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. “Once they come back, we will obviously evaluate those tenders and I’m pretty confident on the strength of the engineering background assessments we have and under the building code, we would have the ability to go in and start the project.
“Every step of the way we are in touch with legal counsel,” he added. “At this point, to do nothing is not an option.”
Graves is not aware of any contact established with owner David McGee of Toronto.
“Not that we haven’t tried.”
If you’ve forgotten how a similar episode played out in 2008, the first attempt by the city to demolish the structure that dates back to around 1910 came to a halt in late July after Justice Peter Hockin ruled in favour of McGee’s request for leave of appeal, disputing a former decision made by Justice David Little on July 14 of that year that gave the City of St. Thomas a green light to start dismantling the building.
Now here’s a quote for you. It’s from McGee’s lawyer at the time, Valerie M’Garry.
“It’s premature to call it a victory,” said M’Garry. “It gives him an opportunity to demonstrate that he always intended to restore and maintain and refurbish that building.”
Almost eight years later the players could be back in court with no visible sign of a shred of restoration or refurbishment.
THANKS ARE IN ORDER
He’s been a thorn in the side of city hall for a couple of years as he vigorously advocates on behalf of the homeless.
He’s raised awareness for their plight by walking three-quarters of the way across Canada over a span of two years.
He’s been criticized for choosing to live homeless as he undertakes his Homeless Happens Helping Hands endeavor out of his storefront office on Talbot Street, under the shadow of the city hall tower.
But as of Friday afternoon, Jason McComb truly became homeless after a notice was posted on the door of that very same office warning he could no longer reside there, as he has done for quite some time.
“I will still be in here during the day to work on things and plan things for the future of Homeless Happens,” Jason wrote in an email.
All of this prompted by Jason confiding in this corner about four residents of 554 Talbot St. living in absolute squalid conditions.
Again, right across from city hall.
His actions might possibly have saved their lives.
You can get full details on Page 4 of today’s T-J.
Tipping off City Scope led to a couple of visits from fire officials who ordered immediate installation of smoke alarms and repairs to the walls and ceilings in the units which, with their single exit point, would have become death traps in the event of a fire.
Meeting with Graves yesterday afternoon in an effort to get chief building inspector Chris Peck to issue work orders on the two dwellings, Jason insisted “My goal has never been and still is not to stop progress in projects for supportive housing. My goal remains the same in this area.”
You see the owner of the two apartments is the same individual who 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.
Two of the apartments will be reserved for clients supported by the YWCA of St. Thomas-Elgin and the remainder are for Canadian Mental Health Association clients.
The same mandate that motivated Jason to trek across Canada.
“I want this supportive/affordable housing to the extent that it is available for everyone to access,” Jason stressed in an email.
“That though does not mean I want it available in the condition that puts the tenants at risk.”
Jason sat down with Graves to stress the need for city officials to visit one of the two units in particular where the pair of residents have asked for repairs to their dwelling for more than two years.
“The reason the smoke alarm is gone is that the leaky roof caved that part of the ceiling more than two years ago and it’s still not repaired,” Jason explained.
He was assured by the city manager a building inspector would visit the apartments, likely on Monday.
It’s the least that can be done for an individual courageous enough to put aside the scant creature comforts he enjoys to plead the case of four residents who have lived in appalling conditions for far too long.
Instead of shunning this advocate for the homeless, which has happened in the past at city hall, Jason deserves profuse thanks for his unselfish actions.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“My favourite part of meeting fans is seeing a genuine smile. When you have someone say ‘Hey, do you mind signing something’ and I say ‘Sure, what’s your name?’ Just that brief couple of seconds of interaction where afterward they say ‘Cool, I’m glad I got to meet the guy.’ It’s fun to have that little bit of interaction with people.”
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Bo Schultz talking with Times-Journal reporter Jennifer Bieman at the St. Thomas Sports Spectacular, Thursday at St. Anne’s Centre.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow @ianscityscope