Ascent CEO pulls the plug: resigns as of Sept. 30


Less than three years after taking over the helm at Ascent Group (formerly St. Thomas Holdings Inc.) CEO Ron Osborne has tendered his resignation, effective Wednesday.
He is stepping down just 10 days after the utility’s dismal 2014 financial statement was presented to city council.
In 2014, the Ascent Group rang up an operating loss of $6.8 million. That compares with a $1.4 million profit in 2013.
Furthermore at the end of last year, Ascent owed the city another $7.9 million for deferred payment of water bills which it collects on behalf of the city. Continue reading

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From bad to worse over at Ascent


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We laid bare last week the grim financial picture at Ascent — the former St. Thomas Energy — which bled more than $14 million in red ink in 2014.
It’s an ugly scenario the mayor and city council were loathe to reveal publicly and you really had to have a penchant for picking over financial statements to get a sense of how dire the situation is.
As shareholders, the city was not going to issue a media release to ratepayers in an attempt at damage control.
And there’s another dramatic turn of events this week at Ascent: City Scope has learned CEO Ron Osborne has tendered his resignation.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for the shareholders to confirm that one either.
Continue reading

Cemetery stalemate continues


West Avenue Cemetery

West Avenue Cemetery

The cards were laid on the table Wednesday at a special reference committee meeting of city council held at the Seniors Centre.

After a summer of deliberation, the steering committee struck by council on April 20 to develop a business plan “that reflects the ability of St. Thomas Cemetery Company to be sustainable” delivered the goods.

And it wasn’t music to the ears of Mayor Heather Jackson and most councillors.

“There are only two options,” advised cemetery board member and former alderman Gord Campbell.

“The city gives us money or we go to the province. And that’s not a threat, that’s reality.”
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Dodging the wrecker’s ball . . . again


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Proving to have more lives than the proverbial cat, the Sutherland Press building appears to have dodged the wrecker’s ball one more time.

Toronto owner David McGee has advised city hall he is not prepared to demolish the four-storey structure and, instead, is proceeding to stabilize the building that dates back to around 1910.

After a partial roof collapse discovered Sept. 11, the city hired a structural engineer to update staff on measures needed to minimize risk to the public until the future of the building – a significant example of the city’s early industrial heritage – could be determined.
Continue reading

Ascent financial picture a shocker


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You may not realize this, but as a city ratepayer you are, in essence, a shareholder in the former St. Thomas Energy or what is now known as Ascent.

With that in mind we offer a word of caution: take a deep breath and sit down before proceeding any further.

Monday night, city council will be in receipt of the 2014 audited Ascent financial statement — although as shareholders and with two members sitting on the Ascent board of directors — the gory details were laid bare some time ago.

This corner has warned the picture would be grim — we never could have imagined it is more a financial free fall.
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Sutherland Press building roof collapse raises ‘significant concerns’


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It was a key factor in the defeat of Cliff Barwick in the 2010 mayoral vote and now the Sutherland Press building is back in the news to haunt Mayor Heather Jackson and city staff.

At a hastily called media conference Tuesday afternoon, CAO Wendell Graves and Jackson advised they have “significant concerns” about the structural integrity of the Talbot St. structure following a roof collapse Friday at the southwest corner of the building, east of Moore St.

The city has hired a structural engineer to update staff on measures needed to minimize risk to the public until the future of the building, constructed around 1910, is determined.
Continue reading

There’s always room for one more manager at city hall


city_scope_logo-cmykAs far as media releases go, Wednesday’s city hall advisory was brimming with corporate bravado.
“With its sights set on the strengthening of its leadership and organizational management, streamlining corporate financial management and the continued renewal of the Environmental Services Department,” the release breathlessly announced, “City Council has put in motion a number of strategic changes.”
What this declaration shamefully failed to include was three people would lose their jobs in the organizational restructuring.
Why the oversight?
Does their escort out the doors of city hall cast doubt on the true motives at play?
This restructuring is predicated, in part, by the findings of a curious report presented to council last fall.
The Dobbie Report — ostensibly an organizational review of the environmental services department — noted senior managers at city hall felt the lack of staff was an issue along with the need for more advanced equipment and technology such as cell phones and laptop computers. Continue reading