With mere days remaining before St. Thomas Cemetery Company seeks to abandon its two burying grounds if a $59,000 grant is not reinstated, there was some movement following an in-camera meeting of council Monday.
“The general tone of council is to try and work toward a resolution or recipe that is amicable for everyone,” CAO Wendell Graves told the Times-Journal on Tuesday.
“And so our solicitor was given direction to correspond with the cemetery board’s solicitor.”
In addition, Coun. Gary Clarke volunteered to sit on the cemetery board after council chose not to appoint a representative for the first time since 1990.
“I volunteered,” indicated Clarke. “I want to be part of the solution and not the problem. I want this to work in the best interests of everyone and not at the taxpayers’ expense.” Late Friday afternoon, St. Thomas Cemetery Company manager Lesley Buchanan told this corner the board’s lawyer Donald Ferguson had received correspondence from the city and a special meeting of the board of directors is slated for 1 p.m. Saturday.
In an email to Mayor Heather Jackson this week, reader Wolfgang Fischer wondered, “is this $59,000 to St. Thomas Cemetery going to be another Sutherland Press building misadventure into the legal world that is higher then the annual grant?”
To which Jackson responded, “The discussion around the grant for the cemetery is about much more than $59,000 to me. It is about an organization that is going to enter into a $1,000,000 loan without a business plan on how it will be repaid. I don’t want to see the taxpayers have to pay for a crematorium.”
Which, in turn, prompted this retort from Coun. Jeff Kohler to all members of council.
“If it is really about the crematorium, why didn’t you ask any questions about it at either budget session? Wolfgang and his wife were at both and would have heard your concerns. Why didn’t we request more information or a meeting with the cemetery board prior to the final budget session instead of pulling their funding with no prior warning or conversation with them?
“This could have saved us and the board thousands in legal fees had we done this . . . . I, for one, like the fact that the board is looking for ways to generate income to become self-sufficient. Who knows, maybe this venture will be so successful the board will be able to pay us dividends as well as build the perpetual care fund up.”
Can anyone offer insight as to how a simple grant request has escalated into such brinkmanship?
NOW THIS IS GOOD NEWS
Known as Ryan’s Law — named after Ryan Gibbons, 12, who died after an asthma attack at his school in Straffordville in 2012 — it would require Ontario school boards to develop standardized asthma management plans.
The bill passed second reading last fall — after being sidetracked by last spring’s provincial election — and Yurek advised the bill remains fully intact.
“It’s the same as what we put through in October. I’m working hard to make sure it has support (across all three parties). I’m feeling good about it.”
Yurek is unsure of the timing but the hope is to have the legislation in place for the new school year this September.
“Once it is signed in to law they can take the summer and implement it. I think we still have time.”
All of which is music to the ears of Ryan’s mom, Sandra Gibbons.
“She is going to make the trip down Wednesday,” advised Yurek, who has toiled relentlessly to bring this into play, against huge odds.
“I don’t know of too many Opposition private member’s bills that get passed. Some members have come up to me and said they’ve been there for years and don’t get anything passed.”
Making Wednesday all the sweeter for Sandra and Jeff.
WITHOUT A PRAYER
It’s down, but not quite out just yet.
This week’s council meeting was the first in living memory in which the business at hand was not preceded by The Lord’s Prayer.
Instead, Jackson announced members of council would observe a moment’s silence. And, that may be the new norm at city hall.
“It may be,” advised Graves. “We’re just waiting to get more information back from various parties because that (Supreme Court) decision came down so quickly before anyone really had any chance to get up to speed. I think we’re going to do a little more evaluation on that yet.”
The Supreme Court decision examined the question of whether a prayer recited by the mayor of Saguenay, Quebec at the opening of council meetings was discriminatory.
Canada’s highest court found, indeed, the prayer was discriminatory and the city and mayor must “cease the recitation of the prayer in the chambers where the municipal council meets.”
Gardner, in the conclusion to her editorial, notes “Those municipal councils who still include a prayer at their opening would be wise to examine the practice in light of this decision.
“This ruling doesn’t take away the freedom of the mayor and councillors, as individuals, to pray — or not — and be guided according to their own consciences and religion. It does, however, have implications for carrying out that practice as a formal tradition or procedure as part of an inclusive public process.”
It would seem the tradition of opening prayer will need a prayer to survive.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“It’s one of those things that’s not going to go away so we need to get it right.”
Coun. Gary Clarke after volunteering to sit as the city’s representative on the St. Thomas Cemetery Company board of directors.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to email@example.com.Follow @ianscityscope