CECI grad got in there and gave it a try . . . now she’s captain of the ship


city_scope_logo-cmykIt would be nothing short of a prodigious understatement to say Kathryn Whittaker has an office with a view. Likewise, her current stature is an epic voyage distant from a summer job hostessing aboard a tour boat in Toronto harbour.
On March 10 of this year, the former St. Thomas resident was promoted to captain of the Sea Cloud II, a magnificent 94-passenger tall ship built in Spain in 2000 and operated by Sea Cloud Cruises of Germany.
The firm notes she is the first female Canadian captain of a passenger cruise ship and the first female captain for Sea Cloud.
Whittaker just completed a trip from the Caribbean back to Spain on April 18 and we caught up with her Friday (April 20) at her Ottawa home.
Recounting her career path from the foot of Bay Street in Toronto to life spent on open waters should commence with tales of her early years in a sea-faring family.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. Continue reading

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‘Something needs to change with regard to the healthcare system and how it is being managed’ – MPP Jeff Yurek


city_scope_logo-cmykResidents of St. Thomas and Elgin are being “shortchanged” on physiotherapy services, charges Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek.
He stood up in the Ontario Legislature this week to question the Kathleen Wynne government on the closing of MobilityFit Physiotherapy in St. Thomas, one of only two such services in the city funded through OHIP.
Yurek alleges both the Southwest Local Health Integration Network (SW LHIN) and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care have “refused to act on the impending loss of service.”
Yurek added, “When contacted for a status update, both the SW LHIN and ministry responded with the same talking points. Neither would state whether or not the clinic is closing.” Continue reading

For Steve Peters, his focus is on city hall (once again)


city_scope_logo-cmykStanding at the front of his house, he has a clear view of the city hall tower. And now, Steve Peters is seriously contemplating a return to the council chamber at that very same building where he first cut his teeth on municipal politics, 30 years ago this fall.
A former city alderman, mayor, Elgin-Middlesex-London Liberal MPP and Speaker of the Ontario Legislature, Peters has so far remained coy about his intentions once the nomination period opens May 1, other than to insist he is not interested in again donning the mayor’s chain of office.
An in-depth conversation this week, however, did shed considerable light on whether the political will to serve the populace still burns within Peters.
“Someone said you’re sitting on the fence. But I’ve been there and I’ve done that. And people say why are you going to go back?” Continue reading

Third-party audit at ELC: Routine due diligence or complaint driven?


city_scope_logo-cmykYou know things have reached the boiling point when former and current staff contact you about the toxic work environment at their place of employment.
Such was the case this week when a former staffer at an Early Learning Centre in St. Thomas called to alert this corner about a festering situation at the centres.
As this individual patiently explained, at stake is the departure of former executive director Patricia Riddell-Laemers, the disbursement of top-up pay ear-marked for staff and allegations some individuals may have been wrongfully dismissed.
Matters apparently have sunk so low, some members of staff have hired a lawyer to delve into Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education violations at the Early Learning Centre.
The vast majority of staff at the centres are females, very young and fearful of losing their jobs, according to the caller to City Scope. Continue reading

St. Thomas Elevated Park: An exciting ‘piece of the puzzle’ for the city


city_scope_logo-cmyk“We’re just turning the corner and making it a people place.”
Of course Serge Lavoie, president of On Track St. Thomas, is referring to the Michigan Central Railroad bridge spanning Kettle Creek which is being transformed into the St. Thomas Elevated Park.
In a conversation with Lavoie this week, he had exciting news on the status of Canada’s first such park.
“The first section of the bridge is actually pretty safe right now so except on days when we might be doing heavy construction, we’re going to start opening it this spring,” advised Lavoie.
“We’ll have the gates open, likely by Easter weekend and it will remain open all the time and only close to the public on the odd day when we have a work crew there.
“We want people to go up there and enjoy it because the railing system is in place, it’s very safe. And now, people should go up and enjoy it and watch our progress.”

Continue reading

MPP Jeff Yurek is on the hunt for honesty when doling out MNR funds


city_scope_logo-cmykIntroduced March 7 at Queen’s Park, a private members bill to shine a light on how funds in a Ministry of Natural Resources special purpose account are spent was shot down a day later.
The fund was initially established by the provincial Tories in the late 1990s, explained Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek.
“Back in 1997, the Mike Harris government created the fund as a way of expanding licences across the province, but also letting the hunters and angles have a say in how resource management should be done.
However, handling of the fund has come under fire in recent years for the lack of transparency and questionable expenditures.
Yurek spent seven years working with the Aylmer Stakeholders Group, representing landowners and farmers, to have the provincial Liberals tighten up spending requirements for the fund, which collects $75 million annually in licensing feeds from hunters and anglers. Continue reading

