas city council, then councillor Wookey spent $9,490 in his attempt to upgrade to a mayoral seat. All but $400 of that amount was paid for by Wookey or his wife.
All of the mayoral hopefuls had a spending limit of $31,205.
Incumbent Heather Jackson spent $6,842 in her failed bid at another term as head of council.
Financial contributors of note to her campaign were Harold Kewley and Michelle Thomson who each chipped in $500.
The successful candidate, Joe Preston, ponied up $8,361 in his municipal politics debut. All of that, by the way, came out of his own pocket. Continue reading

Positioned for Growth: St. Thomas prepares for residential expansion in the coming decades


city_scope_logo-cmykIf you think St. Thomas has experienced a growth spurt over the past 20 years, hold on. By the year 2041, the city’s population is projected to exceed 50,000.
To accommodate this influx, the city will need to adjust its urban area boundary as part of a review of its official plan.
Last June, the city completed a population and housing study which determined the municipality will require an additional 76 gross hectares of residential land to accommodate this growth.
As such, the city is undertaking – with input from residents – a project it identifies as Positioned for Growth.
The study will assemble the required planning and engineering reports to support the preferred expansion lands and bring them into the urban area boundary to designate for development.
In addition, the city will identify recreational and cultural infrastructure and the fire protection services required to support this growth in the coming decades. Continue reading

New STEGH mammography suite a celebration of vision and hope


STEGHjpgAfter more than two years of planning and construction, a celebration of women’s health was held Wednesday (April 3) at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital.
The occasion was the official opening of the new mammography suite at the hospital and an opportunity to meet Christina, the state-of-the-art mammography unit complete with a new tool, contrast mammography, which allows clinicians to accurately diagnose the extent of the cancer.
It’s the second mammography unit housed at STEGH
But the afternoon event and tour of the warm and friendly suite was more than just a ribbon-cutting exercise. Continue reading

‘Underfunded and struggling’ – dealing with mental health issues in St. Thomas and across the province


city_scope_logo-cmykThere is no challenge whatsoever as to the merit of the program, what is of dire concern is the hand-to-mouth existence experienced at this time in keeping a Canadian Mental Health Association response worker as a resource for St. Thomas Police.
Earlier this month, city council approved an $18,000 expenditure that will allow
clinician Alex Paterson to remain with the service until the end of June.
She has been on board since October of 2017 when a one-year pilot program was launched.
Several extensions ensued, with the latest set to expire at the end of the month, allowing St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge additional time to explore funding opportunities with the province and the South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN).
We talked to Herridge this week to ascertain what financial gateways are open to him to ensure financial stability for a resource that has proven itself from the get-go. Continue reading

Of fibre optics and financial skeletons in the St. Thomas utility merger closet


city_scope_logo-cmykFrom the promise of a downtown fibre optic network to assurance the St. Thomas office of Entegrus is under no threat of closure, the future is one of exceptional service, according to the top brass at the merged utility.
The trio of heavyweights – including president and CEO Jim Hogan – appeared before council at Monday’s (March 18) reference committee meeting to update members as the one-year anniversary of the St. Thomas Energy/Entegrus merger approaches on April 1.
Their message was one of corporate goodwill. Everything’s going to be fine, Jack. The kind of pat-on-the-head pep talk you get when your share of the pie is only 20.6 per cent.
And, nary a word on why the city received such a minority share when it serves 30 per cent of the total 59,000 customer base.
But more on that financial skeleton in the closet in a moment.

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Alma heritage easement agreement preserves the few remaining remnants


city_scope_logo-cmykThirteen months after city council was apprised of plans to revitalize the Alma College property, members are being asked Monday (March 18) to endorse a heritage easement agreement with the developer, Patriot Properties.
If approved by council, the motion would – according to a report from city manager Wendell Graves – “direct staff and the city’s solicitor to undertake the required administrative processes and make application to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) to remove the requirement of the existing 2008 Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) order that any development or redevelopment of 96 Moore Street include a faithful replication of the north façade of the former Alma College building.”
Should the LPAT authorize such an action, the heritage easement agreement would replace the OMB order on the land title. Continue reading

