More comfort needed at Pinafore Park comfort station?


city_scope_logo-cmykFor well over a century, Pinafore Park has served as the city’s playground. Family gatherings, seniors’ picnics, the Fire Muster and Canada Day celebrations to document just a few of the activities that attract residents and visitors to this green oasis.
Alas, a corner of the park is known for a far darker reason.
Torn down earlier this month, the nearly 60-year-old washrooms were the subject of interest on several truly disturbing websites.
Their internet reputation was brought to our attention by an individual we will refer to as Chris, a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
He started sending photos of the men’s washrooms, many of them downloaded from adult websites.
As Chris describes it, “Pictures included here are from a website that is for adults but some youth are being involved or targetted. This is but two examples of two men looking for younger males. The two here are or say they are from the London area. They are trying to make contact with an 18-year-old. Both offering money to an 18-year-old. I am sure it is a concern, as Pinafore Park is mentioned.”

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The Dobbie Report: Was the damning document hijacked?


city_scope_logo-cmykAfter reading the unabridged version of the Dobbie Report, it’s not so much the concerns raised by the author, London consultant Tim Dobbie, are troublesome — and they most certainly are — it’s the manner in which the document itself was withheld from the previous council.
And we’re not certain all members of this council received “a thorough presentation of this report and an implementation update as part of their council orientation,” a critical recommendation of the report.
But let’s step back for a moment to get up to speed on the report itself.
The organizational review of the environmental services department — budgeted at $20,000 — was undertaken in the summer of 2014 and involved interviews with staff, department heads, members of council and outside stakeholders. Along with 10 sweeping recommendations, the review details major issues facing the City of St. Thomas, including the almost $300 million infrastructure deficit.
A highly edited version was presented to the outgoing council on Nov. 3, 2014. The report was endorsed that evening by a slim 5-3 margin with aldermen Cliff Barwick, Tom Johnston and Dave Warden opposed.

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Last stand imminent for Alma College chapel


city_scope_logo-cmykAfter years of broken promises, neglect, vandalism and the ravages of weather, the final countdown has begun for the Alma College chapel.
Mind you little remains of the chapel — opened in 1948 and, in more caring times, known as Ella D. Bowes Chapel — save for the brick walls and a barely hanging together roof.
Friday morning, new owner Gino Reale of London was given permission by the city to demolish the chapel in which many St. Thomas and area couples were married.
He told this corner the structure was far beyond any hope of restoration and had become a serious safety hazard after several small fires and a roof courting collapse.
Final rights for the chapel could come as early as the beginning of the week.
Most frustrating in all of this is previous owner George Zubick had been issued a list of cleanup priorities by Wade Woznuk, at that time property standards officer for the city. Those included repairs to the chapel roof with an engineer “to inspect to determine extent of structural damage and required repairs.”
Those repairs were to include new asphalt roof shingles. Continue reading

City to further invest in west end


The city’s long-suffering west end received a significant shot in the arm Wednesday – the second life line extended to the western gateway this year.
City manager Wendell Graves announced the municipality has extended a conditional offer to London developer Shmuel Farhi to purchase a vacant plot of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and extending to Centre St.
The site is being considered for development of a community hub to house the Ontario Works department and the Central Community Health Centre, both currently occupying office space along the north side of Talbot St. Continue reading

Round 1 in Demo Derby #2 goes to St. Thomas


23jt01sutherlandjpgLikening the drawn-out proceedings to a dog chasing its tail, both sides in the Sutherland Press building saga appeared Monday before Justice Desotti at the Elgin County Courthouse.
Toronto owner David McGee – in a replay of court proceedings in 2008 – is attempting to sidetrack the city’s second attempt to demolish the four-storey Talbot St. structure that dates back to 1913.
The city has already tendered a demolition contract with Schouten Excavating, who submitted the lowest bid in the amount of $101,135 and McGee is seeking a court injunction to halt any attempts to dismantle the edifice.

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Sutherland insurance policy is somewhat reassuring


city_scope_logo-cmykThe dog-and-pony show known as the Sutherland Saga returned to the courtroom Friday as city staff and legal counsel sat across from Toronto owner David McGee and his lawyer Valerie McGarry in the Elgin County Courthouse.
McGarry, by the way, was McGee’s lawyer in 2008 who successfully argued the city should not be allowed to continue with demolition of the four-storey structure constructed in 1913.
That victory, noted McGarry, “gives him (McGee) an opportunity to demonstrate that he always intended to restore and maintain and refurbish that building.”
Really.So why are ratepayers on the hook for another legal tussle that will hit them in the pocket for thousands in court costs and possible penalties owing to Schouten Excavating who submitted the lowest demolition tender in the amount of $101,135. They were expected to begin last month.
So what transpired Friday?
In airline parlance, we’re in a holding pattern. Continue reading

Should city consider purchasing its downtown nemesis?


city_scope_logo-cmykJust when you thought the Sutherland Saga couldn’t attain grander levels of absurdity, comes word the structure is now on the market as a power of sale listing.
As of March 19, the building is available for purchase from E & M Cavaco for $99,888.
While the listing didn’t quite describe it in this fashion, we can imagine something along the lines of this.
“A spectacular fixer-upper in need of a little loving attention. Ideal for the handyman. With a little time and resources could be returned to former glory. Close to downtown and adjacent to rail transportation. No reasonable offer refused.”
So where does this leave the city and (former?) owner David McGee? They are supposed to appear in St. Thomas court next Friday as McGee attempts again to stall demolition of the structure that dates back to 1913.

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