Watch for the matter of a new home for Elgin St. Thomas Public Health to heat up dramatically in the coming days.
The health unit has been out of the public spotlight of late and that’s not a bad thing after the drama and controversy that dogged the previous board of directors.
The new board, including Elgin Warden Bill Walters and St. Thomas Ald. Dave Warden, has got the organization focused on moving forward.
However, will it withstand the fallout from a forthcoming announcement on a move from its current digs at 99 Edward St. to a two-acre site that is not the west Talbot Street property owned by Shmuel Farhi?
It was Farhi who offered to deliver “a 30,000 sq. ft. purpose-built structure there on a long-term lease for less than was being paid for in the original lease (with the County of Elgin, the property owner).
And, that’s got the London developer in a lather, to put it mildly.
In an email sent to City Scope, Farhi warns this decision by the health unit board of directors, “is a serious error that will end up costing taxpayers a lot more than is necessary.”
He continues: “With no experience in construction, you will have to hire a General Contractor to do the project, and without pre-determined cost guarantees you will have no protection against unanticipated cost overruns (which almost always happen on such projects).
“The resulting additional expenses have to be borne by the client whether they are ‘affordable’ or not. The City of St. Thomas is not alone in having a notable and very expensive record in this regard.”
We haven’t heard the last of this. There will be another side of the story revealed presently.
One thing is certain, much of this mess can be traced back to the previous board, under the chairmanship of Bill Aarts.
NO FURTHER LIGHT SHED ON RESCOPING
The only voice we haven’t heard from in the St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital rescoping exercise now underway is that of former Elgin-Middlesex London Liberal MPP Steve Peters.
We reached him at home Friday to hopefully shed light on what is involved in rescoping.
“I don’t know,” he laughed. “I’m not involved in it. My involvement with the hospital is an arm of the foundation they call the council of chairs, which is involved in the fundraising and that’s been my focus.
“And whatever that (rescoping) looks like in the end, we ensure the local share (of possible financial commitment) is raised and that has been my focus.”
He continued, “I don’t think anybody really knows what rescoping means and that is what Paul (CEO Paul Collins) has been trying to ascertain. And, I don’t have the answer.”
While he wouldn’t admit to disappointment in not seeing the project move forward entirely as promised, Peters did point to the new consolidated courthouse and regional forensic mental health unit as positive steps forward in St. Thomas-Elgin.
“Politics is a challenging profession and there are the ups and downs. I wasn’t part of decision-making in Toronto or any of that. What went on behind the scenes, I wasn’t part of that.”
Apart from the above-mentioned big-ticket projects, Peters notes with pride the strides taken in education infrastructure in St. Thomas.
“In 2003 the average age of a school in St. Thomas was 75 years. To see what’s happened at Locke’s, Edward Street , John Wise and Mitch Hepburn, the new St. Anne’s and at St. Joe’s, those are the things I look back at to have had some part in.”
Back to the hospital, Peters is chomping at the bit.
“Give us a figure of how much money we have to raise and then let’s go out into the community and do our part.”
WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME
What was Ald. Mark Cosens thinking Monday when he questioned the actions of city police during the April 12 drug bust and vehicle pursuit along Talbot Street?
To embarrass Const. Jason Geddes with questions and comments on the takedown was a brain burp of significant proportions on Cosens’ part.
Geddes was appearing before council with a report on March activities by the police service and this was definitely not the time nor place to put him on the hot seat.
A sentiment echoed by Mayor Heather Jackson: “I don’t feel that putting Const. Geddes on the spot the way that he did was probably the best way to handle it, especially since we weren’t even receiving information on that.”
That faux pas can be forgiven, however to challenge the tactics of police officers on the scene that stressful afternoon without first raising the issue with Chief Bill Lynch smacks of political grandstanding.
What was Ald. Cosens thinking Monday?
Possibly about raising his profile for a mayoral run in 2014 and, if such is the case, using the police service as a means to promote that goal directly or indirectly is a shameful dis-service to every member of the force.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“From what I understand, what I’ve been told by the chief, they’ve done everything according to the book and I ‘m concerned that Ald. Cosens brought up his concerns the way he did.”
Mayor Heather Jackson responds Monday to Ald. Mark Cosens’ concerns about a city police officer who discharged his firearm during a Talbot Street drug bust and vehicle pursuit.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.