Women’s Breakfast for Everyone takeaway: ‘The shared capacity for change in this room is large’


city_scope_logo-cmykHis guest speaker engagement March 7 in St. Thomas was far from a routine outing.
In fact, his appearance Thursday morning at the St. Thomas Seniors Centre, proved a humbling experience for Globe and Mail columnist and award-winning author Andre Picard.
For the first time in the 14-year history of the Women’s Breakfast for Everyone, the 200 or so in attendance – including many high school students – would digest the thoughts and opinions of a man at the Violence Against Women, Services Elgin County fundraiser.
His appearance was equally compelling in the fact, as the first male speaker, he addressed the issue of sexual and domestic violence inflicted upon women by men.
And, as so often is the case, if anything goes wrong, it is the woman who shoulders the burden of blame. Continue reading

St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston’s challenge to residents: ‘Dare to dream all that could be possible’


city_scope_logo-cmykAs he stressed in his inaugural address on Dec. 3 of last year, smart growth in St. Thomas can be achieved through co-operation and open communication with neighbouring communities.
Mayor Joe Preston reiterated that mantra Thursday (Feb. 28) at the State of the Municipalities luncheon at St. Anne’s Centre.
Joined by Central Elgin Mayor Sally Martyn and Southwold Mayor Grant Jones, Preston stressed a healthy, expanding regional economy can be nurtured via a co-operative effort with the city’s neighbours.
“We are much stronger when we all work together,” Preston advised the business and community leaders in attendance.
“Will it be accomplished during our terms in office? Yes it will and we all are working together.”
That need for co-operation and communication was one of four key areas Preston stressed need to be addressed during his term in office.

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From bearings to big box, a makeover on the way for Timken site


city_scope_logo-cmykWhen completed, it will be a big box bonanza for St. Thomas and area shoppers.
Rock Developments of Tecumseh, Ontario is proposing to construct two, multi-unit retail buildings at the north end of the former Timken property on Talbot Street.
The structures would sit on the south side of the service road into the existing SmartCentre, opposite the Canadian Tire parking lot.
The subject land is six acres in size and would be severed from the approximately 20-acre footprint of the Timken plant. No firm plans have been announced for the southern portion of the property although it is likely to include some residential development.
Rock Developments’ client base includes Winners, Best Buy, Bouclair, The Brick, TD Canada Trust, Bank of Montreal, Staples, Boston Pizza, Rexall, Golf town, Shoppers Drug Mart and The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) among many others. Continue reading

From designation to easement: Alma’s heritage rise and fall


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Alma College, 1891. Photo courtesy Elgin County Archives.

Exactly one year ago today (Feb. 20), the journey to what is hoped to become the revitalization of the Alma College property began in earnest.
That afternoon, Michael Loewith of Patriot Properties, met for the first time with members of council and staff at the regularly scheduled reference committee meeting to introduce his proposal for the site of the former school for girls at 96 Moore Street.
Currently owned by London developer Gino Reale, the property is bereft of all but a few vestiges of its former life.
Patriot Properties is seeking the go-ahead to construct a trio of residential towers on the Moore Street property. The development is to be completed in three phases over several years and, when finished, will be comprised of 430 apartment units. Continue reading

Downloadable app would alert and advise St. Thomas residents


city_scope_logo-cmykThe Town of Aylmer is already on board and now St. Thomas has the opportunity to partner with that municipality on the implementation of a community notification/alert system.
Last year Aylmer, in conjunction with a pair of local industries – the Integrated Grain Processors Co-op ethanol plant and Air Liquide – entered into an agreement with ICEsoft Technologies of Calgary to purchase their Voyent Alert system.
The firm’s website notes, “The flexible platform serves the dual purpose of alerting and advising residents during a critical incident as well as providing targeted day-to-day communication services.” Continue reading

Area residents to become ‘sacrificial lambs’ in Alma project? – St. Thomas planner Sue Fortin-Smith


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McIntyre Street residences

More than a decade ago, we began referring to St. Thomas resident Dawn Doty as the Alma College watchdog. That was prior to the May 28, 2008 fire that marked the beginning of the end for the former school for girls.
Doty, who owns property on McIntyre Street across from the three-tower residential development proposed by developer Michael Loewith, was instrumental – via a Freedom of Information request – in obtaining an Ontario Heritage Trust report which the provincial government of the day withheld from the public for more than two years.
That document encouraged “the municipality to refuse any request for demolition or substantial alteration that would destroy the building or heritage attributes.”
It’s a moot point all these years later, but it demonstrates the passion of the Alma watchdog.
At Monday’s meeting (Feb. 11) she and Sue Fortin-Smith – a registered professional planner and former chair of the city’s Municipal Heritage Committee – appeared in separate deputations to council regarding what they believe are shortcomings in reports related to the development of the Moore Street property. Continue reading