Much-maligned Dobbie Report basis for double-digit salary hikes at city hall


city_scope_logo-cmykThe release last Monday (March 5) of the salaries of municipal employees earning in excess of $100,000 in 2017 revealed some eye-popping pay raises to several senior managers.
In the case of Ross Tucker, director of parks and recreation, a salary hike in the 20 per cent range
And for clerk Maria Konefal, a 10 per cent pay raise.
One of the explanations given by city administration is some of the senior managers have increased job responsibilities.
Let’s be honest. How many residents out there have had more work piled on them over the past few years with nary a penny added to their pay cheque, let alone a double-digit wage increase? Continue reading

Salary review at city hall prompts healthy hike in remuneration for senior staff


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Correction: As noted previously by then police chief Darryl Pinnell, the correct number of members of the St. Thomas Police Service earning in excess of $100,000 in 2016 should have been 46 and not 43, making the overall total for that year 113. The increase then for this year is from 46 members to 49.

A report on the salaries of municipal employees earning in excess of $100,000 in 2017 is included in Monday’s council agenda. This is required under the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act of 1996.
In total, 117 employees eared more than $100,000, that’s up from 110 in 2016.
Breaking down by sector, 49 members of the St. Thomas Police Service are included, up substantially from 43 in 2016.
At the St. Thomas Fire Department, 46 are on the list and that is down by two from the previous year due to retirements.
In city administration, 22 staffers are listed, up three from 2016.
Most notable is the hefty increase in remuneration for some of the senior staff, while most others saw their salary remain relatively stable from 2016. Continue reading

An August start on Alma property? ‘Technically it’s possible.’


city_scope_logo-cmykMichael Loewith of Loewith-Greenberg Communities made an impressive presentation to city council Tuesday, outlining his proposal for developing the Alma College property.
There have been proposals in the past for the site of the former school for girls, so is this latest presentation the real deal?
“He (Loewith) is the right guy,” insisted London Developer Gino Reale, current manager of the Moore Street property.
“It took a little while to find him. But, I think we found the right guy . . . I’m not a builder, but if I find the right guy then that’s who is going to buy it. And this guy, in my books, is the right guy.”
Loewith has a conditional offer to purchase the property, as Reale explained earlier this week.
“There are conditions on the offer until April. As far as he (Loewith) is concerned, it’s a done deal. Until he sends me the paperwork and says he waives the conditions – which was primarily this meeting with council and a couple of other minor things – it will solidify or fall apart by April.” Continue reading

The Alma College property deserves ‘building something that is beautiful’


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Alma College plaque

Members of St. Thomas city council got their first look Tuesday at a proposed development on the Alma College property.
Michael Loewith of Loewith-Greenberg Communities outlined his plan for three, seven-storey residential towers on the site of the former private school for girls. One of the structures would replicate the front facade of the main Alma college building.
The development would entail 400 units of various configurations geared to young families and empty-nesters alike. Much of the land on the 13-acre Moore Street site would be devoted to green space and pathways. Continue reading

Cost of remediation at 230 Talbot Street comes with no firm guarantee


city_scope_logo-cmykThe city is eager to begin remediation at 230 Talbot Street, site of the proposed “social services and housing campus” on a parcel of land purchased last year from London developer Shmuel Farhi.
The winning tender for cleanup will come to council Tuesday for approval.
And, it comes in significantly above the anticipated range of $400,000 to $600,000.
At Tuesday’s meeting, council will be asked to endorse the tender submitted by All Season Excavating at $728,819 for remediation of the large tract of land.
The work includes removal of all contaminated materials in preparation for the new social services building and construction of a new parking lot to replace the existing lot on the northwest corner of the site. Continue reading

‘Worker safety should have taken priority over policy’


city_scope_logo-cmykTime spent at a coroner’s inquest brings with it the emotion of family members and friends sitting through graphic testimony in the courtroom interspersed with details of protocol, procedures and guidelines that seem, at times, almost callous in nature.
Such was the case this past week with the four-day inquest into the death of St. Thomas construction worker Brian Daniel, killed on July 2,1014 when he was struck by a pick-up truck on the Highway 3 bypass at the Burwell Road bridge.
The recommendations – excellent in scope and most of them put forward by Daniel’s daughter Krista McColl – can be found here.
But to better understand the context of the back-and-forth testimony heard throughout the inquest, here are snippets of what was presented to the five-person jury. Continue reading

Jury recommendations from the coroner’s inquest into the death of St. Thomas resident Brian Daniel


city_scope_logo-cmykBrian Daniel was a flag man working on the Hwy. 3 bypass at the Burwell Road bridge when he was struck and killed just before noon on July 2, 2014. A four-day coroner’s inquest into his death concluded Feb. 8, 2018 at the Elgin County Courthouse in St. Thomas.
Here are the 13 recommendations endorsed by the five-person jury.

