During its August meeting three years ago, city council denied a permit application from the Zubick family of London to demolish the remaining buildings at Alma College.
What appeared at the time to be a bold move by our municipal representatives was, in fact, nothing of the sort. With a trip to the polls just three months distant, our elected officials were just protecting their political assets.
Following the November vote, it was business as usual and a collective ho-hum to the city’s rich heritage.
To be fair, however, the finger of blame also needs to be pointed in the direction of culture minister Aileen Carroll, who appears to be missing in action when dealing with the province’s built heritage.
Or as faithful reader Bob Foster in Brampton notes, should you wish to corner Carroll, you are best to attend regal gatherings where there is no shortage of wine and cheese.
Which ties in nicely with the letter we received from Carolyn Cameron, who admits her address may read London, Ont., but she proudly advises, “I attended the old St. Thomas Collegiate Institute (which is also gone), volunteer at Backus-Page House Museum during Education Day, taught elementary school in the county and always take our exchange students to visit the area.”
That more than qualifies her to toss her two cents worth into the dialogue.
She recently returned from a month-long jaunt through Europe, which allowed her the opportunity to visit historic sites in numerous cities and towns.
“Many of these very old buildings currently in use include churches, museums, town halls and office buildings,” writes Cameron.
“Although they have been renovated for modern use, they have also kept the historic features of the architecture, both inside and out.”
She finds in difficult to comprehend the reluctance of the province and St. Thomas to preserve and renovate the Elgin County Courthouse.
Shmuel Farhi, owner of the Wellington Street building, got the ball rolling by offering to donate the structure to the city to allow it and the province to refurbish and expand the courthouse.
“Why is no action being taken?” she questions.
“St. Thomas has very little left of historic value since the unfortunate destruction of Alma College. It would be a shame if the same fate were to befall the courthouse because the governments at both levels don’t seem to be able to step in and preserve our heritage.
“My uncle, Ian Cameron, was Sheriff of Elgin County for many years and I treasure the times that I visited him in his office in this beautiful building.”
Cameron is forwarding copies of her letter to a bevy of bureaucrats, including the Honourable David Onley, lieutenant-governor of Ontario, with a plea they “do not just file this letter under “G.”
May we suggest adding the Elgin Law Association to your mailing list. When it comes to roadblocks hindering preservation of the courthouse so that it can continue to serve in its original capacity, this body doesn’t need to take a back seat to any level of government.
Speaking of Europe, what’s this we hear regarding St. Thomas Energy CEO Brian Hollywood and Ald. Tom Johnston tooling around the continent these days?
Are the shareholders (that would be the members of city council) aware of this junket?
Dianne Morgan commanded considerable space in this corner last week, but we short-changed her in one critical area.
Her full job title was manager of culture and recreation.
“I wouldn’t want anyone thinking I tended only to the area of culture,” she notes, by way of clarification. “Recreation truly comprised the largest number of my responsibilities for the city.”
A victim of city restructuring, we know she will bounce back in true Morgan fashion.
CITY SCOPE FLASHBACK
Four years ago this month, community centre capital fundraising chairman Hilary Vaughan announced the public component of her campaign to finance the $12.1 million twin-pad facility.
“Over the next ensuing five-year period,” wrote Vaughan at the time, “the pledge payments will exceed $2 million.”
Which prompted city treasurer Bill Day to observe, “the longer the tail on these pledges, potentially the less likelihood of ultimately getting the money. Obviously I’d rather have the cash in hand.”
So, wasn’t the chairman requested to appear before council prior to the summer break with an update on fundraising and expenses?
Is this committee still in existence or is treasurer Day expected to assume the role of professional fundraiser in addition to his other duties?
Remember, taxpayers are on the hook for any shortfall in the fundraising efforts.
Picking up on last week’s cycle safety concerns, reader Bruce Ideson passes along a couple of observations.
“A few years ago when the then A&P at Elgin Mall had its parcel pickup service, the staff doing the parcel duties often encountered cyclists using the sidewalk, not just teens, but grownups as well.
“Staff would just get out to serve the customer and would get hit by a bicycle. I would often place one of the movable signs posts toward the middle of the sidewalk at both ends to help deter the cyclists.”
Ideson notes he even went as far as going the the mall management to suggest signs on the sidewalk, but nothing transpired.
On his travels through the Kincardine area, he spotted downtown sidewalks sported a bicycle graphic with an “X” painted through it as an advisory bikes and sidewalks are not compatible.
“Wonder if city hall could ever do something like that for the shops downtown,” he ponders.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“You could just be burying a farmer deeper in debt. The government backing the loans is only going to prolong the agony.”
John Vanlith, president of the Elgin County Pork Producers, has mixed feelings on the federal government’s long-term loans, one of three initiatives to aid the ailing hog industry.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: