A hoped-for sane policy for community funding grants


city_scope_logo-cmykWith no sane or sensible guidelines currently in place, council is about to grapple with how it dishes out funding to community groups.

At Monday’s meeting of council, members will receive a report entitled Policy on Granting Funds to Community Organizations, a framework that should have been in place years ago.

No better example of the helter-skelter approach utilized in the past than the dithering this summer over whether St. Thomas Cemetery Company should be granted $59,000 in funding.

A debate that appears more grounded in personality conflict than sound financial sense. Continue reading

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Don’t worry, he’s not throwing in the towel


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We caught up with Jason McComb this week after his return to St. Thomas from Edmonton where he halted, for the winter, his cross-Canada trek to raise awareness for homeless issues.
He is heading to the North Bay area for a well-deserved retreat to recharge mentally and physically.
If you have seen Jason this week you know he is extremely gaunt, although he never was a Pillsbury dough boy
To allay any fears, Jason assures he hasn’t lost any enthusiasm for his Walking in the Free World undertaking. Continue reading

A duty upheld on the rarest of occasions


city_scope_logo-cmykThe subject of sole source contracting in relation to Ascent — the city’s electric utility — was touched upon briefly at Tuesday’s council meeting and it’s a path fraught with danger.
For some time now Mayor Heather Jackson has been an advocate — along with former alderman Gord Campbell, who also sat on the Ascent board of directors — of simply awarding all job-appropriate contracts to the city-owned utility without proceeding through a tendering process.
For the second time this year Ascent has lost out on a city tender, in this case replacement of all street lighting with LED lamps. The winning bid came from Ingersoll-based ERTH, which came in at more than $600,000 lower than the Ascent tender. Continue reading

Council waffles on future of cemetery


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It’s proving to be a hand-to-mouth existence for St. Thomas Cemetery Company after it came up $9,000 short in funding from the city this year.
The board of directors had originally requested a $59,000 operating grant but on Monday received $20,000, to go with an initial instalment of $30,000 in April.
This money is applied to the board’s almost $200,000 operating budget.
The municipality began funding the company in the mid-1980s to avoid a takeover.
Council voted 7-1 — with Coun. Mark Tinlin in opposition — to support the cemetery board through reduced levels of funding over time. Council could also consider advancing funds for minor capital replacements and expansion in services if other financial resources are not available at the time.
What remains up in the air is how this yearly amount would be determined. Continue reading

Long-term financial solution remains elusive


West Avenue Cemetery

West Avenue Cemetery

It’s shaping up as a hand-to-mouth existence for St. Thomas Cemetery Company.

City council Monday voted to extend the cemetery board of directors a financial life line of sorts by way of a $20,000 operating grant. Combined with the first instalment in April of $30,000, it leaves them $9,000 short of the amount requested during this year’s budget deliberations.

St. Thomas Cemetery Company operates historic West Ave. cemetery and South Park Cemetery south of the city in Central Elgin. It had served notice it would seek to abandon the two burying grounds effective April 30 of this year if the long-standing city grant wasn’t reinstated. Continue reading

It could take three years to get Ascent ‘back on stream’ – acting CEO John Laverty


While the utility is turning the corner after racking up a substantial operating loss in 2014, the acting CEO at Ascent advises it could take up to three years “to get back on stream.”

With the departure Sept. 30 of former CEO Ron Osborne, board chairman John Laverty takes over the helm at the former St. Thomas Energy Holdings Inc., on a temporary basis. It will be Laverty’s responsibility to guide the process that will result in the hiring of an individual tasked with hauling the utility out of the financial quagmire in which it finds itself to the tune of $14 million in losses and money owing the city last year.
Continue reading

Over-extended reach ultimately hobbled Ascent


city_scope_logo-cmykWith the departure Wednesday of former Ascent CEO Ron Osborne, board chairman John Laverty takes over the helm on a temporary basis. It will be his responsibility to guide the process that will result in the hiring of an individual tasked with winching the utility out of the financial quagmire in which it finds itself to the tune of $14 million in losses and money owing to the city last year.
Not to mention its long-term debt of what, another $6 million or so?
We caught up with John this week and what many may not realize is the St. Thomas resident was a former public utilities commissioner who has been “kicking around the utility industry on the governance side since 1991.”
He advised the process of hiring a new CEO started almost immediately.
“We decide as a board whether we’re going to use a headhunter or not.” Continue reading