1. Amend the definition of ‘highway’ to state: A general term that denotes a public way for the purposes of vehicular and pedestrian travel, including the area within a right of way. This includes King’s Highways, regional and county roads, and rural roads, municipal roads and streets with a normal posted regulatory speed that is over 60 km/h and is 90 km/h or less. Continue reading

Bridging the gap: Province acknowledges local concerns with new 401 interchange


city_scope_logo-cmykThe province has listened and the stretch of Glanworth Drive known as the farmer’s freeway will remain intact with a new alignment of the overpass at Highway 401.
At a public information centre held Thursday (Feb. 1) at the Stoneridge Inn, London, the Ministry of Transportation unveiled its preferred alternative for interchange improvements at the 401 and Col. Talbot Drive.
The original plan would have seen the Glanworth Drive bridge demolished, forcing farmers to move their massive implements on to busier roads. The new interchange will see the Glanworth Bridge replaced and realigned further east with the roadway repositioned to meet Col. Talbot Drive north of its present junction at Littlewood Drive. Continue reading

Talbot Street West renaissance to ramp up this year


city_scope_logo-cmykUp until this past Monday (Jan. 22), the city’s ambitious proposal to develop “a social services and housing campus” on a large tract of land purchased last year from London developer Shmuel Farhi has been little more than vague concepts outlined in several reports and updates.
That all changed in stunning fashion at this week’s reference committee meeting where a rendition of Phase 1 of the project at 230 Talbot Street was presented to council and staff.
“The architect provided council with a high-level overview of the design concepts for the project,” explained city manager Wendell Graves.
“This week we are requesting proposals for contractors to pre-qualify them (for tendering).
The hub will be developed in three stages over several years, anchored by a new home for Ontario Works, which is currently leasing space in the Mickleborough building at 423 Talbot Street, the second property purchased by the city from Farhi in the same transaction.
230 Talbot StreetjpgThe city paid $1.4 million for the parcel of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and extending down to Centre Street. The property includes three houses on Queen Street.
Farhi Holdings is donating $400,000 back to the city as part of the deal.
“A goal we have at this point in time is by April 16th, we would be in a position to actually award a tender for the project,” explained Graves, who added the building will occupy the north end of the property abutting Talbot Street.
230 Talbot Street conceptualjpg“That would be the social services building with two floors of affordable housing, 28 units.”
In the 2018 city budget, $11.3 million has been included for 15,000 square feet of office space and the affordable housing units.
To help finance the project, city council approved Graves’ recommendation to “sell vacant free-standing homes within the affordable housing program and the transfer of the sale proceeds to the development of new housing stock” at 230 Talbot Street.
The homes to be sold would come from the supply of 75 single-family homes on Simcoe and Dunkirk streets. Graves anticipates 12 to 14 of these units would become available over the next two years.

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Three Queen Street residences are slated for demolition, according to city manager Wendell Graves.

Site remediation of the Talbot Street property is expected to cost between $400,000 and $600,000 and the tendering process is underway.
Cleanup of the property “will start as soon as we can firm that up,” noted Graves. “We need to get the site cleaned up prior to the contractor being on site.”
The plan is to clean the bulk of the site and not just the area needed for Phase 1.
“It seems prudent to get the whole thing done,” advised Graves.
As for the trio of houses on Queen Street, demolition is expected to proceed this spring.

Related posts:

West end of Talbot street to be site of social services and housing campus

Answers needed on dealing with Ascent long-term debt

GIMME SHELTER

No one would deny the city’s Burwell Road animal shelter is hopelessly inadequate and has been that way for years.
The cramped, uninviting facility was scheduled to be renovated this year but that was put on hold because the lowest tender bid came in $38,000 over the $260,000 budget allocated to the project.
What is needed is a complete rethink on the role of animal services and, to that end, Lois Jackson, chair of the city’s Animal Welfare Select Committee and founder of All-Breed Canine Rescue, organized a Jan. 23 tour of London Animal Care Centre, a for-profit organization operating out of a well-equipped building on Pine Valley Blvd.
Only two members of council – Joan Rymal and Mark Tinlin – took advantage of the invite and they were joined by two members of staff, including bylaw enforcement officer Rob McDonald.
The entourage was rounded out by members of the animal welfare committee.