St. Thomas city council dishes out dollars in a game of grant Whack-A-Mole


city_scope_logo-cmykOn the plus side – and there were few positive takeaways from Monday’s (Feb. 11) special meeting of council – the disbursement of almost a quarter-million dollars in community grants took less than 90 minutes.
And unlike previous years, council showed restraint in not exceeding this year’s budget target of $261,800 up for grabs.
In fact, it has a small reserve of $16,800 to be doled out at some unspecified time later in the year.
Was the process a model of fairness and efficiency?
Well, let’s hope the deliberations Monday afternoon do not become a template for the future.
It was less a cap-and-trade bit of bargaining as we suggested a few days ago and more a lightning round of Let’s Make A Deal.
Council protocol was abandoned in what was akin to a Saturday morning session at the auction house. Continue reading

Doling out St. Thomas grant money: the city’s own cap-and-trade program?


city_scope_logo-cmykCity council’s reference committee meetings – held immediately prior to the regularly scheduled council sittings – tend to be straight forward, down-to-business sessions with an abundance of information and plenty of questions.
While very informative, they can be a tad on the dry side.
Well, a dramatic change could be in order for Monday’s meeting (Feb. 11) which begins at 4:30 p.m. and will see members determine how to dole out community grants for the year.
In the past, this has been a totally unstructured affair with little in the way of guidelines to follow.
The overarching target – seldom adhered to – has been one-half per cent of the general tax levy or in the $250,000 range.
Last year, even with an attempt to pare back some of the requests, the city still awarded almost $330,000 in grants.
For 2019, council has received funding asks from 18 groups or organizations seeking a total of $455,600.
Some tough decisions are in order Monday.

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Can a local fix result in ‘a perfect case’ fire scenario at a pair of St. Thomas homes?


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Part 1 of this story can be found here.

City Scope has spent almost five years documenting the shortcomings at Walnut Manor in St. Thomas, operated by Niagara Supportive Living of Welland.
From meals described as appalling to bare bones maintenance and housekeeping to, most recently, an infestation of bed bugs.
Now you can add owner Vishal Chityal’s refusal to add a sprinkler system to the ageing facility which has housed upward of a dozen residents at any one time.
In the second part of our examination into fire safety at facilities housing the city’s most vulnerable individuals, we talk with St. Thomas Chief Fire Prevention Officer Bill Todd about Walnut Manor and Elizabeth Sebestyen, St. Thomas-Elgin Social Services director, about the options available for the city to protect residents of these unsprinklered group homes. Continue reading

After a close call at Caressant Care, will the fire focus shift to a pair of non-sprinklered facilities in St. Thomas?


city_scope_logo-cmykAlthough one resident remains hospitalized, the Jan. 26 fire at Caressant Care, Bonnie Place in St. Thomas is being called “a perfect case” where the sprinkler system worked, firefighters were on the scene within four minutes and staff and residents had participated in a practice fire drill less than three months previous.
The late-evening blaze sent seven people to hospital, including four residents, two staff and a firefighter. All have been released with the exception of one resident who remains in critical condition.
But, what if that blaze had, instead, broken out in either one of a pair of facilities that appear to have fallen through various cracks? Continue reading

COP’s soon to be the eyes and ears of St. Thomas Police Service


city_scope_logo-cmykFollowing a year that saw a record number of reportable incidents and operating at minimal staffing levels, the city’s police chief is undertaking an innovative approach to maintaining the overall safety of St. Thomas residents.
That means putting more COP’s on the street.
Although, that’s not what you think and, no, the police budget is not going to absorb a beating.
The COP’s, in this case, are Citizens on Patrol.
The program – to be launched later this spring – is modelled after an existing undertaking in Brantford which provides “a visible presence in the community while fostering partnerships with Brantford Police Services, local businesses and residential areas, to identify and expand opportunities to deter criminal activity and reduce crime,” according to the service website.
The COP volunteers – more than 100 now in the program – act as goodwill ambassadors who “foster positive contact with members of the community. COP’s will act as non-confrontational observers and report suspicious behaviour.”
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