What didn’t make the grade is the real story


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The real insight come budget time is not the capital projects that receive council’s stamp of approval, it’s the myriad items that fail to pass muster.
There’s the true indication of how well departments are heeding calls from treasurer Bill Day to haul in the reins.
Here are some gems gleaned from the 2014 Part 1 capital budget that remain in limbo.
How about $400,000 for a baseball practice facility at the Centennial Sports Complex.
Then there’s the $600,000 skateboard park, $102,000 of which would be funded by ratepayers.

There’s a request for $500,000 for fencing at the Douglas J. Tarry Sports Complex.
We’ve got a spiffy renovated library that is requesting $25,000 for a space study.
If you’re a fan of traffic roundabouts, it would cost $450,000 for one of those at Southdale Line and Lake Margaret Trail.
Here’s a head-scratcher, $27,500 for “as-constructed drawings for past capital projects.”
A new pickup truck and related equipment is on the parks wish list at a whopping $102,000. No indication of what the related equipment might be.
Over at the Timken Centre there’s a budget item for a roadside pylon sign – cost $65,000.
The eight-year-old twin-pad facility also needs copper piping replaced – cost $50,000.
On the wish list at the main fire hall, $90,000 for renovations to the kitchen/lounge.
The 2014 capital budget requests totalled $42 million. Monday night in the first round of deliberations, $10.6 million was rubber-stamped.

WALK ON JASON
Some time this weekend Jason McComb will trek past the Toronto city limits sign as he picks them up and lays them down en route to Ottawa to raise awareness for the homeless and less fortunate.
Given the brutal weather he has faced ­­— and we’re not officially under winter’s icy grip yet — Jason’s accomplishments over the past 10 days are nothing short of inspiring.
If he ever had moments of doubt over that character-testing span of time, they were laid to rest Friday afternoon.
As he was preparing to leave Oakville, Jason received a phone call from MPP Jeff Yurek, who not only will meet him Monday morning at Queen’s Park, he will also introduce him to the Legislature from the public gallery. A great show of support for Jason and all that he is undertaking for the homeless, including seniors and war vets.
MP Joe Preston has already indicated he will meet up with him in Ottawa.
Too bad our city officials couldn’t muster similar support for Jason who is garnering considerable traditional and social media coverage.
Not even a wave goodbye from city hall.

IS IT NEEDED HERE?
PC MPP Randy Hillier has introduced a private member’s bill — Bill 124 — which would empower the electorate to recall a politician when a petition is signed by 25% of voters.
Such a situation would trigger an election, however the recalled individual would be eligible to run as a candidate.
As crafted, the bill would be applicable only to provincial politicians. Hillier has indicated he is amenable to changes that would allow for inclusion of municipal representatives.
Recall is a popular weapon south of the border, but you have to wonder if the obvious drawback would be its vulnerability to abuse.
What do you think? Should voters have the ability to recall a municipal politician?
In St. Thomas, as is likely the case elsewhere, this could lead to most, if not all, members of council falling prey to this option.

HERE’S A GUTSY CALL

Woodstock council has endorsed a recommendation to trim the complement of city firefighters to 44 from the current 48 in an effort to reduce the rising cost of providing fire services while maintaining efficiencies.
Here in St. Thomas, the operating budget this year for the fire department is $7.5 million, topped only by the police budget at $10.2 million.
Given concerns at the municipal level over the provincial salary arbitration system for police and firefighters, will other communities soon be forced to follow Woodstock’s lead?
“The cost of emergency services is out of control,” warns Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, who is also chairman of the Large Urban Mayors’ Caucus of Ontario.
Imagine the impact on smaller centres like St. Thomas. How can they be expected to budget for emergency services without resorting to creative/drastic measures now being talked about such as a ‘composite fire department’ in Stratford — a blend of career and volunteer firefighters.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“We treat the vehicle reserve as if it is some kind of vehicle slush fund.”
Ald. Gord Campbell on liberties often taken with the city’s vehicle reserve fund during deliberations Monday on Part 1 capital budget.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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