Never look a gift factory in the mouth


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Well, Bob Hammersley pretty much nailed it last week in this corner when he advised the news emanating out of Thursday’s media scrum would be very big.

Come to St. Thomas and you could win free digs for a year in an existing factory is the essence of the challenge announced at the CASO station.

Talk about thinking outside the box.

It’s the brainchild of STIR — St. Thomas Industrial Revolution — a consortium of local business leaders intent on cutting through the clutter in a bid to attract the biggest and brightest to the city.

With the Industrial Revolution Challenge, one lucky winner will receive up to 10,000 square feet of industrial space, rent-free for a year, donated by the Ryckman Group of St. Thomas.

Now, we thought Hammersley, Chamber of Commerce CEO, had cornered the market on selling the sizzle. However, here’s how STIR president Brian Dempsey painted the picture.

“(It) is a first, an event and opportunity the world has never witnessed before. News of the challenge is being spread across the globe.”

It the world of advertising, a pitch like that is crowned a clutter-buster.

One small point of clarification. Will development charges be assessed against the winners?

We ask only because the matter came up Monday when the owner and manager of 39 Burwell Rd., who hope to transform the former factory into a fitness facility, approached city council with their conundrum — they face more in development charges than the actual cost of fixing up the premises.

Council couldn’t reach a decision and that leaves an appeal by the building owner in limbo, since no further action was taken. The city’s lawyer says the matter could end up before the Ontario Municipal Board.

The owner, by the way, is Dan Ryckman of the above-noted Ryckman Group.

So, can the city waive its bylaw dealing with development charges (a significant source of revenue) for the challenge winner?

WORKIN’ ON THE SAME PAGE

Malcolm Hopkins may refer to the breach of confidential information at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital on Feb. 2 as “egregious,” and the situation “fixed,” however some critical questions remain unanswered.

Chief among those is the conflicting scenarios presented by Hopkins and hospital spokeswoman Cathy Fox.

It was the latter who issued the media release on Wednesday of this week alerting to confidential documents that left the hospital and ended up in the parking lot.

The release, by the way, was issued two weeks after the incident occurred.

In an interview with the Times-Journal, Hopkins, vice-president of corporate services, said he wasn’t sure where they were found, but noted they were not lying around, or blowing around, the parking lot.

Well, if you’ve had two weeks to concoct an advisory for the media, you better be working off the same page, clearly not the case with the delinquent documents.

The second pivotal question — Why did it take the hospital 12 days to notify the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario? Shouldn’t this have been a high priority?

The office of the commissioner will be investigating further and we hope there will be clear communication from Hopkins and CEO Paul Collins on the results and recommendations.

POT HOLES AND PROMISES  

The budget information session being held today is sure to be an eye-opener for ratepayers who take the time to drop by Memorial arena for the open house that runs until 2 p.m.

In the same fashion, an asset management plan to be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting will place council members face to face with the cold, hard facts of municipal life.

The report is the result of an inspection of all city-owned bridges and culverts and the resultant short- and long-term remediation program.

The document reveals that from this year until 2029, the city will need to spend a total of $32.6 million to maintain these assets.

How daunting an undertaking is that?

In the 2011 proposed budget, the city has allocated just under $600,000 for its entire road rehab program, which will allow for resurfacing on five short stretches of roadway.

As for sidewalk replacement, a paltry $70,000 has been set aside for two projects.

So, when you hear talk of striving for a zero increase in spending at city hall, keep in mind the years of deferred infrastructure maintenance and the ultimate toll on budgets and reserves.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“I believe we need to engage the public and I thought budget is the first time we’ll get out and look at what we’re doing . . . It’s all about listening to the community.”

Mayor Heather Jackson-Chapman outlines the rationale behind today’s budget information session at Memorial arena.

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

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