A composter full of waste complaints

Proof this city has a green composter full of waste management issues lies not just in last week’s Times-Journal article on our dismal rate of diversion, for deep within a report coming to council on Monday lurks another disturbing figure.

Front and centre at the council meeting will be waste management coordinator Michelle Shannon, who is charged with improving the city’s diversion rate of recyclables and organic waste.

The good new is our diversion rate has inched up to 43% in 2009, from the previous 39.6% reported in the T-J story, but that’s well below the provincial target of 60%.

Immediately following this diversion data is the revelation city staff logged over 400 complaints last year dealing with waste management issues.
Continue reading

From bridesmaid to bankruptcy, the sad tale of Walker Transport

Posted by Ian: Last fall, MacKinnon Transport of Guelph purchased long-established Elgin trucking firm, Walker Transport. In January of 2010, Walker filed for creditor protection, this after laying off 30 drivers the week before Christmas. Obviously the family-run business, originally based in Aylmer, caught the attention of MacKinnon and so the merger proved attractive. It’s hard to imagine Walker’s value deteriorated so quickly. Or do you pick off the attractive fruit from the tree and leave the rest to rot. Kyle Rea had the following update in the Times-Journal (see below), and more background is available here and a further backgrounder, including an interview with MacKinnon President and CEO Evan MacKinnon can be found here . Here’s Kyle’s story …

A trucking company with long roots in the St. Thomas area, acquired last year by a Guelph-based business, has filed for bankruptcy.
On Dec. 3, the CIBC bank called in its loan for L.E. Walker Transport Ltd., — five days later, the company filed for creditor protection and remained that way until its assets were purchased by MacKinnon Transport Inc., of Guelph, Ont., on Jan. 8.
Continue reading

Catching the ‘Hound soon a thing of the past in St. Thomas/Elgin

Posted by Ian:
One of the most iconic names in North American ground transportation is about to sever a decades-long relationship with St. Thomas.
As of April 10, travellers will no longer be able to board a Greyhound bus in the city, one of a dozen stops on the meandering London to Niagara Falls Highway 3 route that, over the years, has been cut back to a Fridays-only service.
Greyhound Canada vice-president Stuart Kendrick told the Times-Journal with just a handful of passengers hopping aboard the ‘Hound for the scenic service, it’s a matter of economics that will be mirrored on other inter-city routes in the province.
Continue reading

The fish are approaching from all directions

There’s a lot riding on Thursday’s announcement of a $7 billion deal between the province and South Korean conglomerate Samsung.

While it is an affirmation of Dalton McGuinty’s Green Energy Act, it is much, much more for St. Thomas which is poised, hopefully, to benefit from the economic spinoffs.

With acres of vacant industrial space along South Edgeware Road and a vast pool of skilled labour, it is easy to see why Mayor Cliff Barwick is confident we can direct some of that massive investment in wind farm and solar energy technology into the city.

“We have space, we have skilled workers, we are a manufacturing city with an awful lot of skills,” Barwick noted after the announcement.

“It is like fishing,” he continued. “I cannot say we have one snagged, but it looks good.”
Continue reading

First you lose the vehicle, then you put people out of work

Sarnia’s police chief has come out swinging in support of Ontario auto workers.

Phil Nelson said Thursday he’s ticked off that Ford Canada is discontinuing production of the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor and has asked the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police to take a stand.

The Crown Vic is a police “workhorse” that’s kept thousands of workers in St. Thomas, Ont. employed for decades, he said.

“The fact that jobs are being lost, that really annoys me. We do crime prevention through social development. Part of that is keeping people working. It’s like a one-two punch. First you lose the vehicle, which has been very good to police services. Now you’re putting people out of work.”
Full story

Ontario Culture Minister Aileen Carroll Dumped After Ministry’s Mistreatment of Artefacts

Culture Minister Aileen Carroll

Posted by Ian: Perhaps one of the most reviled cabinet ministers in this area, Aileen Carroll was known for what she didn’t do … protect and promote this province’s cultural heritage. In St. Thomas we have to look no further that the remains of Alma College. The rubble is a testament to her indifference. Here’s the official word on her demotion …

Ontario’s Minister of Culture, Aileen Carroll, was tossed out of cabinet today as part of a larger shuffle. She will now become a backbench member of the legislature.
Full story

Climate change means it’s time to tender

You would think when our mayor and council approve an expenditure of more that $700,000, there would be some sort of competitive process to ensure best value to those who are footing the bill — city ratepayers.
However, it appears to be business as usual Monday when it comes time to approving the city’s 2010 insurance renewal with Frank Cowan Company Ltd.
This year’s tab is $723,530, significantly up from last year’s hit of $659,764, and treasurer Bill Day is recommending council approve the sum, with the observation, “the premium is increasing rather significantly this year.”
Continue reading

Bill Sandison first to file nomination papers in 2010 St. Thomas aldermanic race

Posted by Ian: All candidates for the 2010 municipal election in St. Thomas and other Elgin municipalities are encouraged to forward their announcements to this site. All will be posted and remain active until the Oct. 25 vote. Candidate photo will also be included.

For the past three and a half years, I have been an advocate for a better municipal government, one that is open and accountable to the residents of St. Thomas. I have engaged with residents, businessmen, provincial and federal politicians to highlight the need and request support for the implementation of an economic strategy for St. Thomas; protection of our heritage; sound financial management; accountability and transparency.

Priorities for Our City
The priorities you have voiced to me can be grouped into five major categories; job creation and economic strategy; road and sewer improvements; lower costs and control spending; improved delivery of services; and rebuilding community pride.

