How do we get back on the A-list for funding?


Ian McCallum

Ian McCallum


A week ago, two levels of government dole out millions of dollars in Build Canada infrastructure funding and St. Thomas was shut out.
So was Central Elgin, which was looking for an investment in Port Stanley harbour.
There was no shortage of cash to lavish on the rest of Elgin. In fact, Aylmer, Bayham, Dutton/Dunwich, Malahide, Southwold and the county itself hit paydirt on projects ranging from road and sewer maintenance to facility upgrades.
What happened in St. Thomas?

Granted, the city received a $3.4 million infrastructure investment last November, however that was the redirection of $1.1 billion of the provincial surplus to every municipality in the province as capital grants.
Why was the city left off the party invite list this time around?
“We’re disappointed we did not get on this list,” was the understatement from Mayor Cliff Barwick as be packed his bags for a two-week jaunt to Japan. (As an aside, when former mayor Jeff Kohler undertook this same junket, it required only six days.)
This is not the first time in recent years St. Thomas has missed the boat on funding from upper-tier governments.
It happened not once, but twice in efforts to garner financial support for construction of the $12.1 million Timken Centre. In those instances, a lack of support material and the inability to meet funding criteria and program deadlines were cited as the reasons.
As a result, city ratepayers must burden a far greater share of the debt load.
The infrastructure funding in this case was ear-marked for construction of a badly-needed police headquarters, which, when completed, would have eased the burden somewhat on the strained courts that share the Colin McGregor Justice Building.
“I’m disappointed we weren’t included in the grant announcement,” offered Police Chief Bill Lynch. “I think we’ve more than demonstrated the need for additional space.”
Where does the fault lie?
Is it our elected leadership, the lack of a CAO to properly administer the corporation or perhaps no viable, long-term business plan for the city?

TIME FOR AN OVERHAUL
Ald. David Warden certainly isn’t wasting time as new chairman of the city’s community services committee.
Right out of the gate, he called for a full accounting of capital fundraising efforts for the Timken Centre, in light of an inexcusable delay in erecting a donor wall to recognize those who contributed financially to the cost of construction.
Now, he wants to get to the bottom of reports somebody may have dropped the ball on a promise to install trophy cases in the community centre to recognize the efforts of minor hockey, soccer and baseball teams.
Warden notes he received an email from an individual who said, “very bluntly that they were made a promise or commitment.”
 Former committee chairman Ald. Bill Aarts, who served in that capacity for five years, offered little in the way of assistance.
 “I know it has not been brought to my attention,” Aarts offered.
 “Regardless of whether it was promised or not, I do not know if it was or not by a previous employee, but it was not promised by me and I have not been notified about this specific situation,” he added.
Is that a confirmation our elected officials are right on top of things?
Warden should expand his scope of investigation and call for a thorough review of operations at the Timken Centre specifically and the parks and recreation department in general.

MISSED THE BUS
Who’s driving the bus at city hall?
Family Day in St. Thomas was highlighted by the sight of St. Thomas Transit buses tooling around the streets, virtually empty the entire time.
So, a curious column wonders, is this the progressive new approach to transporting riders in a city where regular Sunday and holiday service has never been provided in the past?
Well it seems our curiosity has caught our members of council and city staff off guard as they seemed unaware it was business as usual on the provincial holiday.
David White, supervisor of roads and transportation, explained the contract between Abouttown Transportation and the city was signed before the Family Day holiday came into effect and this particular day is not included in the agreement.
“As everyone knows, Family Day was sprung upon us recently,” White advised.
Uh, it was more than two years ago.
So neither White, nor committee chairman Ald. Aarts, has bothered to determine whether the existing contract needs to be revamped.
“I haven’t heard or gotten a report on it, so I can’t comment on it at this stage,” advised Aarts.
When asked if the holiday service was promoted to riders, White noted, “I’m not sure that there was a notice at all that they were running.”
See comment above about staff and aldermen being on top of situations.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“From what I saw, a lot of restaurants were open.”
David White, supervisor of roads and transportation, responds to a Times-Journal question on passenger usage aboard city buses running Family Day.

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

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4 thoughts on “How do we get back on the A-list for funding?

  1. How do we get back on the A-list for funding?

    Ian,

    It is with disbelief that I watch one blunder after another tumble out from the hallowed chambers on Talbot Street.

    It is flabbergasting that Aylmer, Elgin County, Bayham, Malahide, Southwold, Thames Centre , Dutton/Dunworth and Middlesex County, to their credit, received $8.9 million in funding for sewer, water distribution, road construction, pollution control plant and bridge replacements while St. Thomas sucked hind tit.

    I am advised that the Woodworth Avenue Sewershed project was not submitted by our folks at City Hall for consideration. Mindboggling!

    Hired in 2006, Stantec Consultants reported to council in June 2007 of their key finding which stated that “The capacity of Woodworth Sewer Pumping Station (SPS) is insufficient to meet current flow requirements”
    You may also recall that in March 2008 Stantec presented their recommendations to council which is the near term (0-2 years) identified the following actions and associated costs;
    1. Install third pump at Woodworth SPS: projected cost $150,000
    2. Repair/Replace Woodworth SPS Forcemain: projected cost $250,000-$1,500,000
    3. Extend Burwell SPS Forcemain: projected cost $1,700,000
    Cost of these three activities range from $2 – $3 million. Additionally mid to long term recommendations totaled another $3 million.

    This sewer project is a prime example of INFRASTRUCTURE badly needed in our city and the failure to submit the project is a prime example of IMCOMPETENCE.

    Bill

  2. Bill:

    Excellent observation. There are probably a dozen infrastructure projects, all reasonably high priority, the city could have applied for. It is my belief the dysfunctional nature of the past three councils, and to an extent some of the department heads at city hall as witnessed by the 2003 McCarthy Tetrault report, is now coming back to haunt us in the form of a financial penalty when it comes to grants.

  3. Planning is a big question in my mind.

    It’s been a couple of years, but didn’t the city spend money on repaving a portion of the west end of Talbot St and then the following year tear it up to do something else?

    Wouldn’t some planning be required to make sure that the last thing that needs to be done IS the last thing?

    I don’t know, but if I was stroking the cheques? I wouldn’t be handing out money for apparent “backwards planning”.

    Do you put up the bridge span first or the support legs??

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