Accountability at city hall … $30,000 worth

Ian McCallum

Ian McCallum

It’s difficult to preach accountability at city hall when $30,000 of operational equipment, formerly housed at Northside Arena, has been destroyed or gone missing.
A year ago, council requested information on the whereabouts of equipment that had been earmarked for other city facilities and where the accountability lies for the disappearance of these items when Northside was decommissioned in 2005.
This past Monday, city director of parks and recreation Kent McVittie delivered his status report to council which suggests the city dropped the puck entirely on this one.
It appears there was a defined time-limit established for the city to retrieve items from the arena and once that expired, the contents of Northside reverted to the purchaser of the building.
“The time limit expired prior to the city retrieving all of the items that had been originally specified,” notes McVittie in his report, “and the building’s purchaser assumed ownership of all the contents.”
So, there you have it … city staff lose track of time and $30,000 flies out the window.

If that’s not bad enough, the buck-passing begins in the last paragraph of the report.
“It should be noted that the principal staff liaison regarding the decommissioning of Northside Arena is no longer an employee of the City of St. Thomas,” writes McVittie, “and has therefore not been afforded an opportunity to comment.”
That may be true, but perhaps one of the department heads who is a member of the
$100,000 club and was on watch during the closure process would like to step forward and talk accountability.

Ken DeVries, Elgin-Middlesex-London Christian Heritage Party candidate in the
2006 federal election, challenges comments made in this corner last week urging the
Economic Development Corporation to throw its support behind the Alma College Foundation
and its vision to construct a 400-student liberal arts college just south of St. Thomas.
DeVries offers little hope such an entity will ever see the light of day. As a graduate of
Redeemer College in London, he suggests the obstacles are just too substantial.
“When the province of Ontario and the “government-yes, private-no” people that support
it controls so much of the education establishment in Ontario, I have very little belief that a
private university can be created and welcome 400 students anytime in my lifetime, especially
in St Thomas,” he argues.
“As a grad of Redeemer University College in its early years, I saw how difficult it was to
establish, and get recognition for, a privately-supported university,” he continues.
In his email to City Scope, he goes on to note the Redeemer founders had to overcome
many hoops and blockades to get a charter, establish a campus and grow to a viable size.
“And then,” he continues, “while established and respected by the AUCC (Association of
Universities and Colleges of Canada), Redeemer had to fight to get the charter changes to allow
them to grant BAs, to add the university to their name and to have Redeemer credits and courses
accepted by the public universities for transfer and graduate students.”
Let the EDC promote St. Thomas and Elgin to industrial clients “that will see people earning
money sooner and paying taxes on their land and buildings (a non-profit school won’t), and not an
Alma liberal arts college pipe dream,” DeVries concludes.
Is it really a pipe dream, Ken?
I concede the plans of Andrew Gunn and his foundation are an extreme long shot,
some may say pie-in-the-sky, but no more so than our mayor and EDC chief Bob Wheeler coming home from Japan next February with even a whiff of a promise of investment, let alone the 2,000 high-paying job auto plant they are so desperate to land for St. Thomas.

In a week where it would be easy to bemoan the lack of positive news, several headlines
in the T-J offered a ray of hope on several fronts.
“$900G to look toward STEGH’s future,” while not a brick and mortars announcement,
does portend well for the advancement of a 15-bed mental health unit here in St. Thomas.
On the same page Thursday, “Voaden fashion takes aim at bullying,” admirably documents
the efforts of students at the home of the Vikings who strutted their creative smarts while, at the
same time, brought the hammer down on bullying.
Yesterday at city hall, we learned St. Thomas will welcome the Olympic torch as it wends
its way to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Most heart-warming, however, is the picture that leaps out from page 4 in Thursday’s T-J of
Van Pelt’s Office Plus sales associate Bethany Pennings, who is all smiles as she extends a helping hand to those out of work who can make unlimited copies of their resume free of charge at the Talbot Street paper and supply emporium.
Even better, owner Floyd Van Pelt is allowing an unlimited number of job application fax calls.
No good news? Dear readers, it’s all around us.

The fate of the North American Big 3, the ebb and flow of ethanol, heritage issues here
and throughout the province and, of course, the comings and goings at city hall – all of this
open for discussion at the City Scope blog site.
As a bonus, we never close.

“All that seniors and the disabled want is to pay their bills on time without being penalized.”
Ald. Gord Campbell explains the logic behind his motion last Monday to introduce a
monthly water bill grace period for all St. Thomas residents.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments
may be e-mailed to:

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