Looking for a place to park a share of $200 million


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Gary Goodyear, the minister of state for the federal economic development agency for southern Ontario, came to town Thursday dangling a $200 million carrot while serving up a bitter dose of reality.
“The industrial revolution’s over,” warned Goodyear. “This is the technology revolution. Manufacturing has to accept the fact that for them to remain competitive they have to use the lightest product.
“They have to use the fastest assembly line, they have to use the latest inventory software and all of these new technologies – many of which are developed here in Ontario – have to be purchased.”
Not only do businesses have to recalibrate, municipalities and their economic development corporations need to focus on the new reality.
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Closing the hospital labs? We’ll notify you about that


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An upbeat interview in Friday’s Times-Journal with Paul Jenkins, the new executive director of the St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital Foundation.
He is the individual who assumes the position previously held by Allan Weatherall who, like Malcolm Hopkins, didn’t fit into the long-term game plan of hospital CEO Paul Collins.
Well Paul’s fundraising endeavors may become that much more difficult based on information forwarded to City Scope on Friday.
As we understand matters, the downsizing/outsourcing may very well continue with pathology labs now housed at the hospital possibly about to be shuttered at the end of the year.
We don’t have a handle on number of people who might be impacted, although some of the work undertaken could be moved, possibly to Woodstock General Hospital. The remainder of the work would likely be assumed by a London facility.
A bit of a complication here though. The St. Thomas jobs are unionized whereas the Woodstock workplace is non-union so some negotiating would be in order.
The union – which has to be given five months notice – was apparently notified of this situation on July 11. That would mean the final day of employment in the STEGH labs would be on or around Dec. 11.
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The reeds have got to go and the ramps are taken care of


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It was a week of R and R over in the Lake Margaret area of town – as in reeds and ramps.
Seems things can move pretty quickly when dealing with the residents who live on the shore of the newest Great Lake.
Council wasted no time Monday in directing city staff to prepare a report on how to deal with invasive weeds – Phragmites australis – a perennial grass which is burgeoning out of control around Lake Margaret faster than senators’ expenses.
Parks and rec director Ross Tucker advised council he had met with Janice Gilbert – a wetlands ecologist who has been tagged Ontario’s leading authority on Phragmites australis – and a management plan will be in the works.
Tucker cautioned it could take three years or longer to win the war on weeds. What he didn’t touch on was the cost of doing battle with the fast-spreading foe.
But hold on a sec. Isn’t Lake Margaret the domain of Doug Tarry Custom Homes? Should the city be committing untold funds to deal with this pesky situation?
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Time for more pruning over at the hospital


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For the second time in just over a year, a high-profile figure over at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital has been shown the door, ostensibly because they don’t fit into future plans for the facility.
On Thursday, chief financial officer Malcolm Hopkins was dumped by CEO Paul Collins.
“I think change is a part of organizational life,” Collins said in an interview with the Times-Journal. “I’m trying to plan for the long-term future of STEGH and Malcolm has served this hospital for 11 years.”
Well if he has served the organization well, why was he unceremoniously dumped?
And why was the internal communication at the hospital a little on the vague side?
Paul Bode, chairman of the board of governors, was under the impression Hopkins had retired when we talked to him on Thursday.
“Malcolm just made the decision (to retire) yesterday (Tuesday) morning. He decided it was probably time to retire. It’s my impression that he retired. That’s how it was presented to me.”
An odd way to send off a long-standing player on the team.
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Let’s have a committee struck to look into that


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Prior to this corner embarking on a summer hiatus a month ago, we had engaged Ald. Dave Warden in conversation regarding his motion to add an additional member to the council lineup.
The proposal was debated at the July council meeting and everything is on hold until September.
In the meantime, we checked in with Warden this week for a status update on council’s committee system, which needs a serious overhaul in his estimation.
“Come September, they’re going to review all the committees and there’s ones we shouldn’t even be sitting on. And that was my purpose to this whole thing. Let’s overhaul the committee system because there is too much redundancy and too much staff time being paid out.”
Couldn’t agree more. That’s why we love the definition of many committees: a group that keeps minutes and loses hours
It’s time for a complete review by CAO Wendell Graves and a determination as to how council somehow has been railroaded into providing a warm body to sit on an untold number of committees.
Apparently the list of committees with city representation runs to seven pages in length.
In a Monty Python world, all we need now is a committee struck to determine what to do with all the committees.
Warden figures it wouldn’t be difficult to initially trim that number by 15 to 20 groups.
To be honest, the scissors should be sharpened further.
“What has happened is every time something comes up, they form a new committee,” Warden advises. “And that’s the problem.”
Hmmm. Are we talking about something like the committee struck to look at a new indoor swimming pool, as requested earlier this year by Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands?
“If there is a group of people out there who want to look at something like an indoor pool, let them do it,” enthuses Warden.
“Let them form a committee. Bring their findings to council for its consideration. That’s the way it should be.”
Absolutely. Because whatever the proposal, it has to receive an endorsement from council.
Here’s the nitty gritty, according to Warden.
“Why do you set a committee up and appoint a council rep to it? What purpose does it serve?”
Perhaps the committees in question feel a council rep adds credibility to their cause.
Sorry, but that is not the function of our elected officials.
The bottom line – rationalize the committee commitment and you won’t need an eighth alderman.
Who knows, you may be able to trim back on council. After all, that was the key recommendation in the McCarthy-Tetrault report of 2003.

EXPLORING ALL OPTIONS
Bill Sandison has been unsuccessful in his two attempts to gain a seat on city council. However, he does have one thing in common with aldermen Jeff Kohler, Mark Cosens and Baldwin-Sands – a deep-rooted opposition to the construction of a new police headquarters.
And, in a letter to members of council, Sandison suggests the city get rid of the existing police service and rely on the OPP. As a result, no need to build a new HQ or renovate the existing facility.
Sandison points out, “The OPP is the largest police force in North America and while their officers may be the highest paid next year, having gone two years without an increase, that does not necessarily translate into the highest cost for policing services.”
He explains, “in part due to economies of scale and how responsibilities are defined, the OPP is able to offer the most cost-effective policing to many communities.”
Could St. Thomas be one of those communities?
To better understand this rationale, he refers to a document entitled “Understanding OPP Municipal Policing Costs” which can be found at http://www.opp.ca/media/Understanding-OPP-Municipal-Policing-Costs-2012-Formula-05Oct12.pdf.
The 104-page document details how the OPP delivers policing services to 322 municipalities, on a cost-recovery basis.
Sandison notes the report was sent to Mayor Heather Jackson and is it safe to assume all members of council are familiar with it?
In conclusion, he implores “Prior to borrowing $19 million to build a new police station (as an aside, don’t believe a firm cost estimate has yet been established), it would be prudent to explore all options related to policing costs, including the cost of OPP municipal service.
“Council should ask the province for a cost-analysis of an OPP service contract for St. Thomas. Only then will council be in a position to make an informed and unbiased decision in the overall best interests of St. Thomas.”
An unlikely exercise, Bill, in the Barwick 4 era in which council now operates.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“But the focus should be on the general election coming up, not on by-elections and that’s where the party’s headed and hopefully to form a majority after the next election.”
Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek’s take on the Progressive Conservative’s lacklustre showing in five provincial by-elections on Thursday.

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