Cash infusion a much-needed boost


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The timing couldn’t have been better.
The announcement one week ago outlining $3.4 million in upper-tier funding for St. Thomas surely is a shot of adrenalin after months of getting kicked in the backside … the result of layoffs and plant closings.
  A sum of $2.4 million to reconstruct a portion of Wellington Street and $1 million for an ambitious expansion at St. Thomas Municipal Airport to accommodate corporate jet travel is money that should have been ear-marked to this community ages ago.

 Lest you think this is another hollow promise from those holding the purse strings, council is prepared to get the ball rolling Monday when a report from clerk Wendell Graves recommends the city initiate a request for proposal process for designing and construction of the 10,000-square-foot hangar at the airport.
 The aim is to complete the project in time for the 2010 International Plowing Match to be hosted on the airport property.
 A conversation with Graves on Friday confirmed the city is anxious to proceed with both undertakings, as they must be completed within two building seasons, as per program requirements.
 He expects formal funding agreements to land shortly which will officially “kick start” the projects.
 For its part, the city must commit $1.7 million to the hangar and reconstruction of Wellington Street, a not insignificant amount that will be dealt with next month when council addresses Part 2 of the capital budget.
 Now, when will Plan B dealing with a new police headquarters see the light of day? There is much riding on that outcome.

HURTIN’ IN HOCKEYTOWN
 Like St. Thomas, Detroit has been particularly hard hit by the manufacturing meltdown and that is negatively impacting the Tigers and Red Wings.
 So much so, that in spite of their Stanley Cup fortunes, tickets for the Detroit pucksters are becoming a harder sell and the team is now marketing its on-ice prowess right here in our backyard.
 Isn’t it interesting that when the going gets tough, the tough get going … to St. Thomas and area it seems.
 And here this corner thought Ald. Tom Johnston was the only die-hard fan willing to make the trek to Motown to watch his beloved Wings, even on council nights.

COME AND LEARN
John Evers, director of media and public relations for the East Elgin Sportsmen’s Association, called the other day to advise of their annual open house this weekend.
 Seems like the perfect opportunity for former Thames Valley District School Board trustee Linda Stevenson and current Elgin trustee Frank Exley to take a jaunt down to the Aylmer area to familiarize themselves on the comings and goings at the popular club.
 Spend an hour and chat with the families and young people, many of them high school students, who appreciate the services the facility provides in a safe and friendly setting.
 Quite possibly you’ll bump into friends and acquaintances, ratepayers and voters in St. Thomas and Elgin enjoying a perfectly legal pastime.
 And it won’t take long to realize you should be thankful for and not fearful of the association, their members and their enviable safety record and educational efforts.
 Leave the political correctness at home, engage Evers in discussion and rest assured their mandate is not to introduce guns into schools.
 With your ties to education, isn’t it all about arming yourself with knowledge?

DISASTROUS OUTCOME
 They lost thousands of dollars when their homes flooded in January, 2008, now residents in the Montgomery Road area may lose their cool when the city’s proposed disaster relief assistance program for basement flooding is presented at Monday’s council meeting.
 Under the plan, residents would be provided with a “compassionate grant” not to exceed $1,000 for basement flooding resulting from a severe rain storm.
 But there’s more salt to rub in the wounds.
 “That payment of such claims be based on compassionate grounds only and not to be construed as an admission of liability on the part of the City of St. Thomas,” notes the report from John Dewancker, director of environmental services.
 He is asking council to declare the rain storm of Jan. 8/9 of last year as a qualifying disaster for residents of that area.
 These ratepayers have experienced this flooding on more than one occasion, resulting in many thousands of dollars in damage. Some can no longer obtain home insurance to cover such a situation.
 This is no longer about admission of liability, it’s about doing the right thing for those affected, through no fault of their own.
 And dangling a cheque for $1,000 in front of them will only result in a flood of anger and resentment.

WHAT IF?
 Unions and corporations were unable to make election contributions to municipal candidates?
 And what if candidates were unable to obtain loans from anyone other than a financial institution?
 Well, it’s a reality in Manitoba where the NDP government of Gary Doer has introduced the Municipal Conflict of Interest and Campaign Financing Act.
 Under the legislation, municipalities would have to establish a code of conduct and conflict-of-interest rules for municipal employees.
 Wasn’t that a key plank in at least one campaign platform last time around … transparency and accountability?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Our general taxpayers/ratepayers should not be required to pay out monies to individuals as a result of insurance claims where the Corporation has acted reasonably and are not negligent.”
 City treasurer Bill Day responds to a report before council Monday dealing with a proposed municipal disaster relief assistance program for basement flooding.

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

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6 thoughts on “Cash infusion a much-needed boost

  1. Ian,

    Re: Cash infusion a much-needed boost

    The $3.4M for Wellington Street and the Airport is the best news for St. Thomas since this council took office. Thought the federal and provincial governments were both kicking in a third, so our portion would be around $1.1M, not $1.7M?

    Re: DISASTROUS OUTCOME

    Dewancker says “not..an admission of guilt” and Day says “not negligent”.

    Let’s try and skin this cat another way.
    Between what actually happened in the Montgomery Road area on numerous occasions and what would constitute negligence or guilt in Dewancker and/or Day’s opinion; have them describe what would have needed to occur for it to be deemed negligence or guilt.

    Bill Sandison
    Advocate for a Better Municipal Government
    STR8TALK in St. Thomas

  2. Bill:

    For Wellington St. project feds and province each kicked in $1.2 million, which the city must match and for the airport each of the 3 partners contributes $500,000. In total the city is on the line for $1.7 million.

    As to the flood damage, this is a case of one department head refusing to acknowledge he and his staff made a bad judgment call. If the video camera undertaking inspection work appears faulty or gives a questionable result, that should not imply everything is o.k. along the pipe. It must call for extreme caution or undertake the process again.

  3. Ian,

    Thanks for the clarification on the $1.7M. It is a tidy sum but considering the money spent on the Bus Terminal ($750k+) and the Horton Street Market ($500K+ and the entrance doors to the indoor pavillion are just crap!), I think this will be money well spent, especially on Wellington Street.

    That one department head wouldn’t be the guy that said it would cost $1M to ensure the Sutherland Press building would safe, and is now humming and hawing about whether he can get the infrastructure projects complete now that the money is available by any chance. He is one of the weak links in the chain to be sure.

    Bill

  4. Bill: The very same one who hired a waste management coordinator who nowhere near met his own documented qualifications and is now away for a year on leave. Ian

  5. Ian,
    Speaking of (lack of) human resource development and questionable hiring practices, why would they not hire internally to replace Ivar Andersen, the Manager of Operations and Compliance who recently retired?
    Instead John Dewancker hires Edward Soldo, P.Eng externally from Dillion Consulting. The same Dillion Consulting that Dewancker spends money on like a drunken sailor.
    There’s more;
    Prior to Dillion Consulting, Soldo was Manager, Transportation Services with the Regional Municipality of Halton where I’m told there is a hook to Mayor Barwick. The Regional Municipality of Halton is also a major customer to Dillion Consulting.
    Now, Eddie Soldo(ut) may be a great guy but when somebody’ work history revolves in a circle, one has to wonder why.
    It appears there is no strategy to promote from within; that must be a real morale-booster for the troops.
    Bill

  6. Not only is there no promotion strategy, there is no long-term corporate strategy whatsoever. Elgin county CAO Mark McDonald is now working on a long-term plan to address the large number of county employees who will retire in the next 5-10 years. It is just example of the county being proactive (thanks to a CAO) while the city stumbles from crisis to crisis.

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