Just when we thought the Sutherland Saga could not plunge deeper into the abyss of absurdity, what happens but it does just that.
In a decision rendered Tuesday (Sept. 27), Justice Gorman declined to rule on owner David McGee’s request for an injunction to halt demolition of the four-storey structure deemed unsafe by city engineers.
Instead, Justice Gorman did accept McGee’s submission at the May hearing in the Elgin County Courthouse that Sutherland Loft Inc. did not receive notice of a building order and its president was unaware, specifically, the building might be demolished if not remediated by the owner.
Both sides were last in a St. Thomas courtroom in May, at which time McGee and his lawyer, Valerie M’Garry, argued renovations to the building can’t be financed because the city has, over time, slapped emergency orders, work orders and property standard orders on the derelict structure.
“He can’t get financing when the building has an axe over its head,” M’Garry told Justice Gorman at the time.
M’Garry also argued in March of this year, the city did not properly deliver via registered mail a letter warning demolition of the building would begin at the end of that month because of noncompliance with a property standards order. The order called for immediate replacement of spalling or damaged bricks and securing the roof, which had suffered a partial collapse.
So it would appear Justice Gorman placed greater weight on improper procedure relating to delivery of this notice than on the structural integrity of the four-storey building dating back to 1913.
And with the season of freeze-thaw cycles about to wreak further havoc on the derelict structure, the city was forced this week to implement a road and sidewalk closure.
“We are genuinely frustrated by this,” sighed city manager Wendell Graves on Friday. “Our Number 1 priority is public safety around this structure and we just cannot get past first base on getting public safety issues addressed.”
The protracted court battle, dating back to 2008, means the city’s legal bill is taking a beating.
Something that is difficult to budget year to year.
“It’s tough on that side,” admitted Graves. “It’s not the kind of thing you would anticipate. You would hope you wouldn’t be spending any money on this.
“I think what drives me crazy is we’ve got so much positive momentum going from so many community partners on really cool things and that’s the direction we really should be going in and spending our energy on and, conversely, this stuff takes a lot of energy to manage when it comes up.”
It is not a stretch of credibility to argue McGee continues to hold the city behind the eight-ball.
“It’s just a total inconvenience,” stressed Graves. “But again we don’t have a choice. It’s unsettling.”
COUNCIL TO GO HIGH TECH?
One complaint raised when council adopted its reference committee structure, with meetings held in the afternoon prior to the regular council sittings, was no television coverage of what transpires.
We live in an online world and so one option being pursued by the city is video streaming of those meetings.
In a report to council Monday, the mayor’s executive assistant Heather Welsh notes iSi Global Webcasting could provide “a user friendly solution that would require a 3-year agreement.”
This would allow meetings to be streamed live and archived for future reference.
The cost would be $8,000 per year with a further estimated one-time expense of $3,000 for audio and video equipment.
Who on council can pass up the allure of becoming a video sensation?
NO FAITH IN SUNDAY BUS SERVICE
If you’re a parallel transit user, it appears your bus is about to be short-turned on Monday.
A report coming to city council from Dave White, manager of roads & transportation, recommends no expansion of service to include Sunday buses.
Back in July, council toyed with the idea of extending parallel transit on Sunday to provide service to those wishing to attend church.
With 28 churches in the city, White conceded “developing a specialized service plan for all churches would be a challenge other than running the regular routes. By running just parallel or just conventional it may be considered discriminatory.”
According to data compiled by White, the cost of running a five-hour Sunday morning service would approach $12,000 per year. Providing parallel and conventional transit over that same time frame would run the city $84,000.
Funding for an expanded weekend service would come from the city’s Provincial Gas Tax reserve.
However, White warned “more use of the reserve fund for route expansion significantly reduces our ability to fund future bus replacement. If we use the reserve fund for Sunday service it would be drawn down over several years and continue into a negative balance which would need to be supported by tax based funding.”
White’s recommendation, “is for churches to set up a ride share program between members. Churches could also work separately or as a group with area transportation providers booking charters.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“For projects that haven’t started yet, they should take a look, especially with Dutton/Dunwich. Cancel the contracts for energy we don’t need and can’t afford.”
Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek this week urged the provincial Liberals to cancel the controversial wind turbine project approved for Dutton/Dunwich.
City Scope appears Saturday in the St. Thomas Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow @ianscityscope