Curbing debate now prescribed for health unit meetings?


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It was quite the mugging this week over at Elgin St. Thomas Public Health. Attempts by Central Elgin Mayor Tom Marks to raise uncomfortable questions at Wednesday’s board meeting were hijacked at the pass by the city contingent on the seven-member board.

Although Marks didn’t follow the prescribed protocol for new business, silencing a fellow board member seeking answers to the same questions asked numerous times in this corner illustrates the depths to which the health unit has sunk.

So, to what exactly was Marks seeking clarification?

A public explanation (attempted three times previously by Marks) on why CEO Cynthia St. John’s salary jumped by $25,000 in 2009.

Tom Marks


Why is an expansion to a proposed new building at an estimated cost of $8 million still under consideration?

With a workforce reduction over the past year, why the need to move to a new, purpose-built home?

What steps have been taken to improve staff morale?

Aware of the sensitive nature of these questions, Marks went to the trouble of alerting St. John in advance.

“He (Marks) and I had a conversation where we talked about a number of issues,” St. John told the Times-Journal afterward. “That’s what I’m going to say. He didn’t frame them in the context of questions.”

Marks is convinced she then huddled with board chairman, Ald. Bill Aarts, prior to the meeting, which resulted in the three city board members, Ald. Gord Campbell, Ald. Tom Johnston, Arts, plus the YWCA’s Marla Champion, voting as a block.

The city versus county showdown has dominated all votes on the matter of the building lease at 99 Edward St., and a proposed purpose-built home on Talbot Street at the city’s west entrance.

Ironic that chairman Aarts campaigned for mayor in Southwold on a better city/county working relationship . . . that sure isn’t evident around the board table.

“I had four people when I campaigned (in the October municipal election) who either worked there or had relatives who worked at the health unit . . . It’s a terrible place. Morale is terrible. The whole place is dysfunctional,” Marks told the T-J.

Maybe that parting shot will generate some answers from the powers-to-be.

MIXED MESSAGE FOR MERCHANTS

As constant as the seasonal changes, the “dump-the-DDB” movement has resurfaced with renewed vigor.

This time, downtown business owner Dan Muscat has approached city council to urge the future of the Business Improvement Area be put to a vote by merchants.

City clerk Wendell Graves and treasurer Bill Day will huddle to draft the wording of a question to pose to the 200-plus members of the Downtown Development Board.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been down this road, however when only 38 members voted in the new slate of directors, you know interest has waned to a critical level.

Muscat sums it up nicely —merchants aren’t exactly clear what the board is doing for them.

“I don’t think this message is getting out there to the members clearly,” Muscat suggests.

And, with added controversy as to who exactly is allowed to sit on the board, the timing is appropriate for Muscat’s referendum.

TORONTO COMES CALLING

T-J reporter Kyle Rea touches on this story elsewhere today, and although little time has been devoted at council, it’s worth watching carefully.

There was much ado when the City of Toronto purchased the Green Lane landfill and related concerns about TO’s garbage heading our way.

Now, Toronto has approached city council on the possibility of locating a mixed waste processing facility in our midst, similar to a proposed design at the landfill site.

Heck, the big city burghers are even offering to pay the up-front cost for a pre-feasibility study to determine if suitable land is available within St. Thomas.

Furthermore, if we partner with a private sector company, and the partnership is deemed a good value for Toronto, they would become our customer for these processing services.

Keeping in mind the push for new non-automotive employment opportunities in the area, will the incoming city council take the bait and at least proceed with exploring the feasibility of such an undertaking?

Or, will the red flag generated by the many odour complaints at the Orgaworld facility up the pike in London, which resulted in a months-long closure, raise a cautionary stink during any debate?

And, don’t forget the city had the opportunity to play host to the ethanol plant that eventually took root in Aylmer. Seems the smell and stigma were far from de rigueur at that time.

Poses quite the challenge this time around.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“I truly believe when hydro costs can go up 17% in one fell swoop that there are people in our community, and people doubtlessly across Ontario, who are having difficulties.”

Ald. Gord Campbell spearheaded the drive on St. Thomas council to join a provincial lobby group in condemning imposition of HST on utilities.

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

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