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Coun. Joan Rymal, left, and Lois Jackson at a tour of the London Animal Care Centre

The centre has a five-year contract with the City of London, valued at $2 million per year.
The city provides 40 hours of vet services per week under a separate agreement.
It handles pet bylaw enforcement and licensing of the animals. A crew of bylaw officers aggressively targets dog owners, going so far as to knock on doors to check for compliance.
“Revenue really comes from licences and not adoptions,” stressed director of operations Kent Lattanzio.
Ironing out the kinks and fine-tuning the process has been a 15-year process, explained Lattanzio.
While he wouldn’t go so far as to say it has a no-kill policy, Lattanzio’s target is 90 per cent live release. Any animals euthanized are for “humane reasons.”
By way of comparison, Lattanzio noted many shelters are euthanizing as many as 60 per cent of the cats brought in.
The centre has a capacity of 140 cats and 45 dogs, although the population was far below that on this day.
A Facebook page is utilized strictly for pet adoptions, which Lattanzio stressed is the key to moving animals.
The facility has an effective Meet Your Match program in place to team up those interested in adopting with pets that fit their lifestyle and personality.
It also gives staff a reason to say no to potential adoption situations unlikely to succeed.
Such a program also lowers the stress on animals in a shelter environment.
Councillors Rymal and Tinlin asked a bevy of excellent questions and returned to St. Thomas armed with vital information to hopefully move the animal shelter off the back burner where it has simmered for years.
Optimistically, staff and council will realize the valuable resource they have in Lois Jackson.

Related posts:

A clearer vision for Alma College property or another dashed dream

Answers needed on dealing with Ascent long-term debt

STEPPING UP THE FIGHT

There are a lot of Dutton Dunwich residents generating plenty of noise about noise.
And, they are attracting a considerable amount of interest, not to mention media attention.
Dutton Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines (DDOWT) has filed a judicial review application against the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change alleging provincial regulations limit the amount of noise any resident should have to tolerate from industrial wind turbines.
Modelling is used to establish these limits and the ministry has admitted previous guidelines underestimate the actual noise endured by residents adjacent to wind turbines.

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Dutton Dunwich residents at an open house rally in October of 2017.

New regulations have been established, however DDOWT contends the Strong Breeze wind turbine project proposed for the municipality – along with at least four other large-scale undertakings across the province – will be allowed to proceed without adhering to these new regulations.
At a media conference Thursday near Wallaceburg, Bonnie Rowe of DDOWT – with the support of three similar groups in eastern Ontario and Wallaceburg – announced a challenge of the ministry for failure to protect the public from industrial wind turbine noise.
It’s a move not take lightly, stressed Rowe.
“We estimate that these five proposed wind power projects will be out of compliance with noise levels as soon as they go online.”
In the case of the Strong Breeze project in Dutton Dunwich, Rowe asserts “the majority of these proposed turbines, as well as the transformer, will likely produce noise over the ministry maximum allowable levels.”
“The government knows the modelling done by the wind companies is wrong,” adds Eric Gillespie, legal counsel for the group.
“However the government now doesn’t require them to follow the proper process. It’s not surprising people from across Ontario are joining together to vigorously oppose this.”
While not a participant in the application, Dutton Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam and municipal council have long voiced opposition to the project, along with more than 80 per cent of the residents.

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Invenergy’s James Murphy, centre, and Dutton Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam, right, at an open house held in March of 2017.

So far, to no avail.
Noise is just one piece of the puzzle, noted McWilliam, “but I still can’t figure out when you have a bigger turbine and you are not even making them follow the guidelines, how that doesn’t lead to more noise or vibration.”
A new concern for McWilliam is the recent collapse of a tower in nearby Chatham-Kent.
More so in light of the fact the proponent of the Dutton Dunwich Strong Breeze project, Invenergy, built the Chatham-Kent tower. Several years ago Invenergy sold the industrial wind farm development to another firm in the field.
“That’s our concern,” stressed McWilliam, “they seem to be more of a design and build company and then sell it as soon as it’s running.
“All these proposals should be shut down until they are able to determine what happened (to the tower). And what’s the mitigation.”
No date for the judicial review – likely to be heard at Osgoode Hall in Toronto – has yet been determined.

Related posts:

Dutton Dunwich wind turbines, we’re not past the point of no return

Wind turbine noise complaints proof province is kowtowing to their corporate buddies

FOR THE CALENDAR

  • A public information centre will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Best Western Stoneridge Inn to garner input on improvements to the Highway 401/Col. Talbot Road interchange and realigning and replacement of the existing Glanworth Drive bridge over the 401.
  • The 45th annual Honours and Awards banquet will take place at Memorial Auditorium on Thursday April 19, beginning at 6 p.m. The evening recognizes St. Thomas youth, individuals, teams, or groups which enjoyed an impressive achievement in 2017 and deserve civic recognition.

COMING UP

Watch for an interview with Const. Travis Sandham regarding the St. Thomas Police Service’s newly launched Vulnerable Persons Registry.

Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope

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D.J. to take second run at Daytona 500


D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas is taking a second run at the Great American Race.
A year after qualifying for the 2017 Daytona 500, Gaunt Brother Racing and Kennington are returning for the 60th edition of the Daytona 500. The two-time NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion was the first Canadian to compete in the Daytona 500 in 29 years.
Running in the Daytona 500 has been a dream of the St. Thomas racer since he was five years old.
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In total, he has made 62 career starts in NASCAR’s three national divisions.
Last year’s Daytona qualification came less than three months after another dream came to fruition on the oval at Phoenix International Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona – his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut.
He’s raced at Daytona previously in the Infinity Series and has a vivid recollection.
kenningtonfrontjpg“It’s a huge track, but when you’re out there it doesn’t seem so huge. When you’re running three wide at 190 miles an hour, things happen in a hurry. You run flat-footed all the time, all the way around. You never come off the gas.”
He will attempt to qualify for the Feb. 18th race in the No. 96 Toyota Camry.
British Columbia-based Lordco Auto Parts and Castrol (Wakefield Canada), a longtime Kennington partner, will co-sponsor the Daytona effort.
Prior to qualifying last year Kennington enthused, “Daytona is the grand-daddy, it’s the biggest stock car race in the world, I guess. And to have an opportunity at it is absolutely huge for me and my family. My dad has worked so hard with all my races and trying to make things happen for me. For this to come together is really, really cool.”
No doubt he will be just anxious to see the difference a year can make.

Related post:

First Phoenix and now the grand-daddy of them all

 

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Eliminating sexual harassment: “It’s a cultural shift” – A candid conversation with MP Karen Vecchio


city_scope_logo-cmykIn a recent survey of female MPs conducted by Canadian Press, more than half (58 per cent) reported having personally experienced some form of sexual misconduct during their term in office.
The process for handling complaints of harassment – established in 2014 – was considered difficult to evaluate by one-third of respondents. They called it a first step, but insufficient on its own.
But perhaps the real story emanating from the survey is the fact only 38 of 89 female MPs took the time to participate in the voluntary, anonymous survey.
One who chose not to respond was Conservative MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London, Karen Vecchio.
We caught up with her this week and she offered some candid insight into sexual harassment, an obstacle she has not faced in politics. Continue reading

Health unit collaboration augurs new direction for healthcare in Elgin and Oxford


city_scope_logo-cmykThe governing bodies of the health units in St. Thomas/Elgin and Oxford county on Jan. 10 approved proceeding to the next level in merging the two bodies.
Locally, the health unit is the governing body and so municipal councils in St. Thomas and Elgin were not involved in any vote to move forward with the merger, whereas in Oxford the county serves as the governing body and municipal council had to approve a motion to proceed.
To be known as Oxford Elgin St. Thomas Health Unit, the new entity would serve approximately 204,000 residents.
A new, autonomous board would be composed of four representatives from Oxford and two each from St. Thomas and Elgin county. Continue reading

Why would the owner of a supportive living facility choose to adopt an alias?


city_scope_logo-cmykVishal Chityal, owner of Walnut Manor in St. Thomas, was the subject of discussion in the Ontario Legislature on May 18, 2017. We have focused on the supportive living facility the past couple of weeks and again four years ago when the kitchen was shut down by Elgin St. Thomas Public Health.
Here are excerpts from the Hansard transcript from that day featuring an impassioned presentation from Welland MPP Cindy Forster, author of private member’s Bill 135, an act to establish a framework for the licensing of supportive living accommodation.
More details on Bill 135 in a moment, but first here is MPP Forster’s back story on Chityal. Continue reading

She could go in and go nuts on them, but to what end?


city_scope_logo-cmykThe notion, upon first hearing it, is almost absurd. Nearly four years ago, City Scope referred to it as entirely counter-intuitive. Let an absentee owner off the hook and reach out to the community instead for their help and support.
But, that is exactly the approach lawyer Elena Dempsey was proposing in June of 2014 to turn things around at Walnut Manor — an independent supportive living home operated by Niagara Supportive Living in Welland.
Well, a lengthy conversation this past Wednesday (Jan. 3) with the lawyer at Elgin-Oxford Legal Clinic in St. Thomas confirmed Dempsey is just as passionate.
She had visited the group home at 57 Walnut Street just before Christmas to drop off gifts for the 18 or so residents and found the facility just as dreary and depressing as ever. The food, appalling not appealing. Continue reading

Do what is necessary to provide appropriate care for our most vulnerable citizens


city_scope_logo-cmykWe picked up the cause last week of a Lambton Shores woman whose father was a resident of Walnut Manor, an independent supportive living home in St. Thomas.
In 2014, we documented the plight of the 14 residents of the Walnut Street facility who were being served such culinary delights as what was called pasta salad, consisting of macaroni and salad dressing. Or chicken wieners served on plain white bread for lunch.
An advocate for the residents at the time, lawyer Elena Dempsey, described the situation in this fashion.
“They run out of food and when they run out of food they concoct the most bizarre meals. I was told of one meal that consisted of spaghetti with instant mashed potatoes on top and mushroom soup poured on top of it.”
Mmmmm, nothing says satisfying like chef’s surprise. Continue reading

