As we noted in this space last week, Ald. Dave Warden intends to throw the spotlight on Ald. Bill Aarts when council next meets on July 19 so that the chairman of the Elgin St. Thomas Public Health board of directors can bring all of us up to speed on the comings and goings at 99 Edward St.
Ald. Warden informed City Scope he wanted to thoroughly research details of ESTPH’s lease arrangement with Elgin county, along with other areas of concern, before engaging Aarts in any dialogue.
Ever diligent, this corner has already undertaken that research, which we presented on June 12, and in the meantime had a face-to-face with CEO Cynthia St. John and presented her take on office space, her increase in salary, staff cutbacks and office morale of late.
We didn’t have time to touch on a few other points of contention, and so we offer these to Ald. Warden for consideration.
Negotiations with the county commenced at least three years ago, why has the process of finalizing leasing arrangements dragged on over this period of time?
In October and November of 2009, Ald. Aarts and the board approved a new 30,000 sq. ft, building for ESTPH, complete with architectural drawings. Yet, in December of last year, the motion for the building and 30-year lease was rescinded. Did the board get cold feet, did the developer have a change of heart?
At the December 2 board meeting, the members approved a motion whereby 2009 surplus dollars would be used to purchase office furniture and payment of compensating time and vacation time as funds and operational needs dictate. The motion was moved by Ald. Aarts and seconded by Ald. Tom Johnston. Why wasn’t this surplus carried over to the 2010 budget?
And, by the way, where is that furniture now?
Mysteriously, the board agendas and minutes have not been posted on the ESTPH website since that time. Is this just an oversight?
The organization appears to rely heavily on consultants. Paul Smith and Associates was hired to analyze lease proposals, a local lawyer regularly attends meetings, a request for proposal has been issued for space needs analysis and now John Matsui’s public relations firm has been retained. Although St. John told this corner there is room in the budget for these hired guns, does this not ultimately impact the delivery of health services to the community?
Just how much time is Ald. Warden willing to devote to fishing for answers?
(As an aside, the current board of directors includes: St. Thomas alderman Bill Aarts, who sits as chairman; Ald. Gord Campbell, Ald. Tom Johnston; Marla Champion, executive director of the YWCA of St. Thomas-Elgin; Bonnie Vowell, warden of Elgin county; John Wilson, mayor of Malahide and Jim McIntyre, mayor of Southwold)
It seems odd that around the same time Mayor Cliff Barwick returned from his jaunt to China, CSIS director Richard Fadden raises concerns about the growing influence of foreign governments on Canadian politicians, including those at the municipal level.
If you remember, Barwick told city council he was a guest of the Chinese government and St. Thomas taxpayers were off the hook for any expenses.
We would assume this includes flight, hotel rooms, meals and tours.
“Sponsors wouldn’t pay for travel without an expectation of getting something back,” says Errol Mendes, a constitutional law professor at the University of Ottawa.
The quote is from a CBC News story written by Brian Stewart.
Stewart goes on to note, “I do believe, however, that an extraordinary number of Canadian public officials are acting in ways that are inappropriate, risky and just plain dumb in accepting lavish favours from foreign nations with questionable motives.”
Barwick told the T-J within a year, a delegation from China could visit St. Thomas. As hosts, will city ratepayers then be expected to pick up the tab?
AN OVERSIGHT, OBVIOUSLY
In an interview this week with T-J reporter Kyle Rea, Ald. Aarts pointed out his seven years of experience gained on two terms as city alderman will more than stand him in good stead in his bid to sit as mayor of Southwold.
What Aarts chose not to dwell upon was the wealth of knowledge he gained as chairman of the committee overseeing the Timken Centre, which he opted to stand down from some time ago for reasons unclear. Likewise, the long-time Southwold resident didn’t linger on his accomplishments as chairman of Elgin St. Thomas Public Health board of directors.
I guess this dashes all hopes of Aarts taking up residence in St. Thomas, and what is to become of the scenic wooded property atop Sandymount hill this corner had assumed would be his new permanent address?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“They’re very keen, very welcoming. They certainly knew all about St. Thomas. They knew how many Chinese restaurants we had.”
After his visit to the People’s Republic of China, Mayor Cliff Barwick announced St. Thomas is now on the radar of that country.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.