September 17, 2012 proved an exciting day in the life of St. Thomas, as students returned to Wellington Street School for the first time in several years.
The former Thames Valley District School Board facility, purchased by the city in 2011 to provide parking spaces for the new consolidated courthouse, was being revitalized as the St. Thomas campus of Algoma University.
And, four days after the opening day of classes, the public was invited to the celebration party.
“This is a great day for Algoma University and it’s also a great day for St. Thomas and Elgin county,” enthused Algoma president Richard Myers.
“You’ve made my St. Thomas a richer place today and it’s a richer place for all of us,” added Andrew Gunn, trustee for the estate of Dorothy Palmer, which contributed more than $1 million to the refurbishment of the heritage school.
Fast forward 20 months and the headiness of that day is being put to the test.
The university announced this week because of lower than anticipated demand, it is deferring registration for the fall 2014 program at its St. Thomas campus.
You have to admire the patience of St. Thomas Police Chief Darryl Pinnell, who calmly answered a bevy of questions Thursday during an accessibility tour of the Colin McGregor Justice Building.
The walk-through of all three floors — including the lock-up area — proved an eye-opener in several regards. The structure is a daunting challenge for anyone with accessibility issues and the floor space available on the now-vacant second floor likely cannot be considered functional for police use without significant modifications
Designing work areas around the two large courtrooms remaining intact surely must be a design challenge.
There is not one single accessible washroom in the building, the one elevator is in the centre of the structure and originates in the jail area and even the existing main floor is a cluttered maze.
Exactly when did this happen? Obviously city council held a closed door meeting and went ahead and approved construction of a new $26 million police station. Talk about a fast one.
Don’t believe this is a done deal? We’ve got the proof.
It says so right here on the introduction to a video produced by Bendel Productions (http://bit.ly/1hRIcNT). Let me quote.
“Our City Council has given the green light to build a new $26,000,000.00 Police Station.”
Can you believe it?
The only thing this video illustrates is how spiffy a living room Bob McCaig has.
If you’ve read the Page 3 story in Saturday’s Times-Journal, you’ll discover determining when to declare a conflict of interest can become quite the ethical dilemma.
Mayor Heather Jackson is living that now after being challenged by former St. Thomas resident and 2010 aldermanic candidate, Bill Sandison in a letter forwarded to the T-J.
The mayor steadfastly believes she was not in a conflict situation – according to the Ontario Municipal Act – when she debated and voted on the awarding of an Information Technology contract to Ascent (formerly St. Thomas Energy) in spite of the fact she is romantically linked to an employee in that very same department.
We consulted with a pair of municipal governance experts who argue perception is reality to most constituents and taking the high road would be in order when there is the least whiff of a conflict.
“There is no question that the cautious thing to do would have been to not vote,” advised Western University political scientist, Andrew Sancton. Continue reading
So, what exactly is the art of ‘gentle persuasion’ as practiced by St. Thomas developer Bob McCaig?
That strategy to oppose construction of a new police station and the petition he is circulating around the city prompted this corner to call McCaig for clarification.
“We don’t need it, we can’t afford it and our community is in trouble financially,” Bob stresses.
While the petition surely will garner hundreds if not a couple thousand signatures, McCaig admits it likely will have little impact at city hall.
“There is nothing that will come of it (the petition) that will force anybody to do anything. It’s all about gentle persuasion. The time for tough talk is over. It’s time to lay the information on in terms of facts.”
And for Bob, the information points to renovation of the existing police station in the Colin McGregor Justice Building.
“This concept of a new police station should be dropped and the current one renovated. They should put off a new station for 20 years.”