Boil water advisory players caught betwixt and betweet

Put aside the finger pointing for a moment, here’s what really came down the pipe in the aftermath of last week’s boil water advisory.
Neither the city nor Elgin St. Thomas Public Health can keep up with today’s lightning-fast social networking.
If you remember, it was Ald. Heather Jackson-Chapman first out of the gate late in the afternoon of Aug. 19 with her tweet advising all followers of the need to boil your drinking water.
This was fully two hours before the general advisory was made public on the city website. That’s because the city and the health unit have not bought into instant communications.

And yet, it was CEO Cynthia St. John who made the decision some time ago to hire London spin doctor John Matsui to upgrade the health unit’s Internet presence.
Laura McLachlin, director of health protection with the health unit, hit the target when she noted Thursday in a media release, “I think there is room for improvement and in any situation you always find something to improve.
“Certainly how we use this (social networking) tool that’s all around us, I think it’s an important tool for all of us to consider.”
The health unit, city staff and the water system clients (oh, how Central Elgin Mayor Tom Marks and Southwold Mayor Jim McIntyre detest that inference) will be meeting to review their protocol. Let us reiterate from last week in this corner — there is a decided weakness in how the partnership undertakes communication, both internally and to area residents.
There’s a fine crop sprouting up on Isabel Street, in what once was our communal garden.

And, we’re not talking veggies, as the accompanying photo will attest.
Mayor Cliff Barwick and Ald. Tom Johnston know where the hot spots are in town and have chosen the plot that has generated copious amounts of ink in the T-J to debut their election signs.
In a letter to the T-J earlier this week, aldermanic candidate Bill Sandison stressed the city needs to take advantage of federal funding for accessibility projects.
One such municipal project he suggested was an elevator to be installed in the Timken Centre.
That drew an immediate response from Ald. David Warden, chairman of the community services and recreation committee, who notes such an elevator has been in the twin-pad complex since opening day.
It’s wheelchair and scooter accessible, Warden reminds, and it was built to the existing building code in 2005.
Any upgrades to the elevator, if even possible, would prove costly.
Several weeks ago we announced the return of the City Scope challenge whereby we’re teaming up with accessibility advocate Ed McLachlan to expose members of council and mayoral/aldermanic candidates to the frustrations encountered by city residents dealing with accessibility issues in their daily routine.
To date only Sandison and Wayne Northcott have contacted us to educate themselves first hand. Is this lifestyle challenge such a low priority with the rest of the candidates who are seeking the confidence of all the city electorate?
To register, contact City Scope or Ed McLachlan at 519-631-7239.
“We had all sorts of statements in the press inferring and implying about a Walkerton situation. Absolutely deplorable. They were ‘I’ statements. ‘I said this,’ and ‘I told the press this was Walkerton.’ They were all ‘I’ statements. They were irresponsible, inflammatory, impertinent and irrelevant.”
Was Mayor Cliff Barwick aiming his comments Monday at city hall squarely in the direction of mayoral candidate, Ald. Heather Jackson-Chapman, who beat everyone to the punch with her tweet alerting to the boil water advisory?

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

One thought on “Boil water advisory players caught betwixt and betweet

    While the boil water was not considered an emergency by some and disputes exist over who is accountable for communication, I read the City’s Emergency Response Plan. It raises some concerns that should be addressed.
    The Emergency Response Plan was last revised on January 23rd, 2008. It contains no individual names and contact information thereby introducing unnecessary delays and a blurring of responsibility.
    The Emergency Response Plan also states that “mandatory annual exercises will be conducted to test the overall effectiveness of the plan”. What were the results for 2008, 2009 and 2010 and why has there been no change to the existing plan since January 23rd, 2008?
    We need an Emergency Response Plan that rigorously protects the health and welfare of the residents of St. Thomas. An amended plan should include;
    – Primary and secondary individual names and contact information (e-mail, telephone and cell #) against each activity/action item in the plan
    – Independent third party testing annually to ensure reliability of the plan
    – A modern communication readiness capability.
    In the case of a declared emergency, it could mean the difference between life and death.

    “The maximum funding payable per project is $75,000, and there appears to be no limit on the number of projects that can be submitted.
    Much-needed enhancements to accessibility across our city include: improvements to Emslie Park, telecommunication devices for the deaf (TTDs) for the police station and fire department, an elevator in the Timken Centre, and upgrades to municipal buildings.”
    Apologies for the confusion created by a grammatical error, I should have said “the elevator” not “an elevator”.
    The elevator has a narrow entry door and there does not appear to be adequate space inside the elevator. It’s great that it meets code but that just means it meets the bare minimum requirement. If the grant limit of $75,000 is not sufficient to upgrade the current elevator, how much extra would be required and is it worth considering?
    Did Ald. Warden have any comment on Emslie Ballpark where for a wheelchair ramp to access the grandstand has been outstanding for the past 10 years? The gravel entranceway there also makes it difficult to manoeuvre in a wheelchair and probably should be paved.

    The bottom line is; how many projects and what is the total $$ amount of funding being requested by the city through the Enabling Accessibility Fund on or before September 10th?

    Competing pressures tempt one to believe that an issue deferred is a problem avoided: more often it is a crisis invited. ~ Henry Kissinger


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