Health unit ‘reverses and changes’ will impact ratepayers, warns London developer


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We opened up City Scope seven days ago by suggesting the ball was in the court of London developer Shmuel Farhi.
The comment was in reference to the decision by Elgin St. Thomas Public Health to seek new digs, not located on property owned by Farhi in the city’s west end.
Well, Farhi has rifled the ball back into this corner in convincing fashion.
He is most upset at a comment we made as to where the allegiance of members of council lie.
Specifically, my observation “any dissenting voice on city council (on a minor zoning variation needed by Family and Children’s of St. Thomas and Elgin to move into the 99 Edward St. location that is the current home of the health unit) would certainly be based on allegiance to Farhi . . . rather than to city ratepayers.
That prompted a terse email from Farhi, who asserts he had a deal in place with the health unit for his Talbot Street property.


As I read it,” writes Farhi, “it says pretty plainly that anyone who opposes the new plan does so only because they are loyal to me (for reasons not explained), and not because my offer (still on the table) is actually the better one for the people of St. Thomas and Elgin county.”
He continues, “As any objective review of all the facts in this case clearly reveals, my offer is indeed superior in many ways, including lower cost, guaranteed results (remember when city bureaucrats had responsibility for building the new arena? How far over budget did that go?) a superior location right on Talbot at the western gateway to the downtown, and a builder/landlord who has successfully built and manages similar kinds of facilities for all three levels of government.”
Farhi is increasingly frustrated with what he calls the record of reverses and changes on the part of the health unit.
“You may be interested to note that one of my primary reasons for considering a lawsuit is that we shook hands on a deal with the health unit board three years ago and we were ready to move forward until tensions between the city and county created dissension and led to the ‘several years of heated debate amongst city and county reps on the health unit board of directors under former chairman Bill Aarts’ (a quote from last week’s column).”
Farhi would like to stress one thing to city ratepayers.
“Supporting my concept (based on but improved from the one to which the health unit agreed three years ago) does not mean choosing a solution that does not protect the best interests of the ratepayers, but in fact just the opposite.
“The ratepayers will be ill-served by the health unit-managed project as most recently described, and I guarantee it will end up costing a lot more than my proposal.”
Farhi refers to “reverses and changes” on the part of the health unit.
I would suggest flip-flops on the part of health unit executive director Cynthia St. John would be more accurate. Her dancing around the issues of staff departures/dismissals, her salary/overtime/vacation and lack of transparency have been well documented in this space.

WE HAVEN’T HIT BOTTOM YET
A tough week in town on the employment front. The shuttering of the Timken plant will result in the migration of 150 good-paying jobs to U.S. plants some time within in the next year.
Not so drastic, but depressing nonetheless, is the transfer of 12 jobs to London from the Ministry of Community and Social Services Ontario Disability Support Program office on the third floor of the Ontario Public Works building on Talbot Street.
St. Thomas/Elgin clients will now have to deal with the London office, located at 217 York St., as of the end of October.
A hassle to those who already have considerable inconvenience to deal with in their life.
MPP Jeff Yurek is convinced this is Dalton McGuinty punishing the riding for failing to embrace Liberal candidate Lori Baldwin-Sands in last fall’s provincial vote.
This corner has heard scuttlebutt the reason may have more to do with the rent the third floor tenants were paying, which was considerably higher than the rate charged on the lower floors of the building owned by Farhi.
When we spoke to Farhi on Friday, he denied any knowledge of the decision made by the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

A BIG DECISION
A week ago we touched on the CBC’s new project, The Big Decision, and a desire by the network to involve area businesses in filming for the opening season.
Well, Jessica Leach of PR firm Veritas Canada, this week passed along a few more specifics for local firms interested in participating on the The Big Decision, which features companies in need of financial investment and advice.
To quote from her release, “Arlene Dickinson and Jim Treliving, two of Canada’s top investors, are on a mission: to spend their time and money to turn around struggling Canadian companies. ”
Interested? Here’s the scoop.
Your company must have been in operation for at least three years and must have a gross revenue of at least $500,000 a year.
You employ more than five people and operate a privately held business, family business, partnership or limited partnership and are registered in Canada.
And, you must be willing to commit to being filmed on camera for up to a two-week period.
You have until June 8 to apply at http://www.cbc.ca/thebigdecision.
Take the plunge and do St. Thomas/Elgin proud.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“It seemed as if all somebody had to say was ‘I want one’ and got it. We could (have the money to) pave a road if this thing gets out of whack. We can’t end up with 100 iPads out in the community.”

Ald. Gord Campbell cautioned council on Tuesday to tread carefully in acquiring iPads, noting past problems with city-issued cellphones.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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