Retirement payouts to firefighters enough to make you sick


city_scope_logo-cmykYou have to look very, very carefully to find this gem in last Monday’s council agenda.
We’ll help you out. It’s on Page 65. A warning from the city’s director of finance, David Aristone.
“The various reserve balance are adequate in the short term,” advised Aristone in his 2016 year-end update to council. “However, for the longer term, the city is financially exposed in the following areas.
Aristone lists four areas with the final being “future retirement payouts for the fire department.”
No amount is listed, but we confirmed with human resources director Graham Dart the amount at the end of 2016 was approximately $1.3 million.
A tidy sum, that. And what is the $1.3 million earmarked for?

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City to assume ownership of Lake Margaret . . . and those grass-gobbling geese


The process and implications of transferring ownership of Lake Margaret and associated lands to the city were outlined to residents of the lakeside subdivision in attendance Monday at city council’s reference committee meeting.
The update of the Lake Margaret Management Plan by city staff was deemed “a phenomenal presentation,” by one shoreline resident who added the process “restores a lot of our faith.”

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Market study recommends more retail in downtown core; revitalization of Elgin Mall


city_scope_logo-cmykIn the period 2000 to 2015, St. Thomas experienced an almost three-fold increase in vacant commercial retail space. That’s one of the key findings in a 2015 retail market study to be presented to council Monday.
The study, undertaken by Dillon Consulting and W. Scott Morgan & Associates, sought to “analyse the ability of the city’s commercial policy framework to support the health of its retail market, while identifying the evolving retail market trends that may affect St. Thomas.”
The city has 2.46 million square feet of retail commercial space – an increase of 15 per cent since 2007 – but in that total, 313,000 square feet is vacant, up from 114,000 in the year 2000.

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Talbot Street redevelopment moves east in 2018


Pending council approval, the city will proceed with design work for Phase 2 of Talbot Street redevelopment.
With successful completion of the initial phase last summer – at a cost of $3.2 million – the plan is to move east and begin work on that stretch of the roadway between Pearl and Mary streets.
talbot-street-redevelopmentjpgSurvey work will begin in the near future and include locates of existing utilities, a process that should entail little in the way of disruption to pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
This second phase will continue the success of the streetscape theme undertaken last year, advised David Jackson, the city’s manager of public works.
“The aesthetics of the street will be enhanced, a pedestrian friendly zone will be prioritized, and the majority of existing parking spaces will be maintained,” wrote Jackson in a release.
The project will include replacement of the sanitary sewer, watermain, utilities, road, sidewalk,  and streetlights.
As was the case last spring and summer, Talbot Street will be closed to vehicular traffic in a phased fashion.
Talbot Street plantersjpgThe construction will “include tight schedule deadlines and  financial penalties to ensure it is completed as quickly as possible,” stressed Jackson.
Pedestrian access will  more or less be maintained, with minor disruptions.
While no date has yet been established, Jackson advised a public meeting will be held in late 2017 where residents and business owners will have an opportunity to review the plans  and learn more about construction timing and impacts. 
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope

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Can a building simply crumble under the weight of engineering reports?


city_scope_logo-cmykIt was a question posed by one of three appeal court justices that cut to the chase in the latest snafu associated with the Sutherland Saga.
Wednesday morning at Osgoode Hall in Toronto, she queried why “a defect in service would make an order null and void.”
Specifically, why would an alleged deficiency in the manner in which Chris Peck, the city’s chief building inspector, delivered a notice to building owner David McGee, warning of demolition of the structure for failure to comply with a previous work order, render it null and void?
Well, that was the determination of Justice Kelly Gorman on Sept. 27 of last year at the Elgin County Courthouse, which let to the city’s appeal of that decision heard last week.

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Fate of Sutherland Press building remains in a holding pattern


Not unlike the two combatants, a panel of three appeal court justices failed Wednesday to make any significant headway in the eight-year standoff that is the Sutherland Saga.
The nearly three-hour hearing held at Toronto’s Osgoode Hall dealt with the city’s appeal of a decision handed down September 27 of last year by Justice Kelly Gorman, who determined a notice issued in March of last year warning of demolition of the four-storey structure for failure to comply with a previous work order was null and void.