– Job Creation & Economic Strategy
– Road & Sewer Improvements
– Lower Costs & Control Spending
– Improved Delivery of Services
– Rebuilding Community Pride

I will advance these priorities on your behalf, as YOUR voice on YOUR city council.

Job Creation and Economic Strategy
Your voice on this issue has been heard both loudly and clearly. While council does not create jobs they do shape the environment that helps attract new business.Growth, promotion, diversity, health care, and education are the pillars of a Job Creation and Economic Strategy
Surrounding communities have formed partnerships such as the South Central Ontario Region (SCOR) partnership between the county governments of Brant, Elgin, Middlesex, Norfolk and Oxford and the South-West Economic Alliance (SWEA) the Counties of Lambton, Middlesex Grey, Brice, Essex, Oxford and Perth, along with London, Stratford, St. Mary’s and Chatham Kent to tackle economic recovery. St. Thomas needs to take a chair at these tables.
Council opted out of both the SCOR and SWEA but have yet to deliver a job creation and economic strategic plan for St. Thomas.
We need seasoned leadership to develop and implement a job plan that leverages partnerships with our neighbors along with the provincial and federal governments.
Employment is Job #1 and I will make it my first priority.

Road and Sewer Improvements
A top ranked issue for St. Thomas residents is the improvement of our roads and sewer system. As we drive the major roads we see they are all in need of some repair; First Ave, Wellington St, Talbot St. Elm St, Sunset Drive and Burwell Road. Wellington Street made the 20 worst roads in Ontario for 2009 list, but thanks to the Courthouse announcement, that area is under reconstruction.
Reports from consultants on our aging sewer system, some over 40 years old, indicate that they are over capacity. Investments need to be made to improve our roadways and maintain the integrity of our sewage systems.
Unfortunately council did not request any funding for roads and sewers during the first round on of Federal Infrastructure Funding, and while neighboring communities received $8.9M, we received nothing.
Council has become disconnected from your priorities; we need to identify and prioritize the top 10 infrastructure projects; we need an aggressive program of re-paving our streets and we must ensure the safe operation of our sewer system.
A robust infrastructure not only provides safe roads to travel, it helps retain and attract new business to our city.

Lower Costs and Control Spending
Residents are telling me they are tapped out, as property taxes have increased 15% from 2006 to 2010 while spending has gone unchecked as demonstrated by budget overruns, excessive use of consultants and questionable expenditure decisions. Coupled with missed funding opportunities, taxpayers are paying an undue and heavy burden.
Tax and spend has become the status quo. We need to curb tax increases and reduce spending while improving service and I believe this is achievable. I will press council to adopt a Zero-Based Budget going forward. We will identify all of the services that need to be provided, develop an organization to cost effectively meet those needs, and start to rationalize the current organization and assign resources to where they are required.
Council needs to spend your money as though it was their own. I will drive the behavioral change on financial management that you are demanding.

Improved Delivery of Services
Partnering with our key service providers, we need to develop a new value proposition; the challenge is to work together to improve operational efficiencies and provide enhanced delivery of services or reduce costs, or both.
To improve the effective delivery of services, we must challenge the status quo,
A valuable source of information is the Ontario communities’ “best practices” with quantifiable benefits spanning transit, protection, environment, parks and recreation and land use planning. Working with City Hall employees, the service providers and front line customers to foster innovation, improve and expand services, and reduce operating costs, we need to review and implement the verified best practices from these communities, where practicable.
Delivery of services presents us with an opportunity to redefine them as a competitive differentiator in order keep commercial taxes at low levels to retain and attract business, improve the quality of life for residents, and to make St. Thomas a preferred location.

Rebuilding Community Pride
As you observe the number of abandoned lots and rundown buildings, consider not only the safety issues but the impact that unkempt properties have in discouraging potential new businesses from coming to St. Thomas.
Property standards need to be proactively enforced rather than dealt with through the current complaint-driven process. After the wake-up call at Alma College, property standards should be expanded to address our heritage buildings.
As an outcome of the formulation of the Zero-Based Budget, we will reassign resources to tackle this issue, rather than add staff. Enforcement of property standards will ensure that we put the best face on our city.
Rebuilding community pride has a significant role to play in providing a safe community to live in, maintaining property values and attracting and retaining commercial enterprise.

About Bill Sandison
I retired from Nortel Networks following a 36 year career in London, Belleville and Calgary, where I had a track record of innovation, commitment and financial contribution spanning various roles with ever-increasing responsibilities across supply chain management, strategic planning, project management, materials management, marketing operations and manufacturing operations.
I completed my Master of Business Administration at Queens University, am a Certified Purchasing Professional (C.P.P.) designation from the Purchasing Management Association of Canada, and am Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) with APICS The Association for Operations Management.
I currently serve on the Board of Directors of the St. Thomas Kiwanis, the Board of Directors of the Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative EDA, and am a member of the St. Thomas Chamber of Commerce. I previously served as Business Consultant for the Bow Cliff Seniors and as a Counselor with the United Way.
My wife Christine and I were married in London in 1973; we have two children and three grandchildren. We live in St. Thomas on Lake Margaret Trail.

The captain is set to reverse economic tide

Last week in this corner, we bemoaned the fact Mayor Cliff Barwick’s address to council at this time last year was as dreary as the weather.
Well, he certainly livened up matters this time around by stepping front and centre to seek support for another four years as sole captain at the helm.
In a follow-up interview with T-J reporter Kyle Rea, Barwick indicated the economy and bringing jobs back to St. Thomas will be a key issue in his bid for re-election to the mayor’s chair.
Continue reading