A repeat of appalling not appealing at Walnut Manor?


city_scope_logo-cmykThis is a horrible time of year to revisit this story. But can there ever be a good time to tackle what has been described as warehousing of our most vulnerable residents?
In June of 2014, this corner profiled a disturbing situation at Walnut Manor, an independent supportive living home in St. Thomas operated by Niagara Supportive Living of Welland.
Fourteen residents in the home were served up meals described as appalling not appealing by St. Thomas lawyer Elena Dempsey.
She had become an advocate for the residents and was reaching out to the community for their help and support to turn things around at Walnut Manor.
Things had gotten so bad, Elgin St. Thomas Public Health shut the kitchen down for three days.
Four-and-a-half years later and it would appear history is repeating itself. Continue reading

St. Thomas F-18 pilot helping ensure Santa’s safe transit through Canadian airspace


A St. Thomas pilot will be flying high with the big guy Christmas Eve. Capt. Kevin Mittelholtz from 401 tactical fighter squadron, Cold Lake, Alberta, will serve as an escort pilot accompanying Santa across western Canada as he delivers gifts for good little girls and boys
The 27-year-old Mittelholtz is one of four CF-18 pilots who will serve as Santa’s wingmen on this most important of assignments. The St. Joseph’s High School grad will be a key member of the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) team chosen to ensure St. Nick enjoys a safe journey from the North Pole across the country. Continue reading

Capping community grants the opening salvo in 2018 mayoral race?


city_scope_logo-cmykIt was a budget body slam last night (Dec. 18) in the council chamber at city hall. A bloc of five councillors sent a clear message to Mayor Heather Jackson as to who is behind the wheel on budget deliberations. Or at least the community grant portion of the 2018 city budget.
Councillors Steve Wookey, Joan Rymal, Mark Burgess, Mark Tinlin and Gary Clarke voted to adopt the budget as is. The 2018 financial roadmap for the city included a $60,000 cap on community grants to any one group or organization.
Jackson is opposed to a grant cap and therefore was in opposition to approving the budget as is.
She did a little politicking of her own by asking for a recorded vote so those associated with the Talbot Teen Centre (TTC) and St. Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre – two pet projects – would be well aware of her sympathy. Continue reading

Are we being led down the wrong rabbit path on utility marriage? Or, how to distinguish a merger from a fire sale.


city_scope_logo-cmykDid you check out the notice in your latest St. Thomas Energy bill? Seems like the utility merger with Entegrus out of Chatham-Kent is moving toward consummation early in the new year, with the new entity to be known as Entegrus Powerlines.
I guess when you only have a 20 per cent piece of the pie you don’t have any say in naming the beast.
And by coincidence, the merger is the subject of a report from city manager Wendell Graves on Monday’s council agenda.
It’s chock full of legalese and ratepayers have the right to a clear explanation of what is about to transpire on the eve of the merger.
More important, what are the long-term financial implications because this appears to be less a merger and more a fire sale.
So, we chatted with Graves on Friday as to what members of council are being asked to vote on as our elected representatives. Continue reading

No islands in these streams, just a series of HR obstacles


city_scope_logo-cmykCongratulations are in order to Elizabeth Sebestyen, confirmed this week as the Director of Social Services for St. Thomas and Elgin county.
She has been acting director since 2013 and has worked for the department since 2001.
And why did it take so long to announce the permanent appointment?
Well you won’t get any answers at city hall, because it involved a protracted labour relations tribunal dealing with a wrongful dismissal claim by former director Barbara Arbuckle, hired in 2011.
A conversation a year ago with city manager Wendell Graves revealed the following.
“I can’t say a lot but she’s (Sebestyen) still the acting director and Barbara is still on leave.” Continue reading

Shedden’s Lorne Spicer has more than delivered


Parkwood Veterans Memoirsjpg“You might call it bragging, but I got the job done and it wasn’t easy.”
Long-time Shedden resident Lorne Spicer might have been recounting his work with minor hockey, the community’s Rosy Rhubarb Festival or his tireless efforts with the St. Thomas Field Naturalists and the Southwold War Memorial Committee.
Spicer certainly went above and beyond the call of duty with all of those undertakings.
And those achievements would be in keeping with his favourite piece of advice.
“When you make up your mind to do something, just do it.”
And three days before becoming an officer in the RCAF, he wrote in his log book he wanted to become an above average navigator.
His assessment after the fact?
“I delivered.” Continue reading

Can a bus ride begin the journey out of poverty?


