It’s a hot topic for a bitterly cold day . . . the effectiveness of snow removal efforts in St. Thomas. The debate has generated a bevy of comments, both passionate and bitter, on the Times-Journal website and Facebook page. The intensity of which hasn’t been witnessed since last October’s municipal election.
The manner in which Dave White, roads and transportation supervisor, defended his snow fighting strategy during Monday’s council meeting did little to satisfy members of council, not to mention ratepayers.
One was left with the impression the Jan. 7 snow squalls caught him off guard, as he advised plows did not hit the streets until after staff arrived for work at 7:30 that morning.
You would think when Environment Canada issued a snow squall watch more than 26 hours previous, specifically targetting St. Thomas, that all resources would be on alert prior to the morning commute instead of trying to battle the elements in the middle of the drive to work.
But it’s not just the roads. More than a week after the snow blitz, many city sidewalks remained impassable.
It wasn’t until a conversation Wednesday with Bob and Cathy, who live in the Confederation Dr. area, that you truly grasped the frustration level of residents.
Cathy relies on a mobility scooter for much of her travels and negotiating this along snow-packed and icy sidewalks is a dangerous challenge.
“Where are we supposed to go, on the road? You don’t want to be on the road with your walker, scooter or whatever,” she stressed.
“I’ve seen mothers trying to push strollers with young kids,” added Bob.
A call by Cathy to city hall this week was greeted with the news the department involved closes at 3:30 p.m.
“What happens if it snows after that. They don’t have an afternoon shift that can come in and work?”
“I was told it could be the middle of next week before they’re plowed,” said Cathy.
As it turns out, a sidewalk plow was spotted in the area Thursday morning. That’s still more than a week after the dump of snow.
“It’s disgusting,” remarked Bob. “It wasn’t like this five or six years ago. They would be out the next day plowing sidewalks. What happens now is they don’t plow it, so many people walk on it and it becomes ice underneath. It’s rough and it’s hard on your ankles or you can slip and fall on the ice.”
So are Cathy and others with mobility issues expected to hibernate all winter? Based on these and other comments, no one is putting the blame on road crews. They do yeoman service under adverse conditions.
But you certainly have to question the strategy — and judgment — of the man who directs the assault on snow.
FRONT AND CENTRE
The new council will have three opportunities Monday to air their views on a future home for the St. Thomas Police Service.
A proposed new HQ on city-owned land west of the Timken Centre is the single most costly item in Part 1 of the 2015 capital budget to undergo scrutiny at the council meeting.
Estimated to cost $13 million to construct, the station accounts for more than half the $24.7 million proposed budget and will be financed through long-term debt. Council could ask for this item to be voted on separately in a bid to re-open debate.
Next up on Monday’s agenda is a presentation by the Ventin Group architects with updated plans and drawings of the single-storey structure. Included in their presentation is a Class B estimate of $10.6 million to design and build the 43,000 sq. ft. headquarters.
With the exception of Mayor Heather Jackson and Coun. Jeff Kohler, this will be the first opportunity for the rest of council to question the design team.
It would make sense to allow this deputation to precede the budget in order for council to better familiarize itself with what is envisioned in a new, purpose-built facility.
And finally, Kohler’s motion to direct staff to obtain quotes from local contractors to renovate the second floor of the Colin McGregor Justice Building will be open for debate.
Will the dynamics change on an issue that proved so divisive during the term of the previous council?
TAKE THE BUS OUT OF TOWN
That soon may be possible as council considers a pilot project that would roll out hourly accessible express bus service between St. Thomas and London.
Both cities operate their own transit services, however there is no affordable link between the two municipalities.
The City Link Community Transportation pilot program would see an hourly service, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, from the transfer station near Walmart to White Oaks Mall in London, a transit hub for that city. The buses would operate along Wellington Rd.
Hours of operation Saturday would be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
So, what goes around comes around. To think all of this was done downtown to downtown so many years ago aboard a London & Port Stanley interurban, with the option of continuing on to the beach.
DOWN IN THE DUMPS
Still don’t understand why the city gave up on the Bush Line transfer station, especially given the cost of
constructing a new community recycling centre is now estimated at $2.9 million — double the original projection of $1.4 million.
Back in March, we talked to owner Bob McCaig who advised he was willing to lease the site to the city for $5,000 a month and the city would keep the recycling profits.
“I seemed to make it work,” chuckled Bob at the time. ”They have my number.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“We can’t be left behind. When we think of developing countries, India, China and Russia are light years ahead of us in adopting high- speed technology. We have dial-up on farms in Southwestern Ontario and we’re not going to run the new economy on that.”
Out-going Southwest Economic Alliance president Serge Lavoie in an interview this week with the Times-Journal.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.