Narrowing the playing field on police HQ decision


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Whether you’ve signed the petition and support renovation of the existing police station or are a proponent of a new, purpose-built police HQ, you should be aware the picture came into a slightly sharper focus on Wednesday.
At the police building committee meeting at city hall, members were updated on both scenarios.
Paul Sapounzi of the Ventin Group Architects gave those in attendance a first look at what a new facility might look like on city-owned land just west of the Timken Centre.
The schematic drawings detailed a 30,000 sq. ft, one-storey building (with basement) which would face Wellington St. and complement the twin-pad arena.
The station, parking areas and outdoor compound would occupy 3.2 acres of the site, leaving 1.7 acres for expansion or possibly additional parking for the Timken Centre.
Sapounzi described the early concept as a work in progress that will be “in keeping with the needs for now and in the future.
“This is a test of square footage,” he continued, “now we need to get into details.”

The building would be bright and airy, energy efficient and fully accessible.
Following the Ventin presentation, Paul Harris of SPH Engineering updated the committee on what is involved with renovating the existing station in the Colin McGregor Justice Building.
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He admitted there would be challenges when dealing with heating and cooling efficiencies.
However, he advised the existing structure met the 1965 post-disaster building code — a prerequisite for police stations — and would not have to be upgraded to meet present-day code.
Its lack of accessible facilities could prove the stumbling block to a major rebuild/renovation.
Harris stressed to the committee accessibility would have to be of the same standard on each floor in the building to meet 2016 requirements under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
As the recent accessibility audit noted, there are no handicap-accessible washrooms anywhere in the building and there are issues with lighting and stairwells.
The committee will meet again 10 a.m. July 16 at city hall, at which time the road ahead may be better illuminated.
These meetings are open to the public — no ratepayers were present this week — and all documents can be viewed on the city hall website.

JOE’S GONNA GO
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise last Saturday when MP Joe Preston announced he would not seek re-election in 2015.
He has served four terms in office for a total of 10 years to this point.
Preston
Preston first won the voter’s favour in 2004, when he unseated Elgin-Middlesex-London Liberal cabinet minister Gar Knutson.
So, let the betting begin on who will step in as the PC candidate for the riding.
Prior to the police station debate reaching the boiling point, an insider surely would have been Ald. Jeff Kohler, who has strong ties to the provincial Tories via his uncle, Frank Klees.
However, thanks to enthusiastic support from St. Thomas developer Bob McCaig, a good bet will see Kohler vie for a return to the mayor’s office.
Playing the speculation game, how about Preston’s executive assistant Karen Vecchio?
When approached at Preston’s retirement bash, Vecchio admitted she’s giving it thought but had come to no decision at this time.
“I’m working with my family on it,” she told T-J reporter Ben Forrest. “We’re discussing.”

ANOTHER STEPS UP TO THE PLATE
It’s taken six months, but on Monday a sitting alderman finally stepped forward and declared his intention to seek re-election.
Tom Johnston filed his paperwork at city hall and is aiming to sit for his fifth term of council.
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Johnston was first elected in 2000 and he insists he still has that hunger to serve in office.
He is no stranger to controversy. In his first term, Johnston was one of four aldermen who withstood withering pressure to construct the city’s proposed twin-pad arena downtown on land owned by McCaig.
Johnston was a staunch supporter of an arena located on Sauve Ave., near Fanshawe College, on land that had been designated for a recreation complex.
In 2006, Johnston butted heads with then mayor Kohler over use of city credit cards. He was a key player on the mayor’s purchase card committee that ultimately led to significant changes in the city’s loosey-goosey corporate card policy.
However Johnston is probably best remembered for those Detroit Red Wings hockey tickets he accepted as payment for his involvement on the Ascent (formerly St. Thomas Energy) board of directors.
Apart from Mayor Heather Jackson’s early declaration and the likely retirement of Ald. Gord Campbell, the rest of council has adopted a wait-and-see attitude, jockeying for any political advantage available.
And you thought they had your best interests at heart.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Any time you put someone’s life at risk due to your driving, we need to have strong deterrents in place which include (loss of) demerit points in addition to fines.”
Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek in the wake of the tragic death of St. Thomas construction worker Brian Daniel this week on the Hwy. 3 bypass near Burwell Rd.

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

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