city_scope_logo-cmykAmong the positive steps taken this year in St. Thomas to help mitigate poverty’s impact on Ontario Works recipients was the introduction in February of the Bus Pass Pilot Project.
Under this scheme, recipients seeking employment would have access to a monthly bus pass, recognizing “Access to reliable and affordable transportation is integral to a person’s ability to gain and maintain employment, to access health care, recreational, educational and social activities among other things.”
That is according to a report from Heather Sheridan, supervisor of employment and income supports, to be discussed at Monday’s council meeting.
She is asking council to continue the bus pass program and extend it further to include sole support parents and their children. Continue reading

Dalewood bridge deemed unsafe; closed permanently


Many north-end St. Thomas residents will have to adjust their driving habits as of today (Nov. 30).
Following an inspection Wednesday, the Dalewood bridge has been deemed unsafe and is now closed permanently.
dalewoodjpgThe Bailey bridge was installed at Dalewood Dam as a temporary structure in 1983 at a cost of $35,000. It was due to be replaced with a new, two-lane bridge featuring a multi-use path incorporated into the design at a cost of $4.5 million.
Dalewood bridge conceptual cross-sectionjpgCity manager Wendell Graves said construction of the new bridge will begin next spring and will not be moved up due to today’s closure.
Detour routes will be posted for motorists.

Related posts:

New Dalewood bridge gives city a creative opportunity

Permanent solution to a temporary fix

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Inquest called into death of St. Thomas flagman


An inquest has been called into the death of a St. Thomas man killed while directing traffic at a construction site on the Hwy. 3 bypass.
Brian Daniel deathjpgOn July 2, 2014, 55-year-old Brian Daniel was flagging vehicles around a boom crane obstructing traffic in the westbound lane of the bypass at Burwell Road.
He was struck and killed by a pickup truck driven by a 46-year-old Aylmer man, who was charged with dangerous driving causing death.
An inquest is mandatory under the Coroners Act, and Dr. Rick Mann, Regional Supervising Coroner for West Region, London Office, announced Monday it will begin Feb. 5th, 2018 at the Elgin County Courthouse in St. Thomas.
It is expected to last four days and hear from approximately eight witnesses.
The jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths.

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Will transit continue to take a back seat in St. Thomas?


city_scope_logo-cmykFor those who rely on St. Thomas Transit, change may be a passenger in the coming year.
The transit contract with Voyageur – originally in effect Jan. 1, 2012 – expires at the end of the year and the city has the option to enter into a three-year extension.
The transit system was up for discussion at council’s Nov. 20 reference committee meeting at city hall, where the director of environmental services, Justin Lawrence, brought mayor and council up to speed on the five-route system.
In 1989 the hub and spoke system operated with traditional transit buses on a 45-minute cycle over a 14-hour day, Monday through Saturday.
Today, the same hub and spoke system operates 11.5 hours per day (except Sunday) on a 30-minute cycle utilizing buses not far removed from RV’s that struggle to remain in one piece over what appears to be a five-year life span. Continue reading

So, this guy comes up to me and asks, ‘When is the next bus to St. Thomas?’


city_scope_logo-cmykWhile this country’s passenger train network has been picked clean to the bone like so much road kill, Toronto transportation writer and policy adviser Greg Gormick notes it is no coincidence the topic of rail travel ebbs and flows with the election tide.
His clients have included CP, CN, VIA and numerous elected officials and government transportation agencies.
One of his latest undertakings has him consulting for Oxford County to document concerns about the province’s high-speed rail (HSR) proposal linking Toronto with London and eventually Windsor.
Gormick warns HSR will further contribute to the decline of VIA passenger rail service to Woodstock, Ingersoll, Brantford, Stratford, St. Marys and other communities in the region. Continue reading

Mergers are all about creating efficiencies, so who will be left at the alter in health unit marriage?


city_scope_logo-cmykFriday’s announcement of the proposed merger of Elgin St. Thomas Public Health and Oxford County Public Health – which aligns with the province’s call for fewer health units with autonomous boards – is, no doubt, intended to create efficiencies.
Such is the desired effect of any merger, no matter the business sector.
To quote the media release, the two health units “began exploring a potential merger as a way of working towards a strong, unified rural voice for public health in Ontario.”
To further quote from the release, “The intent to merge was formalized through a letter of intent signed by Oxford County Warden David Mayberry on November 8 and Elgin St. Thomas Board of Health Chair Bernie Wiehle on November 9. The letter of intent commits both organizations to a review of each other’s finances, operations and assets; to equally sharing any costs associated with the merger; and to pursuing the necessary statutory and regulatory change at the provincial level before the merger becomes official.” Continue reading

