A bold step forward in tourism promotion for St. Thomas


The city has been relatively coy of late on whether it will continue its participation – and to what extent – in Elgin county’s tourism program.
In 2013, the city’s share of the tourism budget is almost $122,000 and more than once in the last couple of years there have been suggestions the city go it alone in the marketing and promotion of tourist-related opportunities.
Well the wraps are about to be thrown off the new tourism model at Monday’s council meeting.
CAO Wendell Graves suggests with an upcoming strategic review of the St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation, it would make sense to deal with many of the tourism-related ventures as economic development opportunities.
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We deserve more than a false sense of security


Well it appears the death of Harold Hill in 2009 has had limited impact on city administrators and members of council.
Hill, 82, was struck by a vehicle while using a crosswalk on Elm Street in front of St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital on Sept. 24, 2009. He later died in hospital.
Turns out the crossing was not legal, according to city police, and the city has 15 similar uncontrolled crossings in existence today, where pedestrians are likely under the mistaken impression they can safely enter the crosswalk to navigate the roadway.
Eight of those crossings are located along Talbot Street.
In reality, pedestrians do not have the right of way and must yield to motorists at these so-called courtesy crossings.
A headline in the Times-Journal at the time of Hill’s death alerted pedestrians to the danger of these crossings: “Two crosswalk lines . . . ‘mean nothing’.”
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Timken Centre deficiencies will spark debate


At its first meeting of the new year, city council will get an insight into the deficiencies encountered in the seven years since the Timken Centre opened.
The report was triggered by the failure last November of three compressor motors in less than a week, which prompted staff to bring in Ascent (formerly St. Thomas Energy) to conduct monitor the hydro supply coming into the building.
Since the $12.1 million twin-pad facility opened, there appear to have been an inordinately high number of electrical-related problems reported and upgrades undertaken.
In fact, since 2006, over $200,000 has been spent on deficiencies, including the addition of a six-ton rooftop HVAC unit right off the bat for the multi-purpose room to meet the capacity rating, at a cost of $12,500.
In 2007, close to $30,000 was spent on the replacement of a heat recovery unit and since then there have been ongoing roof repairs, ongoing repairs to the electrical wall pack and parking lot lights and replacement of various lighting units and other electrical-related components.
Staff has contacted similar-sized recreation facilities across southwestern Ontario which were built around the same time to compare maintenance costs and the Timken Centre fares on par with these venues.
While each of these facilities had their own unique issues, the Timken Centre deficiencies appear to centre on electrical-related components or systems.
The monitoring undertaken by Ascent will determine whether there are spikes in the incoming hydro service or internal electrical problems that led to the successive failure of the three compressor motors.
Or perhaps, to meet the severely stretched capital budget for the Timken Centre, were inferior electrical components installed from the get-go to meet the financial constraints?
Kinda like a whats-it off this '71 Pinto should do the trick.

Friday’s Times-Journal featured a wonderful insight into the life and career of John Wise, courtesy of People columnist Eric Bunnell. All of those polled were in agreement: the former Elgin MP was nothing short of “an honourable man.”
The tributes continue online, via the T-J website and Facebook page. Here are just a few of the personal observations.

John Wise and family in a photo taken in January, 1979, from left - Susan, 6; Elizabeth, 9; and wife, Ann Wise.

John Wise and family in a photo taken in January, 1979, from left – Susan, 6; Elizabeth, 9; and wife, Ann Wise.

Teresa L. Lunn writes, “So sorry to hear this, he was such a nice man
. . . always willing to talk to anyone (he will be truly missed). St Thomas has lost a true friend.”
“John was always a gentleman. I remember him when I was just a toddler and he called me by name. No matter how you voted, he worked for every one,” writes David Nichols.
Steve Thomas observes, “Best MP we ever had.”
“As a past Aylmer and a St. Thomas resident and knowing John, he was one of Ontario’s finest,” praises Ken Holmes.
And finally, Denise Payne opines: “John was an amazing man
. . . still have the pin i’m a wise guy . . . even though I was little I still remember sitting in his campaign office . . . RIP John . . . a well deserved rest . . . bravo!”
John should serve as the benchmark for so many of today’s egocentric politicians who are driven solely by personal gain.
To know him was to appreciate the element of class and dignity he brought to the political theatre.

Monday’s council agenda includes the 2012 semi-annual attendance scorecard, covering the period from July through December, a total of 21 meetings.
With two exceptions, members are to be commended for a perfect attendance record.
Ald. <strong>Jeff Kohler was absent for three meetings over that period of time, while Ald. Sam Yusuf was missing on four occasions or nearly 20% of the time.
No doubt this can be explained as conflicts with hospital board meetings.

Whatever happened to the metal statues of the hockey player and figure skater that were commissioned seven years ago to be housed at the front entrance of the Timken Centre?
Weren’t these to be paid for from money garnered by the arena fundraising committee?
If it is taking this long to complete the figures, they must be of an incredibly intricate design or else the size of Jumbo.

A public information session to deal with potential locations for a new skate park facility will be held Wednesday, Feb. 13 from 3 to 8 p.m. in the D.J. Tarry Room at the Timken Centre. Don’t miss your opportunity to have your voice heard.

“He was a man who considered public service a duty and took his role as the people’s representative very seriously.”
PC Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek pays tribute to former Elgin MP and federal agriculture minister John Wise, who died Wednesday in London at the age of 77.

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

We all contribute to multi-million dollar CEO compensation packages

STEGH redevelopment sketch

STEGH redevelopment sketch

This corner has railed on at length on the retire/rehire shenanigans over at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital. Some readers have even griped about CEO Paul Collins’ salary, which in 2011 was in the $205,000 range, however Collins could earn a maximum of $321,950 in his final year before retirement in 2016.

Well,that’s chump change compared to what the Top 100 private sector CEO’s pocket in salaries and bonuses, as witness this comparison documented in a recent post on the OPSEU blog here and reprinted below . . .

As we flail managers in the public sector for their annual bonuses, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reminds us who is hauling down the really big bucks at everyone’s expense.
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Return of bell rings good news for Alma alumnae


It will never ring again to stir sleepy students or summon legions of exuberant young women to the dining hall, however the return of a truly iconic form of primitive communication is being welcomed by the Alma College community.
It has been some time since this corner has focused on the former school for girls, but the invitation to join Donna Robertson, past-president of the Alma College International Alumnae; Stephen Francom, Elgin County Archives manager; and Mike Baker, Elgin County Museum curator, to provide details on the return to St. Thomas of the Alma College bell proved too tempting to resist.
The bell disappeared some years ago, likely commandeered by a former Alma student in order to provide a safe home as the college faced the spectre of demolition by neglect.

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