Fall-out from the protracted Talbot Street tussle has been nothing short of spectacular.
Our downtown thoroughfare has been completely closed and then partially blocked for nine months. The transit terminal was shuttered before the paint had dried following a $500,000 refurbishing, and the home of our bus fleet only re-opened Friday.
The city entered into a $150,000 contract to demolish the Sutherland Press building, a boxy tribute to the industrial era, which precipitated a judicial joust with owner David McGee– and yet the structure has survived to taunt its detractors.
The legal tab will run into the tens of thousands of dollars and the revenue lost last summer by downtown merchants can only be imagined.
At the height of the downtown stand-off, an intriguing sub-plot played out, featuring Mayor Cliff Barwick and Downtown Development Board chairman Mark Cosens, who dared to question the wisdom of the city’s self-proclaimed CEO’s decision to barricade a key stretch of Talbot Street.
For that indiscretion, Mayor Barwick threatened to give the DDB the heave-ho from their city hall suite.
And after all of this, what is the reaction of McGee, who at one point threatened to barricade himself inside his Talbot Street holdings?
It sure would be nice to get the support of city council and staff, McGee told the T-J.
Support for what? Vague plans for a nondescript brick bastion that in recent years has drawn little or no interest as a proposed swanky lofts residence in the heart of the city?
“I’m definitely happy that we’ve got everything resolved,” stressed McGee this week. “ I wish we had resolved this 10 months ago.”
That’s the sentiment of downtown merchants who paid dearly for this Sutherland spat.
“But it’s resolved and that’s what matters,” continued McGee. “Now I’ve got to go through and figure out the next steps from here.”
Shouldn’t all of that been addressed long before the city core deteriorated into what resembled a war zone?
What’s most frustrating is McGee concedes his original plan was to sell the building.
It’s beginning to sound a lot like Alma, don’t you think?
“I’d like to move forward and develop the building,” offered McGee. “But if I have to go through what I just went through to do that, it’s just not worth it.”
Do you get the distinct impression we haven’t heard the last of the Sutherland saga?
OH, SO MANY QUESTIONS
Look up the definition of pit-bull and you’ll find a picture of faithful reader Bill Sandison, who has elevated getting under the skin of Mayor Barwick into an art form.
He is on a constant quest for information, as witnessed by a letter sent this week to city clerk Wendell Graves in which he seeks answers to a trio of questions.
“What expenses were incurred for legal fees and consultant fees in 2008 and how do they compare to 2007?” queries Sandison.
This corner has attempted a similar undertaking, only to discover legal fees are buried away in various accounts, sometimes in extremely difficult-to-find places.
We can answer his second question personally. A new police headquarters was the only project submitted for funding under the BuildCanada program.
And finally, he would like Mayor Barwick’s complete itinerary for his Japan junket.
“It must be clear to the taxpayers of St. Thomas that the mayor’s business trip is not a boondoggle or vacation that would otherwise undermine the office of the mayor,” stresses Sandison.
Oh, ye of little faith.
TIME TO SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
Yesterday was International Repetitive Strain Injury Day, informs reader Wendy Knelsen, and she is decidedly out-spoken about this class of injury, which accounts for almost one-half of all Workplace Safety & Insurance Board claims.
And, Wendy knows of what she speaks.
As a city employee in 2001, she worked long hours assisting in the paperwork generated through the various investigations relating to the death of Capt. Dennis Redman in a tragic fire at 200 Chestnut St., that also claimed the life of Kathleen (Kay) Patrick, a resident of the apartment complex.
“As a result of the long hours working on a laptop with improper ergonomic workstations, I sustained a repetitive strain injury,” writes Knelsen in a letter to the T-J.
“I was a loyal, hardworking employee who continued working for several years, until I couldn’t stand the pain any longer, nor could I endure the ongoing harassment by the city.”
In fact, Knelsen continued as a city employee until 2003.
“There have recently been several articles (in the T-J) referring to promises or commitments made with respect to the Timken Centre,” notes Knelsen. “What happened to the promises the city made to its workers to be treated with respect and dignity?”
Knelsen has been unable to come to any amicable settlement with the city over her injury and her case will likely end up before a human rights tribunal later this year.
“Some degree of closure would be nice,” is the wish of Wendy Knelsen.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“My original plan was to sell the building. That’s pretty much been stopped now. So my next choice is looking at developing the property. If I can do that now, if there’s support for doing it now, then I’ll do it now. If there’s not support for doing it now then I guess I might have to wait until the election in a couple of years.”
David McGee, owner of the Sutherland Press building, adopts a wait-and-see attitude on the future of his downtown property.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: email@example.com.