Search for new health unit home may begin in court


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Well, that didn’t take long. We hinted in this corner last week debate on a new home for Elgin St. Thomas Public Health was likely to heat up in the near future, however we didn’t expect matters to flare up in such threatening fashion over the course of seven days.
To recap, the health unit board of directors has indicated a move is in store from their current home at 99 Edward St., to a yet-to-be-determined two-acre site.
That new home will not be located on property owned by London developer Shmuel Farhi at the west end of St. Thomas on Talbot Street.
Farhi thought he had a deal with the board of directors and health unit CEO Cynthia St. John in 2009 for a 30,000 sq. ft., purpose-built structure on a long-term lease.

The change in plans prompted an email from Farhi to City Scope warning the decision “is a serious error that will end up costing taxpayers a lot more than is necessary.”
A follow-up message landed in the mailbox Thursday and it’s a wonder it didn’t scorch neighbouring emails. It’s hotter than Crankshaft’s barbecue on the first cook-out of the season.
Farhi suggests several repercussions including: “the reputations of everyone involved will be damaged; everyone involved with the earlier government-approved deal between Farhi Holdings and the Health Unit will be included in a lawsuit I will bring against them, one I will vigorously pursue; and in the end, taxpayers and voters of Elgin County and St. Thomas will be overcharged but shortchanged, and more years will be lost to this blatant stupidity.”
No sitting on the fence there.
Lest there be any doubt as to what Farhi is driving at, he concludes: “And I will not stand idly by and absorb the cost of work that was done and land that was purchased on the basis of the original agreement by the health unit board to have Farhi Holdings build beautiful new premises on the west end of Talbot Street. Believe me, I am not afraid of courtrooms, especially when I have a case like this.”
The email was sent to all members of council, among others, but we don’t see the name of previous board chairman Bill Aarts on the recipient list.

BOTH SIDES CHECK IN
We questioned Ald. Mark Cosens’ decision to use council chambers as a forum to question the actions of city police during the April 12 drug bust and vehicle pursuit along Talbot Street.
That prompted responses from both ends of the spectrum.
Reader Jim Foster commented on the T-J website: “Nothing but political grandstanding by the Alderman . . . all police are trained to protect themselves and the public and would rather not pull their weapon unless it’s the last resort.”
As a counterpoint, ‘Terry’ opines: “I don’t believe Alderman Cosens was out of line for bringing forward concerns of his constituents. As for Const. (Jason) Geddes being embarrassed or not, I certainly don’t believe it was Cosens’ intention. I would think that when a scene out of the French Connection is played out on a busy downtown street using live ammunition, at the very least, a spokesperson from the St. Thomas Police Services would be prepared to field concerns. I believe our City Police are doing a great job, however, along with it should come transparency and accountability. To suggest a council meeting is the wrong venue to raise public concerns is simply ridiculous.”
Comparing the brief and efficient take down to a scene in the French Connection is most decidedly a quantum leap in logic.

TWEETING TRANSIT
A faithful City Scope reader is launching a campaign to haul St. Thomas Transit into the social media spectrum, albeit not in a fashion necessarily complimentary to the city.
Joe Caverly contacted us with the following suggestion/request.
“As St. Thomas Transit continues to not run on schedule, I was wondering if I might ask other Twitter users, who also take St. Thomas Transit, if they would tweet any delays with the hashtag #StTOntTransit.
“This would make it easy for Twitter users to find out why the bus has not arrived,” Joe explains, “or that the buses are delayed, simply by doing a search on Twitter for #StTOntTransit.
“Of course, the best solution would be for city hall and St. Thomas Transit to create a Twitter account, providing their riders with up-to-date info, but with the bureaucracy at city hall, I do not see this happening until several years down the road, if ever.”
It’s a great suggestion, Joe. Something other communities and transit operators have had in place for several years. As to fast-tracking this initiative, it seems Joe has had painful dealings with the city in the past.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“That $45 million could actually relate more to a number like 75 million or 85 million, That’s what we don’t know, that’s what we’re trying to find out.”
St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital CEO Paul Collins remains blissfully optimistic that when the ministry of health pegs the price tag on hospital redevelopment at $45 million, they really mean $75 million, or maybe that should be $85 million. Whatever.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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