Community engagement is critical for the new hand at police helm


city_scope_logo-cmykA raft of announcements emanating from the latest Police Services Board meeting held mid-October, including Deputy Chief Jeff Driedger announcing his retirement, to take effect some time next year.
That triggered the board to approve the contract of Chris Herridge as new police chief, effective Jan. 1 of 2018 and running through to February of 2024.
In conjunction with that announcement, Insp. Marc Roskamp will become acting Deputy Chief, with no increase in salary until he officially assumes the role on April 1, 2018.
Staff Sgt. Scott Barnes is promoted to acting inspector effective Jan. 1 of next year with no increase in salary until he officially is promoted on April 1, 2018.
And, Const. Chris Johnson will be promoted to acting sergeant at the beginning of the new year, again with no increase in salary until he officially is promoted on April 1, 2018.
We talked at length with the new police chief on Friday as he assumes the leadership role vacated by former chief Darryl Pinnell. Continue reading

Veterans Memorial Garden: Honouring those who never really came home


city_scope_logo-cmykIf you were unable to attend this morning’s (Oct. 28) dedication ceremony, you owe it to yourself to visit Veterans Memorial Garden on Moore Street.
Chairman Herb Warren and his memorial committee – Worth Chisholm, Douglas Nicholson, Coun. Mark Tinlin, Shelly Haycock, Ron Smith and Allan Weatherall – have created a beautiful downtown sanctuary in honour of the men and women who have served and gave their lives in past conflicts.
The garden incorporates the city’s war memorials in one downtown location. This would include the The Great War Memorial which stood in front of St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital and the Second World War and Korean War memorial at Princess Avenue. Continue reading

OK, so you tear it down . . . then what?


city_scope_logo-cmykWith demolition of the Sutherland Press building slated to begin Oct. 30, according to city manager Wendell Graves, what happens once the structure is down and the site cleared?
The Sutherland Saga may yet have life to it.
Before looking at the possibilities, Graves ran through what is going on behind the scenes prior to levelling the four-storey building.
“They may start moving things in next week,” he explained. “Chris Peck, our chief building official is working with the contractor (Schouten Excavating of Watford).
“One of the things they are finalizing is the demolition contractor’s engineer is working with the chief building official just to finalize the methodology as to how it comes down.” Continue reading

After ten years, the hostages are to be set free


27jt01sutherlandjpgAfter a ten-year legal battle and two previous failed attempts, the city of St. Thomas today (Oct. 19) was given the green light to demolish a derelict downtown building.

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Sutherland Press building in 2008, prior to partial demolition of front face

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the city, denying owner David McGee’s most recent attempt at intervention to halt demolition of the four-storey Talbot Street edifice dating back to 1913.

“The courts found in favour of the city including the awarding of costs,” advised city manager Wendell Graves in an email.

Last week, the Court of Appeal allowed McGee to represent the parent company, Sutherland Lofts Inc. Previously McGee had relied on legal counsel Valerie M’Garry.

In 2008, Justice David Little commented ““The city has acted properly throughout. That cannot be said for the owner. The city is effectively being held hostage, as are its citizens, by an apparent shell corporation that has proven itself unreliable.”

Justice Peter Hockin, in June of this year, ruled  two work orders issued by the city in 2015 and 2016 are valid. Thereby confirming the structure was, indeed, unsafe.

Graves advised the city will be in discussion with the demolition contractor – Schouten  Excavating of Watford – to begin tearing down the crumbling building as soon as they can mobilize their equipment. Demolition is expected to take about 30 days.

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City of St. Thomas to unveil a-track-tive new corporate brand


city_scope_logo-cmykSubject to council approval Monday, the city will no longer be officially known as the Corporation of the City of St. Thomas, but instead St. Thomas – The Railway City.

And with it, new branding courtesy of adHome – an advertising and digital agency based in London – and a city administrative team composed of various department staff.

The new identity for the city is designed to “reflect a strong, close-knit community that’s continually looking to move forward,” according to city manager Wendell Graves.

In addition, it is designed to “reflect a vibrant culture and progressive business ideals looking to the future with a nod to the past,” continues Graves in his report to council.

Continue reading

You’d expect a healthy workplace environment at the Canadian Mental Health Association, wouldn’t you?


city_scope_logo-cmykThey deal with some of the most vulnerable members of the community, but staff at the Elgin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association say they are struggling with their own unbearable stress.
And now, members of OPSEU Local 133 are breaking the silence.
Bolstered by CMHA members from Oxford, about two dozen staff took a stand outside the Centre Street office where they claim to be working in an environment of fear, intimidation and anxiety.
According to Carol Warner, OPSEU staff representative, St. Thomas employees are consistently targeted and penalized by upper management for speaking up about health, safety and other workplace concerns.
“It’s hideous, it’s a long-standing issue,” notes Warner. “I would say it’s a systemic issue. We have grievances in the docket that are, at a minimum, four or five years old. And the grievance program has flaws as well.
“If one decides to, they can influence how quickly or how slowly the grievance process unfolds.” Continue reading