It’s been almost a year since we exposed the city’s forgotten Talbot Street apartments across from city hall and owner Antoine Trad, who had 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 were to be reserved for clients supported by the YWCA of St. Thomas-Elgin and the remainder are for Canadian Mental Health Association clients.
In the intervening 11 months, Trad has shuttered his furniture business and the status of the apartment project – along with the pair of decrepit upper units at 554 Talbot Street – is hazy.
With a demonstrated need for affordable housing in the city, we queried acting director of St. Thomas-Elgin Ontario Works Elizabeth Sebestyen this week on whether this project will proceed.
“We’re still working with the developer,” Sebestyen advised this week. “Things are sort of progressing, legally, so I really can’t comment any further on that.”
She confirmed Trad has not received any funding at this point.
“We’re just kind of in the middle of legal matters and trying to conclude that so we can move on. It should be resolved fairly soon. We do have an agreement with the owner to proceed but things aren’t quite finalized yet.”
Curious that Sebestyen pointed out matters should be resolved shortly, but then hinted the project may never see the light of day.
“I’m still hopeful that maybe something might happen there.”
Those are not words of assurance.
On a positive note, however, Sebestyen confirmed Ontario Works has approved a 12-unit apartment building – to be constructed by Walter Ostojic and Sons Ltd. – on the site of the former Myrtle Street Public School.
“And there has been a proposal for another building there, a twin with some of it designated for seniors.”
The rents for these units will be in the $500 range plus hydro.
“That is incredibly inexpensive for people on a fixed-income,” Sebestyen stressed, adding construction is expected to start in the spring with expected occupancy in January, 2018.
A MERGER MADE IN HEAVEN?
As announced Tuesday, St. Thomas Energy plans to enter into a utility union with Entegrus, with consummation expected in January, 2018.
So who is Entegrus?
Based in Chatham, Entegrus currently services Chatham-Kent, Strathroy, Mount Brydges, Parkhill, Dutton and Newbury. It provides general administrative services in the areas of customer care, billing, call centre operations and collection services for companies focused on electricity supply, transmission and distribution, energy and renewable energy, and water supply.
It serves over 40,000 customers and has in excess of 100 employees. When the merger is finalized it will be the 11th largest utility in the province with 58,000 customers.
Entegrus president and CEO Jim Hogan told the Times-Journal this week the merger is all about customer service.
“The City of St. Thomas and the Municipality of Chatham-Kent would not accept any merger or partnership without insuring the customer service will be as good if not better as we move forward, Hogan insisted.”
He continued, “Local ownership was important to the City of St. Thomas and we’re very familiar with that at Entegrus.
St. Thomas Energy is an efficient utility and our rates are very similar. Our costs per customer are very similar as well, so there is significant alignment when you look at each company’s vision . . . wanting to be leaders, wanting tobe local and providing exceptional service to customers.”
Now over the past couple of years St. Thomas Energy, through its parent Ascent Group, has jettisoned plenty of excess baggage picked up along the way under previous management. Acquisitions that resulted not only in St. Thomas Energydrifting away from core business but bleeding plenty of red ink in the process.
Hogan advised that’s not the business philosophy at Entegrus.
“What we do is stick to our core. We take care of poles and wires and do some maintenance work and even though St. Thomas Energy did expand into a few other things, they have certainly kept to the core. They are still a really strong utility which interested us in looking at this opportunity.”
As to the impact of the merger on monthly bills, Hogan stressed “with 58,000 customers we strongly believe we can find efficiencies and really assist customers in reducing their costs lower than they otherwise would be if we were on our own.”
A CHRISTMAS WISH TO YOU
As this edition of City Scope has the distinction of appearing Christmas Eve, we put forth the following last-minute – but timely year-round – gift suggestions for you to distribute in appropriate fashion.
To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.
And, to all faithful City Scope readers, especially those with birthdays at this bustling time of year, when your special day too often is lost in the whirligig that has become the lead-up to the day itself – may this Christmas bring you peace, health and happiness.
And, as always, it is quite alright to wish this corner a Merry Christmas.
City Scope appears Saturday in the St. Thomas Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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