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Call, click or mark . . . options for St. Thomas electors in the 2018 municipal vote


Unwilling to plunge head first into online voting, city council did reach a consensus Monday to collectively dip a toe into the water for the 2018 municipal election.
While one councillor called casting a ballot online “inevitable,” another worried about ensuring each eligible elector was limited to a single vote. But after healthy debate, council confirmed paper ballots as the primary method of voting in the next trip to the polls – to be counted through the use of electronic vote tabulators – with internet and telephone voting to be introduced as alternatives for advance polls only.

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Sticky notes the first step in shaping the look of Port Stanley harbour


Port Stanley and area residents were invited to enjoy a free cup of coffee Monday and help define the look of the village for decades to come.
The harbour redevelopment open house attracted dozens of participants to the Village Square Coffee House who eagerly posted their ideas on brightly coloured sticky notes affixed to several aerial maps of the waterfront.

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Please grant us a sane and sensible community grant policy


city_scope_logo-cmykA seemingly innocent comment at the close of Monday’s reference committee meeting – held prior to the regularly scheduled council session – unwittingly could have the same impact as flinging a full can of gas onto a smoldering fire.
In the new business portion of the meeting, Coun. Mark Burgess waded into the mire that is council grants to community groups, a process that sees hundreds of thousands of dollars doled out on an annual basis.
The response to the good councillor’s remark was swift.

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Former skate park pitched as site for proposed food garden


What once was the home of flips and verticals may soon play host to fruits and vegetables.
At its reference committee meeting Monday at city hall, members of council listened to a pitch promoting the Moore Food Garden, proposed for the site of the former skateboard park – at the east end of the Moore Street parking lot – condemned and demolished by city staff during March Break, 2012.

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From the steam engine to the STEAM Centre, it’s a logical extension


city_scope_logo-cmykAttracting interested and involved participants was not an issue Monday evening (March 27) at an information night to introduce a partnership between the STEAM Centre, housed in the former Wellington Public School, and the Thames Valley District School Board.  The pilot project will see participating Grade 10 students from the city’s three TVDSB high schools work collaboratively for one semester before returning to their home schools. 
One of the biggest proponents of the STEAM Centre is board member Andrew Gunn, trustee of the Dorothy Palmer Estate which contributed $638,000 to help launch the alternative education project.
Gunn sees the St. Thomas centre as a template for what can be undertaken in communities across the province threatened with losing their schools.

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High praise for first art installations at St. Thomas Elevated Park


Whether it’s art imitating life or life imitating art, the gift of a pair of “big, heavy, muscular and colourful pieces of art” will be impressive focal points at the St. Thomas Elevated Park when it officially opens Aug. 27.
The metal sculptures are the creation of artist and blacksmith Scott McKay, commissioned and donated to the park by his father Ian, a resident of Waterloo.
A model of the first installation, Fear Not The Wind, will be on display at the St. Thomas Home Show, this weekend at the Timken Centre.

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EPAR 01 final recommendations on school closings and realignments to be presented at April 11 TVDSB meeting


The final recommendations of the Senior Administration Report – Elementary Pupil Accommodation Review 01 will be presented at the Thames Valley District School Board’s April 11 meeting, to be followed by a public meeting in May.
The report is 1,458 pages in length with 44 recommendations. Here are the 42 that directly impact schools in St. Thomas and Elgin. The full report can be accessed here
1. THAT Sparta Public School close effective June 30, 2018.
2. THAT New Sarum Public School close effective June 30, 2020 contingent upon Ministry of Education approval of capital funding for the new Belmont Public School and the new Southeast St. Thomas Public School.

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STEAM Centre and TVDSB roll out unique partnership in St. Thomas aimed at Gr. 10 students


The irony is not lost on STEAM Education Centre board member Andrew Gunn.
Standing inside a heritage building, a former elementary school, now re-purposed as a 21st century progressive education centre.
“Here we are bringing 3D printers and robotics and all sorts of new technologies for learning and design all here in a building from 1898,” enthused Gunn, trustee of the Dorothy Palmer Estate which contributed $638,000 to help launch the alternative education project.

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A crowded table for debate over mobile food vendors in Port Stanley


Mobile food vendors would set up for the day in Port Stanley and then leave town at night without any investment in the community.
Not the case at all, insisted an operator of a vehicle in question. “We’re not invading the territory, we’re here to complement existing restaurants.”
Such was the scope of argument Monday night (March 27) at a public meeting held to gather input from both sides of the table on whether to allow mobile food vendors in  Port Stanley. The one-hour dialogue preceded the regular meeting of Central Elgin municipal council.

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