If it didn’t pose such a financial burden on the city, the Sutherland saga would be comedic relief in best Keystone Cops fashion.
Take, for example, the return to court this past Tuesday in what was to be the start of a scheduled two-day hearing to determine the fate of the 103-year-old structure.
Instead you have a solicitor and three city staffers sitting in stunned silence across from building owner David McGee and his lawyer as Ontario Justice Gorman announces she has only set aside five minutes for the proceedings.
So, who dropped the ball here?
It was made perfectly clear when the two sides last faced off in April the next step would entail presentations from the city seeking to proceed with demolition of the derelict building while McGee and his lawyer would counter with the argument there is nothing structurally wrong with the four-storey structure.
In fact all that was accomplished Tuesday was reiteration of that last fact by McGee’s lawyer, Valerie M’Garry, who stressed she cannot understand why the city is rushing ahead with plans to demolish the four-storey structure.
She noted there have been multiple, conflicting engineering reports undertaken. “The building is not going to fall down tomorrow,” argued M’Garry. “I don’t know what the urgency is.”
The urgency emanates from the fact McGee has done nothing to the building since the last court tussle eight years ago. Except further prop up the building. A property standards order issued last November has yet to be addressed. This order replaced the emergency order issued last September when the southwest corner of the roof collapsed.
Under conditions in the current order, McGee is to repair or replace the spalled/damaged bricks and ensure the roof is water tight. That work was to have been completed by Dec. 18.
You don’t need an engineer’s report to determine that has not been attended to. So, it’s back in court this coming Friday as the Sutherland charade continues.
DATE TO WATCH
The Ascent Group board of directors meet May 26 and you can bet a key agenda item will be the sale of Ascent Solutions to Spark Power of Oakville, Ont.
With three members of council on the board — Mayor Heather Jackson and councillors Linda Stevenson and Gary Clarke — what are the chances they will consent to the release of financial details of what has all the makings of a fire sale?
Even though Spark Power co-CEO Jason Sparaga is on the record as noting, “I’m not at liberty to saying anything under non-disclosure. If they want to — city manager Wendell Graves and acting Ascent CEO Rob Kent — they are perfectly free to do that.”
When Ascent ran into serious cash flow problems a couple years back it was the money collected from city water bill payments that kept the utility afloat. Again, no disclosure on that troubling situation until the Times-Journal delved into the city’s consolidated 2014 financial statement.
If this latest deal is truly in the best interests of city ratepayers – the real Ascent shareholders – these three board members would have no trouble patting each other on the back in the council chamber. By refusing to release details of the Ascent Solutions sale you know it was a stinker of a deal and we’re being taken to the cleaners. Bringing into question the accountability of this trio.
Is Ascent realignment sign of a turnaround at the St. Thomas utility?
A duty upheld on the rarest of occasions
Council waffles on future of cemetery
Over-extended reach ultimately hobbled Ascent
Ascent CEO pulls the plug: resigns as of Sept. 30
From bad to worse over at Ascent
Ascent financial picture a shocker
A return to core business or fire sale at Ascent?
THE INSIDE SCOOP
Still with the derelict downtown edifice, this colourful Facebook remembrance from Carol Ann Weston-Wass, who speaks from personal experience.
“I used to work there when it was Loder-Sutherland and produced calendars and advertising materials. Came to work one morning to find a big padlock on the door — our president abandoned us and took off for Edmonton — he never came back . . . Class act all the way. We had to roll coins just to pay ourselves the last week. Yet, still feel kinda sentimental about this old building — it certainly had character and it was a hoot sharing your workspace with pigeons every day.”
POINT TO PONDER
Is the city or the real estate division of CN responsible for maintaining the former CN right-of-way parallel to Centre Street?
In an email, Mary Ann Vigars writes, “The train had passed on the tracks and now the tracks are gone. What is left? A terrible area spanning from William to Southwick St. An area full of weeds and unkept ground.
“Surely we think more of our home town than to let this decay continue. The area behind the Grand Central Apartments is especially ugly.”
At least someone erected a dog poop disposal container by the parking garage.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“It can never be good news to see the people you represent have no say and no power as it relates to the land they live on and decisions about what happens in their community.”
Dutton-Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam in a letter to the Times-Journal commenting on the province awarding an industrial wind turbine project in his community over the objections of 84% of the respondents who participated in a municipal survey.
City Scope appears Saturday in the St. Thomas Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow @ianscityscope