Is this how you promote living downtown?


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It’s taken close to a week but the city sent a building inspector over to 554 Talbot St. to ascertain what needs to be undertaken to at least bring one or both of the ‘forgotten’ apartments across from city hall up to minimum property standards.
This follows on the heels of two visits by fire prevention officers last week to document fire code shortcomings in the upper units adjacent to the former Capitol Theatre.
So are the four residents any closer to more hospitable accommodation?
Chief Fire Prevention Officer Bill Todd said Friday, “The smoke alarms were installed and the junk and everything moved out of the hallway. I think the only thing left is the owner had to order fire doors.”
Take note if you happen to live in any of the similar upper apartments along Talbot Street. Second-story apartments only require one way out, advised Todd. Such is the case at 554 Talbot Street.
“Third storey, then they require a fire escape,” explained Todd.
Do all units downtown meet this requirement?

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The city’s forgotten apartments


TalbotapartmentsjpgThe first thing you notice are the gaping holes where the ceilings have fallen away.
Patches of paint which have not yet floated to the floor cling tentatively to the walls.
In other areas, vast expanses of paint blister like badly burned skin.
Missing tiles in one of the showers have been replaced with duct tape and garbage bags. 23jt04talbot1jpgThe remnants of a skylight are stuffed with a blanket and when it rains, water drips to the floor and down the front stairs.
The pair of apparently forgotten apartments are clearly visible from the window of Mayor Heather Jackson’s office.
The upper dwellings at 554 Talbot St. — seemingly off the radar of several departments at city hall — are home to four tenants who have reached their limits of endurance, shivering in poorly heated residences devoid of proper insulation and plagued by drafty windows.
What’s most shocking is the owner of these apartments has been approved by St. ­Thomas-Elgin Ontario Works for funding to add 10 one-bedroom units next door at 560 Talbot St., above the former Capitol Theatre. Continue reading

Round 2 of demolition derby announced


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We’ve been down this road before and the last time around it led us right to the courts.
That’s in legal and not tennis.
City manager Wendell Graves contacted us late Friday afternoon to announce the city has a tender out for demolition of the Sutherland Press building.
“We don’t know where this is all going to materialize yet,” Graves was quick to add.
“We are following a fairly streamlined process here and that is out on the street for bids. We’ll see what happens when we get to that point.”
He confirmed there has been no activity at the site after the emergency order issued following partial collapse of the roof in September was lifted late last year.
The tender bids are due back early in February, Graves advised. Continue reading

A temporary fix for a long-term headache


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Call it the Great Divide — the emotional rift at Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School that was the byproduct of attempts to reach a consensus to ease severe overcrowding at the former Homedale Senior Elementary School.
And the unanimous decision this past Tuesday to proceed with the Thames Valley District School Board’s preferred option of busing students to Port Stanley will not quickly heal the wound.
Referred to as Option 1, the plan entails moving French Immersion and Extended French students in Grades 7 and 8 to Port Stanley Public School, beginning in September.
It was the recommendation of senior TVDSB administrators and will transform Pierre Elliott Trudeau school into a senior kindergarten to Grade 6 facility  for the time being.
In a discussion Thursday with Kevin Bushell, TVDSB manager of facility services, he explained the goal is to keep a cohort of students together.
By that, Bushell stressed the importance of “keeping the Grade 7 and 8’s together and not splitting them between two schools . . .  And we couldn’t get a large number for kindergarten to Grade 8 for French Immersion in Port Stanley so we would have small class sizes, split grades and small cohorts of students. Continue reading

2016 city budget “generally preserves” existing service levels to the public


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Deliberations begin 3:30 p.m. Monday into the proposed 2016 capital and operating budgets for St. Thomas.
In his opening remarks contained in the budget binder, director of finance David Aristone indicates at this stage of the process, city ratepayers can anticipate a 2.32% hike in the property tax levy.
The proposed levy for this year is $48,721,653, up from the actual 2015 levy of just over $47 million.
Proposed capital projects this year would require almost $21.8 million in funding. Continue reading

The dogs haven’t stopped chasing cars


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Following an enjoyable, but all too brief, Christmas hiatus, City Scope returns with a tradition dating back ten years, where we welcome the newly arrived year by way of a final glance back at the wit and wisdom served up by some of those individuals caught in the glare of the spotlight over the previous 365 days.
Since that debut, we have broadened our horizon to include quotes from a variety of sources, among them Times-Journal readers and T-J website and Facebook posters.
As an unabashed hoarder of quotes, this look over our shoulder is an enviable task that conveniently meshes the preceding 12 months into a compact package to revisit upon the demise of a battle-weary year.
As American writer and editor Daniel Okrent keenly observed, “I’m afraid we’ll see reporters stop chasing quotes around the same time dogs stop chasing cars.”    Continue reading