What’s it like living next door to a disaster?


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She lives in a well-maintained, tree-shaded 1890’s-era house on Kains St. Pride of ownership includes custom stain glass windows inside, one of which once graced Alma College.

Sounds like an ideal abode to retreat to.

Not quite, cautions owner Pauline Wimbush.

“I live next door to a disaster.”

She is referring to the abandoned and derelict cottage-style house at 46 Kains St.

A quaint residence that, in its prime, no doubt could have been described as picture postcard perfect.

Today it is a vermin-infested tragedy in waiting.

“It’s beyond repair now,” Wimbush noted this week. “It’s been vacant for going on four years.”

It was rented out to a tenant who has since moved elsewhere in the city.
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The owner, a former St. Thomas businessman who once called 46 Kains home, now resides in Holland.

“I understand he still pays the taxes on it,” she advises.

And during these past four years, Wimbush has battled city hall to the point of exhaustion.

You see, the roof is a heavy rain storm or two away from collapse at the rear of the house. In fact, Wimbush notes the last tenant lived with a tarp over that part of the roof because of lack of repairs.

The brickwork is in an advanced state of decay. The garage — complete with wide-open door — houses accumulated garbage.

Wimbush doesn’t like to cause a fuss, however she long ago lost patience with city hall.
“Wendell (CAO Wendell Graves) seemed to take an interest in it.

“I called the mayor too and the mayor’s receptionist called me and said the mayor didn’t know anything about this house and she cancelled the appointment.

“I felt that showed very poor and weak leadership. She should have said, ‘I’ll look into that and make an appointment with you later on when I know more about it.’ Or, she could have appointed somebody to look into it.”
That was a year ago. “And nothing has been done since,” sighs Wimbush.
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“I have to continually complain to the city about cutting the grass. It’s just endless. It’s exhausting.”

Ironically, bylaw enforcement officer Rob McDonald saw Wimbush, this reporter and a neighbour chatting on the front lawn and pulled in the driveway.

He promised the grass would be cut in a day or two — in fact, it was cut later that same day — and advised property standards issues are not his department.

The bylaw regarding property standards — bylaw 72-2014 — is detailed on the city’s website with the following: “a by-law which details the standards for the maintenance and occupancy of property within the City of St. Thomas. The by-law requires property owners and occupants of a property to comply with certain structural standards.”

Hmmm. And what did this bylaw do for Alma College and the equally dilapidated Sutherland Press building, not to mention 46 Kains St?
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“A neighbour called police because there were kids in the house one weekend,” Wimbush recalls.

“We’ve seen a raccoon come out of the house, there’s rats and mice living in there. It’s like living next door to the St. Thomas zoo.

“I’m always afraid kids will go in there,” Wimbush worries. “They don’t think about health and safety. It’s just a place to hide and do whatever they want to do. The roof could fall in on them and one of them could be killed or injured because of the neglect.”

On the T-J Facebook page, the London branch of The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario checked in with this comment on that very matter of neglect.

“The ongoing issue of demolition by neglect of heritage buildings (officially des-ignated or not) is a very unfortunate and frustrating challenge.”

Certainly not made any easier by the lack of will exhibited by mayor and council, both present and past.

WHERE’S THE BUS?

Monday’s city council agenda package includes a letter from David McNea expressing his frustration with the parallel transit service in St. Thomas.timeforyou2jpg

McNea is dealing with macular degeneration and has not worked or driven a vehicle since April of 1993. He notes two instances where he attempted to book a bus, only to be told no buses were available that day.

McNea continues in his letter, “When parallel transit was started, three buses were available for a maximum of 522 members with a third bus to be used as backup.

“Since that time, the third bus has been removed and ridership has increased to approximately 800 riders. We do need another bus or any other solution that council decides is proper.”

Further evidence transit — and specifically paratranst — is a low priority at city hall.

How many members of this council have ever hopped aboard a St. Thomas Transit vehicle to attend work or participate in an event?

ADDED INTEREST

Lesley Buchanan at West Ave. Cemetery.

Lesley Buchanan at West Ave. Cemetery.

The St. Thomas Cemetery Company will hold its annual general meeting 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Wellington St.

Now traditionally, the AGM has drawn little attention and has been held at the cemetery office on West Ave.

Talking to cemetery manager Lesley Buchanan this week, she indicates the recent funding controversy with city council has sparked so much interest in the future of the cemetery — which dates to 1850 and has more than 19,000 graves — she has had to seek a larger venue.

Still with the cemetery company, long-time director Don Cosens has announced he will no longer sit on the board.

No doubt the decision by Mayor Heather Jackson and several council members to red flag the funding request by the cemetery company took its toll on Cosens.

An unnecessary casualty.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“If the mayor lived next door to a place like this it would have been demolished by now.”

Kains St. resident Pauline Wimbush on the four years she has endured living next door to an abandoned and crumbling house she deems “a health and safety issue.”

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

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3 thoughts on “What’s it like living next door to a disaster?

  1. it sounds like a fire hazard. how would anyone feel if a fire fighter as hurt or killed as a result. there should not be any further delays in demolishing this place. shame on the owner and the city.

  2. LACK OF WILL, LACK OF LEADERSHIP AND A LACK OF PRIDE

    We called St. Thomas home for seven years, and what surprised and disappointed me the most was council’s lack of leadership and lack of pride in the community.

    I can remember driving around the city, and in the space of ten minutes noted six dwellings that either had lawns/weeds over a foot in height, garbage strewn around yard, and in one case a vehicle hoisted on a single jack with no wheels on one axle. The onus was on me to complain through the city’s resident-initiated complaint-driven process. You see if residents don’t complain the city and council are happy to ignore the squalor and collect their paycheques while the city transforms into a first-rate outhouse.

    Consider what could be done if anyone at the city gave a tinker’s damn.

    If there are 300 some employees at city hall and if each of them took note of, and reported a single item once a month that required attention, that would be close to 4,000 items in a single year. That would go a long way to help clean up the city in short order.
    But if that is asking too much, how about if all members of council reported one item a week, even that would generate just short of 500 items. Keep in mind it only took me ten minutes to flag six items.

    It’s a paradox that while EDC’s Sean Dyke is spearheading “St. Thomas Proud” while council’s conduct is as far removed from that notion as is humanly possible.

  3. This situation is the responsibility of the Chief Building Official (CBO). He has the authority under the Building Code to declare the building unsafe or inadequate or hazardous to health based on an inspection. The CBO may also have the building demolished or repaired and the cost to do the work put as alien on the property and collected with the property tax.

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